Vayeishev – Genesis 37:1-40:23
Parshah in a Nutshell for Vayeishev
Jacob settles in Hebron with his twelve sons. His favorite is 17-year-old Joseph, whose brothers are jealous of the preferential treatment he receives from his father, such as a precious many-colored coat that Jacob makes for Joseph. Joseph relates to his brothers two dreams he has which foretell that he is destined to rule over them, increasing their envy and hatred towards him.
Shimon and Levi plot to kill him, but Reuben suggests that they throw him into a pit instead, intending to come back later and save him. While Joseph is in the pit, Judah has him sold to a band of passing Ishmaelites. The brothers dip Joseph’s special coat in the blood of a goat and show it to their father, leading him to believe that his most beloved son was devoured by a wild beast.
Judah marries and has three children. The eldest, Er, dies young and childless, and his wife Tamar is given in levirate marriage to the second son, Onan. Onan sins by spilling his seed and he, too, meets an early death. Judah is reluctant to have his third son marry her. Determined to have a child from Judah’s family, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and seduces Judah himself. Judah hears that his daughter-in-law has become pregnant and orders her executed for harlotry, but when Tamar produces some personal effects he left with her as a pledge for payment, he publicly admits that he is the father. Tamar gives birth to twin sons, Peretz (an ancestor of King David) and Zerach.
Joseph is taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, the minister in charge of Pharaoh’s slaughterhouses. G*d blesses everything he does, and soon he is made overseer of all his master’s property. Potiphar’s wife desires the handsome and charismatic lad; when Joseph rejects her advances, she tells her husband that the Hebrew slave tried to force himself on her and has him thrown in prison. Joseph gains the trust and admiration of his jailers, who appoint him to a position of authority in the prison administration.
In prison, Joseph meets Pharaoh’s chief butler and chief baker, both incarcerated for offending their royal master. Both have disturbing dreams, which Joseph interprets; in three days, he tells them, the butler will be released and the baker hanged. Joseph asks the butler to intercede on his behalf with Pharaoh. Joseph’s predictions are fulfilled, but the butler forgets all about Joseph and does nothing for him.
Torah reading for Vayeishev
1. Jacob dwelt in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2. These are the generations of Jacob: when Joseph was seventeen years old, being a shepherd, he was with his brothers with the flocks, and he was a lad, [and was] with the sons of Bilhah and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought evil tales about them to their father. 3. And Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was a son of his old age; and he made him a fine woolen coat. 4. And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, so they hated him, and they could not speak with him peacefully. 5. And Joseph dreamed a dream and told his brothers, and they continued to hate him. 6. And he said to them, “Listen now to this dream, which I have dreamed: 7. Behold, we were binding sheaves in the midst of the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright, and behold, your sheaves encircled [it] and prostrated themselves to my sheaf.” 8. So his brothers said to him, “Will you reign over us, or will you govern us?” And they continued further to hate him on account of his dreams and on account of his words. 9. And he again dreamed another dream, and he related it to his brothers, and he said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream, and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were prostrating themselves to me.” 10. And he told [it] to his father and to his brothers, and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Will we come I, your mother, and your brothers to prostrate ourselves to you to the ground?” 11. So his brothers envied him, but his father awaited the matter.
12. And his brothers went to pasture their father’s flocks in Shechem. 13. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are your brothers not pasturing in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 14. So he said to him, “Go now and see to your brothers’ welfare and the welfare of the flocks, and bring me back word.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15. Then a man found him, and behold, he was straying in the field, and the man asked him, saying, “What are you looking for?” 16. And he said, “I am looking for my brothers. Tell me now, where are they pasturing?” 17. And the man said, “They have traveled away from here, for I overheard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers, and he found them in Dothan. 18. And they saw him from afar, and when he had not yet drawn near to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. 19. So they said one to the other, “Behold, that dreamer is coming. 20. So now, let us kill him, and we will cast him into one of the pits, and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him,’ and we will see what will become of his dreams.” 21. But Reuben heard, and he saved him from their hand[s], and he said, “Let us not deal him a deadly blow.” 22. And Reuben said to them, “Do not shed blood! Cast him into this pit, which is in the desert, but do not lay a hand upon him,” in order to save him from their hand[s], to return him to his father.
23. Now it came to pass when Joseph came to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his shirt, of the fine woolen coat which was upon him. 24. And they took him and cast him into the pit; now the pit was empty there was no water in it. 25. And they sat down to eat a meal, and they lifted their eyes and saw, and behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, and their camels were carrying spices, balm, and lotus, going to take [it] down to Egypt. 26. And Judah said to his brothers, “What is the gain if we slay our brother and cover up his blood? 27. Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but our hand shall not be upon him, for he is our brother, our flesh.” And his brothers hearkened. 28. Then Midianite men, merchants, passed by, and they pulled and lifted Joseph from the pit, and they sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver [pieces], and they brought Joseph to Egypt. 29. And Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he rent his garments. 30. And he returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone! And I where will I go?” 31. And they took Joseph’s coat, and they slaughtered a kid, and they dipped the coat in the blood. 32. And they sent the fine woolen coat, and they brought [it] to their father, and they said, “We have found this; now recognize whether it is your son’s coat or not.” 33. He recognized it, and he said, “[It is] my son’s coat; a wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn up.” 34. And Jacob rent his garments, and he put sackcloth on his loins, and he mourned for his son many days. 35. And all his sons and all his daughters arose to console him, but he refused to be consoled, for he said, “Because I will descend on account of my son as a mourner to the grave”; and his father wept for him. 36. And the Midianites sold him to Egypt, to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s chamberlain, chief of the slaughterers.
1. Now it came about at that time that Judah was demoted by his brothers, and he turned away until [he came] to an Adullamite man, named Hirah. 2. And there Judah saw the daughter of a merchant named Shua, and he took her and came to her. 3. And she conceived and bore a son, and he named him Er. 4. And she conceived again and bore a son, and she named him Onan. 5. Once again she bore a son, and she named him Shelah, and he (Judah) was in Chezib when she gave birth to him. 6. And Judah took a wife for Er, his firstborn, named Tamar. 7. Now Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the eyes of the L*rd, and the L*rd put him to death. 8. So Judah said to Onan, “Come to your brother’s wife and perform the rite of the levirate, and raise up progeny for your brother.” 9. Now Onan knew that the progeny would not be his, and it came about, when he came to his brother’s wife, he wasted [his semen] on the ground, in order not to give seed to his brother. 10. Now what he did was evil in the eyes of the L*rd, and He put him to death also. 11. Then Judah said to his daughter in law Tamar, “Remain as a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up,” for he said, “Lest he too die, like his brothers.” So Tamar went, and she remained in her father’s house. 12. Many days passed, and Shua’s daughter, Judah’s wife, died; and Judah was consoled, and he went up [to watch] over his sheepshearers he and Hirah, his Adullamite friend to Timnah. 13. And it was told to Tamar, saying, “Behold, your father in law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.”14. So she took off her widow’s garb, covered [her head] with a veil and covered her face, and she sat down at the crossroads that were on the way to Timnah, for she saw that Shelah had grown up, but as for her she was not given to him for a wife. 15. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she covered her face. 16. So he turned aside toward her to the road, and he said, “Get ready now, I will come to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter in law, and she said, “What will you give me that you should come to me?” 17. And he said, “I will send a kid from the herd,” and she said, “[Only] if you give me a pledge until you send [it].” 18. So he said, “What is the pledge that I should give you?” And she said, “Your signet, your cloak, and the staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her, and he came to her, and she conceived his likeness. 19. Then she arose and went away, and she took off her veil, and she donned her widow’s garb. 20. And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his Adullamite friend to take the pledge from the woman’s hand, but he did not find her. 21. So he asked the people of the place, saying, “Where is the harlot who was at the crossroads on the way?” and they said, “No harlot was here.” 22. So he returned to Judah, and he said, “I have not found her, and the people of the place also said, ‘No harlot was here.’ ” 23. So Judah said, “Let her take [them] for herself, lest we become a laughingstock. Behold, I sent this kid, but you did not find her.” 24. Now it came about after nearly three months, that it was told to Judah, saying, “Your daughter in law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is pregnant from harlotry.” So Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” 25. She was taken out, and she sent to her father in law, saying, “From the man to whom these belong I am pregnant,” and she said, “Please recognize whose signet ring, cloak, and staff are these?” 26. Then Judah recognized [them], and he said, “She is right, [it is] from me, because I did not give her to my son Shelah.” But he no longer continued to be intimate with her. 27. And it came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. 28. And it came about when she gave birth, that he (the infant) stretched out his hand. So the midwife took and bound a crimson thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29. And it came about, as he was drawing back his hand, behold, his brother emerged, and she said, “With what strength you have strengthened yourself!” And he (Judah) named him Perez. 30. Afterwards, his brother emerged, the one upon whose hand was the crimson thread, and he named him Zerah.
1. Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, Pharaoh’s chamberlain, chief of the slaughterers, an Egyptian man, purchased him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2. The L*rd was with Joseph, and he was a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3. And his master saw that the L*rd was with him, and whatever he (Joseph) did the L*rd made prosper in his hand. 4. And Joseph found favor in his eyes, and he (Joseph) served him, and he (Potiphar) appointed him over his house, and all he had he gave into his hand. 5. Now it came to pass that since he had appointed him over his house and over all that he had, the L*rd blessed the house of the Egyptian for Joseph’s sake, and the blessing of the L*rd was in all that he had, in the house and in the field. 6. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he knew nothing about what was with him except the bread that he ate; and Joseph had handsome features and a beautiful complexion.
7. Now it came to pass after these events that his master’s wife lifted up her eyes to Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” 8. But he refused, and he said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me my master knows nothing about anything in the house, and all he has he has given into my hand. 9. In this house, there is no one greater than I, and he has not withheld anything from me except you, insofar as you are his wife. Now how can I commit this great evil, and sin against G*d?” 10. Now it came about when she spoke to Joseph day in and day out, that he did not obey her, to lie beside her [and] to be with her.
11. And it came about on a certain day, that he came to the house to do his work, and none of the people of the house were there in the house. 12. So she grabbed him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and went outside. 13. Now it happened, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, 14. that she called to the people of her house, and she spoke to them, saying, “Look! He brought us a Hebrew man to mock us. He came to me to lie with me, but I called loudly. 15. And it happened that when he heard that I raised my voice and called out, he left his garment beside me, and he fled and went outside.” 16. So she left his garment beside her, until his master came home. 17. And she told him the same thing, saying, “The Hebrew slave that you brought to us came to me to mock me. 18. And it happened when I raised my voice and called out, that he left his garment beside me and fled outside.” 19. Now it came about when his master heard his wife’s report that she spoke to him, saying, “Your slave did such things to me,” that his wrath burned. 20. So Joseph’s master took him and put him into prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were imprisoned, and he was there in the prison. 21. The L*rd was with Joseph, and He extended charisma to him, and He gave him favor in the eyes of the warden of the prison. 22. So the warden of the prison+ delivered all the prisoners who were in the prison into Joseph’s hand, and whatever they did there, he [was the one who] did it. 23. The warden of the prison did not inspect anything [that was] in his (Joseph’s) hand, for the L*rd was with him, and whatever he did the L*rd made prosper.
1. Now it came about after these events that the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and the baker sinned against their master, against the king of Egypt. 2. And Pharaoh became incensed at his two chamberlains, at the chief cupbearer and at the chief baker. 3. And he placed them in the prison of the house of the chief of the slaughterers, into the prison, the place where Joseph was imprisoned. 4. And the chief of the slaughterers appointed Joseph [to be] with them, and he served them, and they were a year in prison. 5. Now both of them dreamed a dream, each one his dream on the same night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison. 6. And Joseph came to them in the morning, and he saw them and behold, they were troubled. 7. And he asked Pharaoh’s chamberlains who were with him in the prison of his master’s house, saying, “Why are your faces sad today?” 8. And they said to him, “We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter for it.” Joseph said to them, “Don’t interpretations belong to G*d? Tell [them] to me now.” 9. So the chief cupbearer related his dream to Joseph, and he said to him, “In my dream, behold, a vine is before me. 10. And on the vine are three tendrils, and it seemed to be blossoming, and its buds came out; [then] its clusters ripened into grapes. 11. And Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I placed the cup on Pharaoh’s palm.” 12. And Joseph said to him, “This is its meaning: the three tendrils are three days. 13. In another three days, Pharaoh will number you [with the other officers], and he will restore you to your position, and you will place Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, according to [your] previous custom, when you were his cupbearer. 14. But remember me when things go well with you, and please do me a favor and mention me to Pharaoh, and you will get me out of this house. 15. For I was stolen from the land of the Hebrews, and here too, I have done nothing, for which they have put me into the dungeon.” 16. Now the chief baker saw that he had interpreted well. So he said to Joseph, “Me too! In my dream, behold, there were three wicker baskets on my head. 17. And in the topmost basket were all kinds of Pharaoh’s food, the work of a baker, and the birds were eating them from the basket atop my head.” 18. And Joseph replied and said, “This is its meaning: the three baskets represent three days. 19. In another three days, Pharaoh will remove your head from you and hang you on a gallows, and the birds will eat your flesh off you.” 20. Now it came about on the third day, Pharaoh’s birthday, that Pharaoh made a feast for all his servants, and he counted the chief cupbearer and chief baker among his servants. 21. And he restored the chief cupbearer to his [position as] cupbearer, and he placed the cup on Pharaoh’s palm. 22. And the chief baker he hanged, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23. But the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, and he forgot him.
Haftorah In a Nutshell for Vayeishev
This week’s haftorah contains an allusion to the sale of Joseph by his brothers, an incident discussed in this week’s Torah reading.
Amos opens with a rebuke to the Jewish People. G*d had been patient with them notwithstanding their transgression of the three cardinal sins — sexual impropriety, idolatry and murder. Their fourth sin, however, crossed the line — the mistreatment of the innocent, widows, orphans and the poor.
G*d reminds the Jewish people how He lovingly took them out of Egypt and led them through the desert for forty years and settled them in the Holy Land. There, He bestowed the gift of prophecy on some and inspired others to become Nazirites. Yet the Jewish people did not respond appropriately, giving wine to the Nazirites and instructing the prophets not to prophesy. Amos then goes on to describe G*d’s punishment for the errant behavior: “And the stout-hearted among the mighty shall flee naked on that day, says the L*rd.”
The haftorah ends with an admonition from G*d, one that also recalls His eternal love for His people: “Hearken to this word which the L*rd spoke about you, O children of Israel, concerning the entire nation that I brought up from the land of Egypt. ‘Only you did I love above all the families of the earth; therefore, I will visit upon you all your iniquities…’” As opposed to other nations to whom G*d does not pay close attention, G*d’s love for His nation causes Him to punish them for their misdeeds, to cleanse them and prod them back onto the path of the just.
Haftorah Reading for Vayeishev
6. So said the L*rd: For three transgressions of Israel, yea for four, I will not return them; For selling an innocent man for money, and a poor man in order to lock [the fields]. 7. Who aspire on the dust of the earth concerning the head of the poor, and they pervert the way of the humble, and a man and his father go to the maid, in order to profane My Holy Name. 8. And they recline on pledged garments beside every altar, and the wine of the fined ones they drink in the house of their gods. 9. And I destroyed the Amorites from before them, whose height is as the height of the cedar trees, and they are as strong as oaks, and I destroyed his fruit from above and his roots from below. 10. And I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and I led you in the desert for forty years, to inherit the land of the Amorites. 11. And I raised up some of your sons as prophets and some of your young men as Nazirites; is this not so, O children of Israel? says the L*rd. 12. And you gave the Nazirites to drink wine, and you commanded the prophets saying, “Do not prophesy.” 13. Behold, I will oppress your dwelling place, as a wagon full of sheaves is oppressed. 14. And escape shall be lost to the swift, and the strong shall not gain strength, nor shall the mighty man deliver himself. 15. And he who holds the bow shall not stand, and the fleetfooted shall not deliver, and the rider of the horse shall not deliver himself. 16. And the stout-hearted among the mighty shall flee naked on that day, says the L*rd.
1. Hearken to this word which the L*rd spoke about you, O children of Israel, about the entire family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: 2. Only you did I love above all the families of the earth; therefore, I will visit upon you all your iniquities. 3. Will two walk together unless they agreed? 4. Will a lion roar in the forest if he has no prey? Will a young lion let out a cry from his den unless he has taken something? 5. Will a bird fall on a net upon the ground unless it has a snare? Will a net ascend from the ground and have taken nothing? 6. Will a shophar be sounded in the city and the people not quake? Will there be evil in the city if the L*rd has not done it? 7. For the L*rd G*d does nothing unless He has revealed His secret to His servants, the prophets. 8. A lion has roared; who will not fear? The L*rd G*d has spoken; who will not prophesy?