3. SHABBAT READINGS & COMMENTARY

Friday, December 23, 2005 | 
Va’Yeishev: Genesis 37:1-40:23; Amos 2:6-3:8

Commentary:

From this Parasha (weekly reading), the story of Joseph begins and lasts until the end of Genesis. The life of Jacob and Rachel’s beloved son is a prototype of the Messiah, who was also rejected by his brothers and accepted by Gentiles.

In our parasha we see the special love Jacob had for his son Joseph: “Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons.” We read about the two dreams Joseph had, when all his brothers, portrayed as 11 sheaves and 11 stars in his dreams, bowed down to him. This led to hateful jealousy among his brothers and they sold Joseph to a band of foreigners.

Joseph ended up in Egypt, working for an officer in the king’s guard, but eventually landed in prison when he refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife. Although he was a young man, he fled from temptation, an example of how we should act. He remained faithful to God and was rewarded later. Our Parasha ends with a dream. This time, Joseph interprets the dreams of the king’s butler and baker.

All the while, God was preparing Joseph, through trials and temptations, for his ultimate purpose – to be the ruler of Egypt.

Jewish sages of the Talmud see a clear reflection of Jacob’s life in Joseph. Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, didn’t give birth for many years, so too Joseph’s mother, Rachel. Jacob’s mother had two sons, as did Joseph’s mother. Jacob received the birthright from his brother, while Joseph also was given his brother’s birthright; Jacob was hated by his brother, Joseph was hated by his brothers; Jacob was separated from his father’s house, Joseph ended up in Egypt; Laban, for whom Jacob worked, was blessed with great wealth, Joseph’s master was also blessed with great wealth; Jacob’s blessing came through a dream, Joseph was also appointed ruler of Egypt due to interpretation of a dream; Jacob told his children to make sure he was buried in Israel, Joseph made his brothers promise he would be buried in Israel.

Jacob took care of his son Joseph for 17 years (Joseph was seventeen when he was sold into slavery). Then Joseph took care of his father for the last 17 years of Jacob’s life when he settled in Egypt (Jacob came to Egypt at the age of 130 and passed away at 147). Joseph’s coming to Egypt was ordained so that he could be the savior of his family and the whole empire of Egypt in a time of famine. It was God’s plan! But it took 22 painful years of separation for Joseph and Jacob to realize the higher purpose – in the end God’s ways became apparent.

This Parasha should be a lesson to us that nothing is by chance –God is always working behind the scenes. Whether it takes 22 years or a lifetime to realize one’s purpose, it is comforting to know that everything is by Divine Providence. This is confirmed by the prophet Amos 3:6-8, in the reading of the Prophets. MS

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