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This Week's The Torah Portion: "Vayeshev"


Jacob and family now reside in Canaan. Joseph, first-born of Jacob's departed wife Rachel, is clearly the apple of his father's eye. But Jacob's great love for his son turns destructive when he encourages Joseph to spy on his brothers! And when Jacob gifts a magnificent "coat of many colors" to Joseph, his brothers begin to despise him.

Then comes the last straw: Joseph's egotistical dream. In the dream, which he shamelessly reports to his brothers, the sun, the moon and 11 stars revolve around him! One day, the brothers catch Joseph spying on them for their father. In a fit of jealousy, they rip the coat of many colors off Joseph and sell him to a caravan bound for Egypt. They dip Joseph's coat in goat's blood, and present it to their father Jacob, as evidence that a wild animal must devoured their brother son! Jacob is now plunged in inconsolable sorrow.

Meanwhile, Joseph has been transported to Egypt where he has been auctioned off as a slave. Joseph's fortunes hit rock-bottom when, on false charges, he is thrown in jail. At the end of the Torah reading, we find Joseph languishing in a prison somewhere in Egypt, with no hope of ever again seeing the light of day.

NOTE: It's surely no accident that the first rabbis arranged the Torah cycle so that this portion would be read at Hanukkah time! Although the story of Joseph took place over 1,500 years before Hanukkah, the rabbis must have intended that this darkest episode of the Joseph story be read at the darkest time of year; and that the story of Joseph's release into daylight be read during the Festival of Lights!

Shabbat Shalom,
Happy Hanukah!

Rabbi Alvin Wainhaus

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