Select Section WEEKLY Parasha Parashat Vayeshev Part 1, Language : english,SHIURIM & COMMENTARIES

Vayeshev Part 1 (english)   Vayeshev Part 2 (hebrew)  

Parashat Vayeshev Part 3 (spanish, portugeese, italian, german, russian,  turkish)

 Vayeshev Part 4 (YOUTH/TEEN)    Vayeshev   The Jewish Woman

Rabbi Riskin on Vayeshev – “Torah Lights” 5774

Weekly Torah Portion: Vayeshev

Have you ever felt utterly and completely alone? Yosef must have. He was separated from his loving father and his brothers wanted to kill him. Ultimately he was thrown in a pit filled with scorpions and snakes and then sold to some passing Ishmaelites, who in turn sold him into slavery. Yet we’re never alone, and if our hearts are turned to G-d, we will identify His fingerprint upon our lives.

Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)
Parashat Vayeshev is read on Shabbat:
Kislev 20, 5774/November 23, 2013

Visit us:
Like us on Facebook:
Follow us on Twitter:
More videos available on
Weekly Newsletter:


YouParsha – Vayeshev 5774

Weekly YouParsha show read by Rabbi Herschel Finman ( YouParsha is produced and at the Specs Howard School of Media Arts in Southfield, Michigan (248) 358-9000. YouParsha is made possible in part by a grant from the Paul & Leslie Magy Foundation. Torah, Parsha, Rabbi, Chasidic, Vayeshev 5774

Rabbi Joshua Bittan Vayeshev Sunday Mussar

A Vort for the Road – Vayeshev – A Horrible Mistake – Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Schwartz

Rabbi Joshua Bittan Vayeshev Monday Halakha Pesuka

Parashat Vayeshev – How Yosef Stood Up to the War of the Worlds Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein

Life is a Blessing: Spirituality in the Parsha – “Parashat Vayeshev” – Rabbi Yakov Nagen, Otniel

A Chance Meeting?’

Yosef searches for his brothers. At first, he is unsuccessful but ultimately he meets an anonymous passerby who guides him to his fateful encounter with his brothers.

To download the mp3 file click here with right mouse button:…

For further information about this project or to sponsor a shiur please contact Mickey Flaumenhaft at call +972-52-853-1188 or E-mail

Rabbi Avraham Gaon Daily Zohar on Parashat Vayeshev Your Effort andTorah Part 2 2012

Rabbi Avraham Gaon Daily Zohar on Parashat Vayeshev: Tzaddikim and Hakadosh Baruch Hu 2012

Parashat Vayeshev : The Transformation of Sin

Rabbi Joel Finkelstein of ASBEE

Parshat Vayeshev & Chanukah (05/12/12)

For more Torah lessons go to:

Rabbi Haber, Shlit’a, Parashat Vayeshev – Why Yosef was so special to Yaakov Avinu 1-23-2013.MPG

Rabbi Haber, Shlit’a, Why Yosef was so special to Yaakov Avinu-Hate, jealousy and murder 1-23-2013

Rabbi Haber shows us that when the Torah tells us in the sentence “These are the generations of Yaakov” in Parashat Vayeshev it means this is the story of “Yosef.” And this story is not only the reason that we became slaves in Mitzrayim, but also it is the reason for the destruction of the 2nd Temple, and is the reason for our ultimate redemption. Yaakov saw in Rachel that he would have a child that would insure the future of the Jewish People. Yosef was “the plan!” Yosef was the image of Yaakov. The story of the life of Yaakov was the same story as the life of Yosef. Yaakov and Yosef were both hated and hunted by his sibling. There are 25 commonalities between the life of Yaakov and Yosef. The jealousy of the sibilings of Yaakov and Yosef was due to the greatness of Yaakov and Yosef.

Parshat Vayeshev – Yosef and Eishet Potiphar – War of the Worlds Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein

Jewish Torah Insights: Short Vort on Parshat Vayeshev
By Rabbi Shimon Isaacson
Short and inspiring vort on Parshat Vayeshev. For more spiritually inspiring Jewish Torah classes visit and sign up for FREE!

Machlis Presents… Parshat Vayeshev (part 1 of 2)

Machlis Presents… Parshat Vayeshev (part 2 of 2)

Parshat Vayeshev Rabbi Shlomo Odze

Rabbi Yehuda Moses – Parshat Vayeshev – The Power Of A Smile

Parshat vayeshev וישב

Parshat vayeshev
Jealousy and victims.
Rabbi Efim Svirsky

Jewish Torah Insights: Short Vort on Parshat Vayeshev
Rabbi Avishai David discusses the ascendancy of Yosef to royalty by virtue of eliminating haughtiness.
For more spiritually inspiring Jewish Torah classes visit and sign up for FREE!

Torah Reading Parshat Vayeshev Rabbi Weisblum קריאת התורה פרשת וישב

Parshat Vayeshev- Rabbi Mayer Friedman

Mamaar Vayeshev # 9  Rabbi Seligson

Abraham_Reiss_The Portion 07 – Vayeshev

Vayeshev  Rabbi Yaakov Glasman

Parshat Vayeshev

Mayanot Moment Parashat Vayeishev – Rabbi Shemtov

Mohorosh Breslov Vayeshev (part 1) yiddish with english subtitles

Mohorosh Breslov Vayeshev (part 2) yiddish  with english subtitles

Shiur Rab David Perets – Parashat Vayesheb 5773

Vayeshev: Rabbi DovBer Pinson

Harav Chitrik message on Parshas Vayeshev- The power of one small gesture

Parshas Vayeishev | I Won’t Back Down

levi chazen vayeishev

Weekly Parsha logo

Weekly Parsha

The Torah parsha begins with the simple narrative statement that Yaakov settled and “dwelled in the land of the sojourn of his forefathers, the Land of Canaan.” That last clause in that sentence – the Land of Canaan – seems to be superfluous. We are already well aware from the previous parshiyot of Bereshith that Avraham and Yitzchak dwelt in the Land of Canaan. Since every word and phrase in the Torah demands our attention and study, the commentators to Torah throughout the ages examined this issue and proposed a number of different lessons and insights. I believe that the lessons for our time from these words that open our parsha are eerily relevant. Yaakov is forced to live…

Read More

Orthodox Union OU Shabbat Shalom Weekly
The OU Guide to Keeping Kosher in IsraelOU StaffPlanning a trip to Israel? Check out the OU Kosher Israel Guide, a joint effort of the OU Israel Center and OU Kosher.


The OU Guide to Keeping Kosher in Israel
The Day a Duck Came to the OUStephen SavitskyRabbi Chaim Loike talks about how we know which birds are kosher and tells us which birds you’d be surprised are actually kosher.


The Day a Duck Came to the OU
The ‘Wisdom’ of the EastRabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh WeinrebThe reason why so many are dissatisfied with the Western way of life centers around the relentless pressures and frantic pace which that way of life entails. Eastern religions offer an alternative which promises serenity, tranquility, and inner peace.


The 'Wisdom' of the East
A Contentious CoatRabbi Ari KahnTo some it seems to be a story about a coat, a dazzling coat of many colors, but in truth, it was never about the coat; the coat was merely a symbol. It symbolized love, it symbolized hatred, and it symbolized jealousy.


A Contentious Coat
Who Sold Yosef?OU PressWho actually pulled Yosef out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites: his brothers or the Midianites? If Yosef was sold to the Ishmaelites why does the Torah state that the Medanites “sold him to Egypt, to Potiphar…”?


Who Sold Yosef?
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz:
Yoma – 14a-20b

Tribute to Rav Ovadia Yosef: Kollel Yom Rishon Dedicated to Torah Leader’s Legacy
Sunday, November 24 at YU’s Schottenstein Center in New York.
Learn more >


OU Annual Chanukah Drive for Hospitalized Children
What better way to bring a smile to a sick child’s face than by giving the little boy or girl a gift this holiday season? Donate today or purchase a gift from our Amazon wish list!
Learn more >
Donate now >
Featured Articles
Celebrity? Stardom? GloryRabbi Eliyahu SafranHow easy it is to condemn the behavior of those whose names are writ large in tabloids and gossip columns. However, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. After all, who wouldn’t want to see their name in lights, even for a few minutes?


Celebrity? Stardom? Glory
Searching for God at Trader Joe’s (video)OU StaffRabbi Daniel Cohen ventures to Trader Joe’s in Stamford, Connecticut to find out what we are all grateful for this Thanksgiving.


Searching for God at Trader Joe’s (video)
Thinking Beyond a Ramp: the Low Cost of being Inclusive as a SynagogueBatya RosnerThe most common obstacle for persons with disabilities to feel included are attitudinal issues within the shul.


Thinking Beyond a Ramp: the Low Cost of being Inclusive as a Synagogue
I’m Digitally DistractedAlan FreishtatWe have been made aware of the dangers of being online, and Baruch Hashem, we can put filters on our devices if we must use them for work. With the help of our Rabbonim over the last few years, people have switched from smartphones to kosher phones, limited computer use to email only, and when possible, have reserved any online activity for the work place. But aside from the known dangers of internet, even our simple kosher devices can cause problems.


I’m Digitally Distracted
Stop Sibling Rivalry: 5 Ways to Have a Peaceful DinnerAdina Soclof“My kids are always fighting over who sits where at the dinner table. They all want to sit near my husband. Every day there is a battle. I am getting so tired from this fighting. It’s ridiculous. Dinner time is really unpleasant. What can I do?”


Stop Sibling Rivalry: 5 Ways to Have a Peaceful Dinner
Interview with Rabbi Gideon Black – JLIC Rabbi at NYU (audio)Stephen SavitskySteve Savitsky interviews Rabbi Gideon Black about his experiences as a JLIC Rabbi at NYU.


Interview with Rabbi Gideon Black – JLIC Rabbi at NYU (audio)
This Is What Inclusive MeansBatya RosnerWith 17 opportunities for summer social development, ranging from trips to Israel to vocational and camper programs, Yachad/NJCD has become one of the largest providers of summer programs for Jewish individuals with disabilities.


This Is What Inclusive Means
Slice of LifeEileen GoltzSome much needed light on the “pie vs. tart” debate and a few yummy fall dessert recipes.


Slice of Life
Sheldon Rudoff ע”ה Memorial Lecture November 25th
Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter on The Law and Narrative in the Torah and Gemara — the annual Sheldon Rudoff a”h Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America.
Learn more >


Legal Education Series December 12th
The Beth Din of America presents a two-part Continuing Legal Education series sponsored by the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America. Learn how cases are decided in Beis Din and about common procedural issues.
Part II – December 12 >
  • OU Kosher News
    Learn about all that’s new in the world of OU Kosher.
  • OU Kosher is now on Facebook and Twitter! Now you can keep up with the latest and greatest from OU Kosher onFacebook and Twitter. Like us, follow us, and join our online community!
Kislev 18, 5774 · November 21, 2013
General Overview:
In this week’s reading, Vayeishev, Joseph relates to his brothers his grandiose dreams of greatness, arousing their jealousy. He is consequently sold into slavery to an Egyptian master. After defying his Egyptian master’s wife, Joseph is thrown into jail, where he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker. The story of Judah and Tamar is also related at length.
This Week’s Features Printable Parshah Magazine

By Yossi Ives

Genesis 37:1–40:23

Jacob makes a colored coat for his favorite son, Joseph. Joseph’s brothers are jealous; they sell him to travelling Ishmaelites, and tell Jacob he is dead. Joseph is taken to Egypt, works for Potiphar, and is thrown into jail, where he meets the baker and the butler and interprets their dreams.


Judah, Tamar, and the inner meaning of levirate marriage

Judah, Tamar, and the inner meaning of levirate marriage.

By Yosef Y. Jacobson
By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

It is one of the ironies of life that in order to swing to the greatest height, it is necessary to plunge to the lowest point. Often there’s a “descent” in order to “rise”—a negative situation before the positive.

By Tali Loewenthal

Life Lessons from Parshat Vayeishev

The Torah’s narrative of Joseph provides special insight into our outlook and mission in life.

By Yehoshua B. Gordon
Watch Watch (23:47)

How to Study Torah – Vayeishev

What are the meanings of Joseph’s dreams which angered his brothers and caused the chain of events that ultimately caused the entire Jewish people to go into exile in Egypt?

By Mendel Kaplan
Watch Watch (1:18:10)

A Taste of Text—Vayeishev

Anger and self-pity rob us of our serenity. Bitterness and victimization blind us from seeing another’s pain.

By Chana Weisberg
Watch Watch (26:15)

A deeper look at Joseph’s dreams; the lessons that can be learned from them and Jacob’s reaction.

By Moishe New
Download Download   Listen Listen (38:24)

A five minute weekly Torah insight based on the wellsprings of Torah and Chassidut.

By J. Immanuel Schochet
Download Download   Listen Listen (6:52)
Kislev 18, 5774 · November 21, 2013
The Desire For Prosperity
Vayeishev; Genesis 37:1–40:23

Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXX, p. 176ff

Does G-d Approve of the Desire of the Righteous?

On the verse,1 “And Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s wandering,” Rashicomments:2

Yaakov desired to dwell in prosperity, but the distress of Yosef’s [disappearance] beset him. The righteous desire to dwell in prosperity, but the Holy One, blessed be He, says: “Is not what is prepared for them in the World to Come enough for the righteous? Must they also desire prosperity in this world?”

Rashi’s statement is problematic, for a casual reading gives the impression that G-d does not approve of the righteous wanting prosperity. On the other hand, the fact that “the righteous” follow this path of conduct indicates that the desire for prosperity is a positive trait and not a character flaw.3

Seeking Internal not External Challenges

This difficulty can be resolved by focusing on the fact that Rashi speaks about a desire for prosperity expressed by the righteous. Why only the righteous? Everyone wants to enjoy an abundance of good without strife, contention, or difficulty.

The desire for prosperity by the righteous, however, is of a different type entirely. To cite a parallel: with regard to the Era of the Redemption, the Rambam writes:

When a person is beset… with sickness, war, and hunger, he cannot occupy himself neither with wisdom nor with mitzvos. For this reason, all Israel and [in particular,] their prophets and sages have desired the Era of the Mashiach.4

The Sages and the prophets did not yearn for the Era of the Mashiach so that [the Jewish people] would rule the world… nor to eat, drink, and celebrate. Rather, their aspiration was to be free [to involve themselves] in the Torah and its wisdom, without anyone oppressing or disturbing them.5

On the surface, such a condition describes the World to Come, where the righteous will “sit… and derive benefit from the radiance of the Divine Presence.”6 It seems unnatural, however, in our present material circumstances.

Nevertheless, a distinction must be made. The World to Come represents G-d’s reward to man just recompense for man’s Divine service. This is a departure from the pattern of our present existence, of which it is said,7 “Today to perform them (themitzvos); tomorrow to receive their reward.”

The righteous, by contrast, are not concerned with reward. On the contrary, to refer to the passage cited above, they long to involve themselves in the Torah and its mitzvos. Their aspiration is only that they be freed from external difficulties. They want to grow in understanding and personal development. Why must they be confronted with challenges from the outside? Let all their efforts be devoted to the internal challenges of spiritual growth.

The Fulfillment of Yaakov’s Desire

In this light, we can understand G-d’s response to Yaakov’s request. G-d wanted Yaakov’s wish for prosperity to be fulfilled as it was indeed fulfilled in the 17 years of prosperity which he enjoyed in Egypt. But such prosperity must be earned by an appropriate measure of Divine service. Since Yaakov in his current state was not worthy to receive such prosperity, G-d subjected him to a further trial through which he could advance himself.8 The sorrow caused by the sale of Yosef initiated a process of refinement by which Yaakov ultimately merited to attain the spiritual and material prosperity he sought.

This concept resolves a problematic point. The name of a Torah reading communicates not merely a significant lesson in itself, but the message and theme of the reading as a whole. Seemingly, the name Vayeishev, which indicates prosperity, is not at all appropriate for this reading, which deals primarily with travail and sorrow.

Based on the above, however, it can be explained that the name is deserved, for it is only this travail which enabled Yaakov to attain true prosperity.

Two Levels of Prosperity

But further clarification is necessary. Yaakov must have known that the spiritual prosperity he desired would be granted only as result of Divine service, and that this would require that he overcome challenges. Nevertheless, he thought it was sufficient for him to have confronted the challenges posed by Esav and Lavan.

Our Sages identify9 Yaakov with the attribute of Truth; thus we can assume his self-appraisal was honest. Since Yaakov saw himself as being worthy of prosperity, why was it necessary for him to undergo a further challenge?

In resolution, it can be explained that there are two levels of prosperity fitting for the righteous:

a) One which can be appreciated by mortals: that a person, his children and his grandchildren should be able to serve G-d without difficulty, free to pursue the spiritual path.

b) One above mortal conception, a foretaste of the World to Come: “you will see your [portion of] the World [to Come] in your lifetime.”10 Just as the nature of the World to Come cannot be comprehended by mortals,11 so too, this foretaste transcends our understanding.

Yaakov asked for a level of prosperity that could be conceived by mortals. G-d granted this to him, and thus for nine years he enjoyed success and happiness in Eretz Yisrael.12 But G-d also wanted Yaakov to appreciate a higher level of prosperity, and therefore subjected him to the trials beginning with the sale of Yosef so that Yaakov would become worthy of this greater Divine favor.13

A Challenge of a Unique Nature

Since the prosperity G-d desired to grant Yaakov was above the limits of worldly existence, the Divine service which made him worthy of it differed from the challenges he had already faced. Yaakov’s confrontations with Lavan and Esav were symbolic of the struggle between good and evil, and man’s efforts to refine and elevate his environment.

The tribulations brought about by the sale of Yosef, by contrast, did not reflect these goals at all. The challenge and the refinement it brought about was strictly internal. It was a trial that seemingly had no purpose, bringing only aggravation and suffering, and initially lowering Yaakov’s spiritual level.14 Nevertheless, this was the process by which G-d chose to lift Yaakov to a more elevated spiritual rung and make him fit to receive the ultimate blessings.

The Necessity to Ask

One might ask: Since the prosperity which Yaakov was ultimately granted was not the prosperity he initially sought, why was his request the catalyst that triggered the sequence of events which would lead to this prosperity? Since the initiative was G-d’s alone, why was it at all dependent on man?

The answer is that “the Holy One, blessed be He, desires the prayers of the righteous.”15 Until Yaakov asked for prosperity, G-d did not grant it to him. But when he asked, G-d set him tasks that would bring him not only the limited prosperity which man can comprehend, but the prosperity that transcends understanding.

A similar concept applies with regard to our requests for the coming of the Redemption. The true nature of the Redemption is beyond human conception.16Nevertheless, our prayers hasten its coming.

1. Genesis 37:2.
2. Commentary to the above verse.
3. The positive nature of the desire for prosperity is indicated by the slight differences between Rashi’s text and his apparent source, Bereishis Rabbah84:3. The Midrash states: “When the righteous… desire to dwell in prosperity…”Rashi, however, states: “The righteous desire to dwell in prosperity…” indicating that this is the natural and proper course of behavior for a person who is “righteous.”
4. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 9:2.
5. Ibid., Hilchos Melachim 12:4.
6. Berachos 17a.
7. Eruvin 22a.
8. Similarly, our Sages’ state (Menachos 53b, Shmos Rabbah 36:1) that just as an olive releases its oil when pressed, so too, the Jewish people attain their greatest spiritual heights when put under pressure.
9. Zohar, Vol. I, p. 139a.
10. Berachos 17a. See also Bava Basra 17a, which states that the Patriarchs were granted a foretaste of the World to Come.
11. See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 8:7.
12. In this context, the opening verse “And Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s wandering,” can be interpreted to mean that in the land where his fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak, were forced to wander, Yaakov was able to dwell in prosperity. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 316.
13. Significantly, this higher level of prosperity was granted to Yaakov in Egypt. Although Egypt was “a foreign land (Genesis 15:13)” and a morally decadent country (see Toras Kohanim and Rashi, commenting on Leviticus 18:3), Yaakov and his descendants enjoyed material and spiritual prosperity there. This paradox was possible because of the transcendent nature of the Divine favor.
14. For as the verse states (Genesis 37:34), for all the years he was separated from Yosef, Yaakov was in a state of mourning, and “the spirit of prophecy departed from him” (Zohar, Vol. I, p. 180a, see Rashi, Targum Onkelos, and Targum Yonason to Genesis 45:27).
15. Yevamos 64a.
16. And therefore, despite our requests for its coming, the advent of the Redemption will be בהיסח הדעת, “unexpected” (Sanhedrin 97a).
By Eli Touger    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Kislev 18, 5774 · November 21, 2013
The German Newspapers

And he was youth-like (37:2)

Joseph would engage in youthful follies, curling his hair and making-up his eyes

– Rashi’s Commentary

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Horodok was once asked: “You are forever extolling the trait of humility. So why do you dress in such handsome clothes?”

Said Rabbi Mendel: “The surest place in which to conceal a chest of treasure is a pit of mud and slime…”

When the third rebbe and leader of Chabad chassidism, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, passed away in 1867, he was survived by a number of scholarly and pious sons. Each had a following of disciples who wished to see their mentor assume his father’s place.

Rabbi Grunem Estherman, one of the great mashpi’im1 in the annals of Lubavitch, was a young man at the time, and undecided as to which of the Rebbe’s sons to turn for leadership and guidance. When he discussed his dilemma with the famed disciple Rabbi Shmuel Ber of Barisov, the latter said to him: “Listen, Grunem. They are all children of the Rebbe’s. ‘They are all beloved, they are all mighty, they are all holy.’2 But let me tell you of one incident, and then you do as you see fit.

“During one of my visits to Lubavitch, there was something in our late Rebbe’s discourse which I found difficult to understand – it seemed to contradict a certain passage in the kabbalistic work of Eitz Chayim.3None of the elder disciples were able to provide an answer satisfactory to me, so that night I made my rounds among the Rebbe’s sons. I visited Rabbi Yehudah Lieb, Rabbi Chaim Schneur Zalman, and the others. Each offered an explanation, but, again, none of their ideas satisfied my mind.

“By now it was fairly late at night. I was headed for my lodgings when I noticed a light burning in Rabbi Shmuel’s window. I had not considered asking him – he is the youngest of the sons and, as you know, his behavior is that of a rather ordinary and indistinct individual. However, I was curious to know what he is up to at such a late hour. So I pulled myself up on to his windowsill and looked in. What did I see, but Rabbi Shmuel immersed in the very section of Eitz Chayim where my difficulty lay?! So I figured I had best go in and discuss it with him.

“I went round to the door and knocked. ‘Just a minute’ he called out. After a rather long minute the door opened. I took in the scene: newspapers were laid out on the table, German papers, Russian papers. Of the Eitz Chayim not a trace.

” ‘Reb Shmuel Ber! Rather late, isn’t it?’ he said. ‘How can I help you?’ I told him of my problem with the discourse the Rebbe had delivered that day and the passage in Eitz Chayim. ‘Ah, Reb Shmuel Ber’ he said ‘they say you are a smart Jew. Nu, I ask you, you come to me with a question in Eitz Chayim…?’

” ‘Listen, my friend,’ I said, “your game is up. Five minutes ago I saw you with the Eitz Chayim. Now either you tell me how you understand it, or else tomorrow the entire Lubavitch will hear about the interesting tricks you pull with your German papers.’

“We sat and discussed the matter till morning,” Rabbi Shmuel Ber concluded his story, “and I came away thoroughly impressed with the extent and depth of his knowledge. This is what I can tell you, Grunem, now you do as you see fit…”

1. A mashpia is a spiritual guide and mentor
2. A phrase from the daily morning prayers.
3. A collection of the kabbalistic teachings of Rabbi Issac Luria (the ‘Ari’ 1534-1572) compiled by his disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital.
By Yanki Tauber    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Yanki Tauber is content editor of
Kislev 18, 5774 · November 21, 2013
The Multidimensional Plan

What can we learn from the life of Joseph? His story, told partly in this week’s Parshah, seems simply a succession of unhappy events. His mother Rachel died in his youth. He could not get on with his elder brothers, the children of Leah. The conflict became so great that they sold him into slavery. Then further sad events led to his being put into prison in Egypt.

One thing we can learn from this is that G-d has His own Divine “plan” for the world. We do not realize at the time, but very negative or even tragic events can sometimes lead to openly positive results. In the case of Joseph, the fact that he was in prison in Egypt led to his appointment as viceroy of Egypt. This in turn meant that he could provide food for his family during the famine which was to come.

This is how Joseph himself understood his life. When, as viceroy, he finally revealed his identity to his brothers (in the Parshah Vayigash) he said to them: “Don’t be upset that you sold me here. G-d sent me here in order to provide for you… G-d sent me here to save you” (Genesis 45:5-7).

Trust in the ultimate rightness of G-d’s plan for our lives is an important quality. In the case of Joseph, the Plan seems quite simple. A child could understand it. Yet when you turn to the overall history of the Jewish people the Plan looks more complex. Something like a game of snakes and ladders in four dimensions… (and are you sure you know which direction is “up”?). One thing is sure, you do not stand still. And eventually you get there!

The story of Joseph in our Parshah gives an example of how the Plan unfolded in the past. It carries with it the promise that this will happen for us too, as individuals and as a people, in the present and the future.

By Tali Loewenthal    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

By Dr. Tali Loewenthal, Director of Chabad Research Unit, London, UK; based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Kislev 18, 5774 · November 21, 2013

“Anticipating the Event”In the Torah portion of Vayeishev, we find Yosef telling his brothers about his dreams, the gist of which was that he would rule over them in the future. The verse tells us that, as a result, “his brothers were jealous of him, and his father guarded the matter.”1Rashi2 explains that “guarded the matter” means Ya’akov was awaiting the event. “So too,” says Rashi , “does the verse state, ‘awaiting His faithfulness,’3 and ‘do not await my sins.’ ”4Why does Rashi find it necessary to cite two verses in order to explain that “guarded” means “awaiting” and “anticipating”? Why doesn’t one verse suffice?

The fulfillment of Yosef’s dreams came about when hunger forced Ya’akov and his sons to descend to Egypt, where Yosef served as viceroy. Their descent served as the precursor to the Egyptian exile, the source of all subsequent exiles.

Although the Jewish people are exiled from their land as a result of their iniquities, the underlying purpose of exile is to propel the nation to a level far superior to that attained prior to exile. Thus, at the time of the final Redemption, the Jewish people will be on an even loftier level than they were while the Beis HaMikdash existed.

This provides us with a lesson in terms of our own spiritual service. When one ponders the state of the planet, each day spiritually darker than the one before, one might despair of ever having the strength to illuminate the world with the light of Torah and mitzvos.

But all spiritual descents, states of darkness and concealment, etc., are only external manifestations. The inner truth is quite different.

Everything that transpires in the world is in fulfillment of G-d’s benevolent will. Therefore, despite appearances, the world is each day ascending in holiness and becoming more refined, until it becomes a fit dwelling place for G-d.

This is clearly evident with regard to exile. For although, as stated earlier, we are banished from the Land as a result of our sins, the actual banishment comes about from above.

Since all things that come from above are surely intended to bring the world to its ultimate fulfillment, it follows that exile not only extirpates the sins that caused it, but also leads us to a spiritual level far higher than we enjoyed while the Beis HaMikdashstood.

Clearly then, exile serves as part and parcel of our elevation.

Rashi alludes to the above by quoting both passages regarding Ya’akov’s response to Yosef’s dreams — precursors of the exile in Egypt — and by first quoting the verse “awaiting His faithfulness” (referring to G-d’s promise to the Jewish people), and only then going on to quote the verse “do not await my sins.”

By doing so, Rashi indicates that, although exiles come as a “payback” for our iniquities (“do not await my sins”), their primary purpose is to help bring about the future Redemption, as indicated in the first verse quoted by Rashi — “awaiting His faithfulness.”

This refers to the ultimate elevation, realized with the speedy arrival of our righteousMoshiach.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, pp. 180-184, 62-63

“Binding Bundles”

At the beginning of the Torah portion Vayeishev, we are told that, in relating the beginning of his dream to his brothers, Yosef said:5 “We were binding sheaves in the field.” Rashi explains the words “binding sheaves” according to the Targum — that the phrase means “binding bundles, i.e., sheaves of grain.”

In terms of our spiritual service, the verse and Rashi’ s comment imply6 that the spiritual service of “binding sheaves” involves gathering disparate sparks of holiness and uniting them, just as separate stalks of grain are brought together and bound into a bundle.

This manner of service also applies to each individual’s soul; he is to gather the disparate elements of his personality and unite them with the Divine.

Herein lies the lesson of Yosef’s dream: in addition to tying together and elevating the holy sparks found within each of us and uniting them through the service of Torah andmitzvos , we must also “go out in the field” and occupy ourselves in uniting the elements of holiness scattered throughout the world.

We do so in order to bring others back to G-d and the observance of Torah andmitzvos , and to the light of Torah7 — its inner dimension8 — the “Tree of Life.”9

Rashi elaborates on this theme when he explains that “tying sheaves” means “binding bundles,” i.e., that the purification and elevation of the sparks of holiness is to be done in a way that binds them permanently to their source, similar to something that is tied and bound. This will guarantee that the binder will have a lasting effect on the one who is bound, so much so that all the ill winds in the world will be unable to sever his bond with G-d and Torah.

Rashi then goes on to explain that, in order for this to be accomplished, we must learn a lesson from “sheaves of grain. ” Just as kernels of grain yield future crops, so too, when one betters another, it is to be done in a manner such that the beneficiary will in turn have a positive impact on others.

Shabbos is connected to the previous days of the week, for “He who toils before Shabbos gets to eat on Shabbos.”10 Similarly, Shabbos is linked to the days that follow it, for “Shabbos is the day from whence all the coming days of the week are blessed.”11 Shabbos is thus a day that unites the days before it with the days that follow it.

During many years (and this year as well), the Shabbos of the portion Vayeishev falls between the festival of the Alter Rebbe’s liberation on the 19th of Kislev and the days of Chanukah. Since the Torah portions are related to the time during which they are read,12 it follows that the above-mentioned lesson applies equally to the festival of the 19th of Kislev and to the festival of Chanukah.

One of the pillars of the Alter Rebbe’s service was getting Jews to return to Judaism.13In fact, the Alter Rebbe related that, upon hearing a particular Torah message from his teacher the Maggid of Mezritch, he decided that it was incumbent on himself to draw all Jews closer to Judaism. He thereafter spent five years traveling from place to place in order to bring Jews on the “outside” closer to Torah and mitzvos.14 Moreover, it was after the festival of the 19th of Kislev that there began15 the service of “spreading the wellsprings outside. ”

The Chanukah lights are to be lit as well in the entrance of one’s home. For they also serve to illuminate and purify the “outside,” bringing it back into the domain of holiness.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 115-121

1. Bereishis 37:11.
2. Ibid.
3. Yeshayahu 26:2.
4. Iyov 14:16.
5. Bereishis 37:7.
6. See Torah Or , Vayeishev 28a; Or HaTorah Bereishis, Vol. VI, p. 1083. See alsoToras Chayim, Vayeishev p. 66 and onward.
7. Beginning of Eichah Rabbah ; Yerushalmi, Chagigah 1:7 and commentary ofKorban HaEidah.
8. See Likkutei Levi Yitzchak , notes to Zohar, Vol. II, Sisa p. 150b.
9. Zohar , Vol. III, p. 124b. See also Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 26.
10. Avodah Zorah 3a.
11. Zohar, Vol. II, p. 63b, 88a.
12. See Sheloh, Cheilek Torah Shebichsav, beginning of the Torah portionVayeishev.
13. See Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. IV, end of p. 755ff.
14. Ibid., p. 1512.
15. Toras Shalom , p. 112ff.
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Kislev 17, 5774 · November 20, 2013

Vayeshev, and the following Sidra of Mikketz, have a common theme: Dreams. In Vayeshev we are told of Joseph’s dreams, and in Mikketz, about the dreams of Pharaoh. Both dreamt twice, and in each case the dreams shared a single meaning, conveyed in different symbols. What was the significant difference between Joseph’s and Pharaoh’s dreams? Why did they dream twice? And what is the implication of their detailed symbolism? The answers are given in terms of the Jew’s contemporary search for a path to G-d.

1. Two Dreamers and Four Dreams

In the beginning of this week’s Sidra we are told about Joseph’s two dreams.1 Both had the same meaning: That Joseph would rule over his brothers and that they would pay homage to him. The second dream merely added that the “sun and the moon”—Jacob and Bilhah would be included in this homage.

There is a striking parallel between this and next week’s Sidra (Mikketz) which relates the two dreams of Pharaoh,2 which also shared a single meaning. But in Pharaoh’s case the Torah states a reason why there should have been two dreams: “Because the thing is established by G-d, and G-d will shortly bring it to pass.”3 Of Joseph’s dreams, no explanation is given of their repetition, and indeed the additional information that the second conveys could have been hinted at in the first. We are forced to conclude that Joseph’s two dreams, alike though they are in their meaning, are allusions to two different things.

What are these two things? And, since the actions of the Fathers are both a sign and a lesson to their descendants,4 what are their implications for us? For Joseph’s actions are included in the works of the Fathers, since he brought Jacob’s work into fruition in the world as hinted to in the verse: “These are the generations of Jacob: Joseph….”5

2. The Sheaves and the Stars

Joseph’s two dreams have the following difference. The first concerns things of the earth: “And behold, we were binding sheaves in the midst of a field.” But the second is about the heavens: “The sun and the moon and eleven stars.”

Both of Pharaoh’s dreams, however, had an earthly symbolism regressing in fact from the domain of living things (the seven cows) to that of plants (the seven ears of corn). For Pharaoh had no link with the realm of heaven. And whereas his dreams represent a regression, Joseph’s display an ascent in holiness.6

This distinction between Joseph and Pharaoh exemplifies one of the unique characteristics of the Jew, that he is simultaneously involved in both the material and spiritual, this world and the next. As the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe said7 when he was arrested in Russia in 1927 and one of his interrogators threatened him with a revolver: “Men who have many gods and one world are frightened by a revolver; a man who has one G-d and two worlds has nothing to fear.” These two worlds are not separate in time—a this-worldly present and an other-worldly future. The Jew is instead bound to a higher spiritual reality even in the midst of this world. He stands on a “ladder” set on the earth whose top reaches to heaven”8 and moves in his service from the mundane (“earth”) to the most exalted spirituality (“heaven”), always ascending.

3. Two Worlds Within One World

The Torah is precise, and every detail contains a lesson which has a bearing on the conduct of our life.9 The implication of the fact that Joseph’s dreams were about two worlds (earth and heaven) and yet had a single meaning, is that the Jew must fuse his dual involvement, with the material and the spiritual, into one. Not only must there be no tension between his two worlds, but the material must contribute to his spiritual life until it is itself spiritualized.10

The idea that physical acts like eating and drinking are directed towards G-d, is a natural one to every Jew. There is a story11 about the Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel,12 that when his two sons were children they were discussing the special virtues of the Jew, and to demonstrate his point he asked their servant: “Bentzion—have you eaten?”

The servant replied: “Yes.”

“Did you eat well?”

“I am satisfied, thank G-d.”

“Why did you eat?”

“In order to live.”

“Why do you live?”

“To be a Jew and to do what G-d wishes.”

As he said this, the servant sighed.

Later, the Rebbe told his children: “You see, a Jew by his nature eats to live, and lives to be a Jew and to do what G-d has told him; and still he sighs that he has not yet reached the ultimate truth.”

Since the Jew has a spiritual intention in every physical act, the acts themselves are spiritualized. In the words of the Baal Shem Tov: “Where a man’s desires are—there he is.’’13

4. The Meaning of the Sheaves

This, then, is the significance of the fact that Joseph had two dreams. What is the meaning of the detailed content of each?

The first begins, “We were binding sheaves in the midst of a field.” It begins, in other words, with work, an activity wholly absent from the dreams of Pharaoh. In the domain of unholiness, work (i.e., avodah, the effort involved in the service of G-d) may be absent, as we find it written: “We ate in Egypt free” (i.e., without the effort of the Mitzvot).14 But the rewards of holiness (the emanations of the Divine) come only through effort. And so the Jew’s ascent on the ladder from earth to heaven must—from the very beginning—involve the work of dedicating his physical actions to holiness.

The nature of this work—as in Joseph’s dream—is binding sheaves.15 We are born into a world of concealment which is like a field, in which things and people, like stalks of corn, grow apart, living separately, in and for themselves. In man we call this orientation towards the self, the “animal soul,” which creates diversity and separateness. And the Jew must go beyond it, binding like sheaves the many facets of his being into the unified service of G-d, a service which transcends self and separation.

In the dream, the sheaves, after they were bound, bowed down to Joseph’s sheaf. And so, for us, the next stage in service must be “bowing down,” the submission to what is higher than us. Jews form a unity, as if they were the limbs of one body.16 And just as a body is coordinated only when its muscles act in response to the nervous system of the brain, so the spiritual health of the collective body of Jews is dependent on their responsiveness to their “head”—the spiritual leader of the generation.17 It is he who instructs it so that its individual members act in harmony towards their proper goal.

Indeed, inwardly this submission precedes the act of unifying one’s existence in the service of G-d. The capacity to effect this “binding together” derives from the inner submission to the spiritual leader of the generation. But the outward manifestation of this service follows the order of Joseph’s dream: First the “binding,” and then the submission.

5. The Meaning of the Stars

But this is at the level of Joseph’s first dream. Service at this level is still confined to the “earth”—the limits of physical existence. And it remains for the Jew to transcend these constraints, in the act of teshuvah (“repentance,” or more correctly, “return”). The real process of teshuvah comes when “the spirit returns to G-d who gave it”;18 that is, when the soul of the Jew regains its pristine state, as it was prior to its embodiment. This does not mean that soul and body should—G-d forbid—become separate or that bodily existence should be denied, but that the body should cease to conceal the light of the soul. This is the ultimate purpose of the descent of the soul into the body within a physical existence—that without denying or standing aloof from this mode of existence—the soul should retain its unmediated closeness to G-d.

This is the meaning of Joseph’s second dream. It speaks of the Jew who has already passed beyond the service which is confined to “earth.” He has left the world of “separation”—the state where things are seen to exist in and for themselves—and no longer needs to “bind” together the schismatic elements of his being. His service is now wholly at the level of “heaven,” the path of return to the pristine state of the soul.

But the act of submission to the “head” of the collective body of the Jewish people is repeated in this dream (where the sun, moon and eleven stars bow down). This clearly implies that this inward attitude of reference is not restricted to the Jew who is still working “in the field,” but extends to the Jew who has already, as it were, reached the heavens. Certainly he no longer needs guidance to avoid the concealments and distortions that the physical life may bring to one’s spiritual sight. But even at this level, he must still act in harmony with other Jews in collective response to their spiritual leader.

6. The Rungs of the Ladder to Heaven

This, then, is the path mapped out for every Jew by the dreams of Joseph. First there is the “work in the field,” the effort (avodah) to unify a world of separate existences and divided selves, within the service of G-d (“binding sheaves”). And though the Jewish people are called “the sons of kings,”19 or even simply “kings,”20 this does not imply that this effort can be dispensed with. For the rewards of holiness must be worked for in this world. And they are rewards which it is beyond our power to anticipate: They will be “found”—that is, they will be unexpected.21 We read: “If a man says to you, I have labored and have not found (a reward), do not believe him. If he says, I have not labored, but still I have found, do not believe him. But if he says, I have labored and I have found—believe him.”22

Secondly, at all levels of service there must be submission to the “head” of the “body” of the Jewish people.

And then, as we are told in the Pirkei Avot,23 when “your will is nullified (in the face of His will)” it will follow that “He will nullify the will of others in the face of your will.” In other words, the concealments of this world of plurality and disunity (“others”) will lose their power, and we will be open to the flow of revelation and spiritual life that is the life of Joseph and of righteousness.

(Source: Likkutei Sichot, Vol. III pp. 805-10)

1. Bereishit 37:5-9.
2. Bereishit 41:1-7.
3. Bereishit 41:32.
4. Cf., for example, supra p. 13.
5. Bereishit 37:2. Cf. Biurei HaZohar, 30a. Or Hatorah, 386a.
6. For the relation between these notions of “ascent” and “regression” in holiness, and the idea of Chanukah (which always falls at the time of these two Sidrot) cf. Shabbat, 21b, and Chassidic writings on Chanukah.
7. Cf. Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn (biography) p. 13.
8. Bereishit 28:12.
9. Cf. Zohar, Part III, 53b.
10. Cf. Hayom Yom, 27 Elul. The point is emphasized by Rambam (Hilchot Deot, beginning of ch. 4) where he says “a healthy and perfect body is part of the path of (serving and knowing) G-d.”
11. Likkutei Dibburim, p. 421.
12. The fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe (1834-1882).
13. Cf. Sefer Hamaamarim-Kuntresim, p. 818. Likkutei Dibburim, p. 226, and elsewhere.
14. Bamidbar 11:5. Sifri and Rashi there. Cf. also Zohar, Part II, 128a.
15. Cf. Torah Or, 28a.
16. Likkutei Torah, beginning of Parshat Nitzavim.
17. Cf. Tanya, Part I, ch. 2. Sefer Hamaamarim 5710, p. 254.
18. Ecclesiastes 12:7. Cf. Likkutei Torah, beginning of Parshat Ha-azinu.
19. Shabbat, 67a. Zohar, Part I, 27b.
20. Berachot, 9b.
21. Because they will be far more abundant than our service merits.
22. Megillah, 6b.
23. 2:4.
Adapted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks; From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Kislev 17, 5774 · November 20, 2013
Vayeishev Aliya Summary

General Overview: In this week’s reading, Vayeishev, Joseph relates to his brothers his grandiose dreams of greatness, arousing their jealousy. He is consequently sold into slavery to an Egyptian master. After defying his Egyptian master’s wife, Joseph is thrown into jail, where he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker. The story of Judah and Tamar is also related at length.

First Aliyah: Jacob and his family settled in Canaan. Of all his sons, Jacob favored Joseph, the firstborn of his deceased beloved wife Rachel, and he made for him a special robe of fine wool. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of the favoritism, and avoided talking to Joseph. Joseph related to his brothers two dreams he had, both implying that he would eventually rule over his brothers—and thus increased his brothers’ envy and hatred.

Second Aliyah: Joseph’s brothers were away tending their father’s sheep, when Jacob sent Joseph to see how his brothers and the flocks were faring. When Joseph’s brothers saw him approaching they plotted to kill him. Reuben, however, implored them not to shed blood, advising them instead to cast him into one of the nearby pits. Reuben’s plan was to later return and rescue Joseph from the pit.

Third Aliyah: Joseph arrived and his brothers immediately stripped him of his fancy robe and cast him into a pit. Upon Judah’s advice, they subsequently sold him to an Ishmaelite caravan traveling to Egypt, who in turn sold him as a slave to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s chief butcher. Meanwhile, the brothers dipped Joseph’s robe into blood, and showed it to Jacob, who assumed that Joseph was devoured by a wild beast. Jacob then commenced 22 years of mourning for his beloved son.

Fourth Aliyah: The story of Joseph is interrupted by the episode of Judah and Tamar. Judah married the daughter of a local businessman and had three sons. His first son, Er, married a woman named Tamar, but died soon thereafter. Judah had his second son, Onan, marry Tamar and thus fulfill the mitzvah of Yibbum, but he too died childless. Judah hesitated to give his third son to Tamar, so she returned to her father’s home. Judah’s wife then died, and he embarked on a business trip. Tamar dressed herself like a prostitute and sat by the side of the road. Judah didn’t recognize her, was intimate with her and she becomes pregnant. A few months later, when her pregnancy became evident, Judah ordered her executed for harlotry. As she was being taken out to die, she produced some of Judah’s personal effects that he had left behind when he visited her. Judah admitted that he was the father, and Tamar was spared. Tamar then gave birth to twin sons, Zerach and Peretz.

Fifth Aliyah: We return to the story of Joseph, who was serving in the home of Potiphar. G‑d was with Joseph, and he succeeded in all his endeavors. When Potiphar took note of this fact, he put Joseph in charge of his entire household and estate.

Sixth Aliyah: Joseph was exceedingly handsome, and Potiphar’s wife was attracted to him. She made many advances on him, but he steadfastly rebuffed her. Eventually she libelously told her husband that Joseph was making advances on her, and Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. G‑d was still with Joseph, and he found favor in the eyes of the prison warden, who put him in charge of all the prisoners.

Seventh Aliyah: Two of Pharaoh’s officers, his butler and baker, aroused the royal ire and were cast into prison—the same one that Joseph was now administering. One night, they both had odd dreams, and Joseph interpreted them. Joseph told the butler that he’d soon be released and restored to Pharaoh’s service. The baker was told by Joseph that he would soon be hung. Joseph pleaded with the butler to mention his plight to Pharaoh, and ask for his release. Three days later, both of Joseph’s interpretations came true; but the butler forgot all about Joseph.
Kislev 17, 5774 · November 20, 2013
Genesis 37:1–40:23

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 Reubensuggests 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.