Vayeishev (Gen. 37:1-40:23)

Jacob has now settled down in Canaan to what unfortunately will not turn out for him to be a normal, settled life.  The stories in this portion star Joseph (the favorite) and Judah (who will be the ancestor of the House of David, thus, the Messiah).  Joseph is 17.  Judah is a grown man with three sons – Er, Onan, and Shelah – by Shua, a Canaanite woman.  Er dies childless and his widow Tamar marries Onan (levirate marriage requirement).  Their children would be considered Er’s.  Onan rejects this and also dies.  Judah really doesn’t want to marry Shelah to Tamar, so he keeps putting it off.  Then Shua dies. Finally, Tamar, dressed as a prostitute, is impregnated by Judah and, about to be burned alive for adultery (remember, she’s “betrothed” to Shelah), she discreetly reveals who the father is.  Judah recognizes her righteousness, and twins Perez (ancestor of David) and Zarah are born.  It is not recorded how well these twins got along.

Joseph’s story is so well known as to be almost boring by my age.  And I’m not crazy about “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”  except for having Pharaoh resemble Elvis since he’s from Memphis (Memphis, Egypt, get it?).  What keeps my interest alive now is all the parallels you can make with modern workplaces, especially in next week’s portion, when Joseph becomes Viceroy.   Anyhow, Joseph, at 17, is clearly singled out by Jacob (by that coat) as the future head of the family.  You’d think Jacob would realize, from personal experience, that it is not good for a father to even appear to favor one child over another, but maybe Jacob justified this on the grounds that Joseph actually was the most talented, versus Isaac’s favoring the “wrong” son.  Joseph has dreams and foolishly broadcasts them (was he trying to needle his brothers or just totally naive as to the depth of their hatred?). His brothers’ sheaves of wheat bow down to his sheaf.  His parents and brothers in the guise of sun/moon/stars bow down to him.  Even his brothers, who sometimes aren’t too swift, can interpret these dreams as foretelling their future subservience to Joseph.  When he subsequently meets them in the field, they first intend to kill him and then instead decide to sell him to the Midianites or Ishmaelites, or maybe the Midianites sell him to the Ishmaelites, who sell him to Potiphar in Egypt.  Even though we read in last week’s portion that the brothers are no angels – Simeon and Levi carry out a massacre and Reuben sleeps with Jacob’s concubine/wife Bilhah –  but fratricide? Selling Joseph? Their cold-heartedness to both Joseph and Jacob is astounding.

But now Joseph starts to come into his own.  His boss is delighted with his performance and expands his responsibilities.  Unfortunately, the boss’ wife is delighted with his looks and keeps telling him to sleep with her.  This is apparently the first recorded case of workplace sexual harassment in the Bible (yes, women can sexually harass men as well as vice versa). There is a shalshelet trope , generally signifying hesitation, over the Hebrew for “he refused” (va’y’ma’ein) when he first says no.  Maybe he doesn’t want to say no? More likely, given his carefully composed “no” he just needed to pause to considered how to get out of this without losing his job.  She keeps it up, day after day (creating a “hostile work environment” – boy, the EEOC would have loved to file a lawsuit on a case like this) until she finally grabs his coat  and he slips out of it, frankly leaving her standing there, looking ridiculous.  With the coat, she frames Joseph for attempted rape and he ends up in prison (the second time a coat gets him in trouble).  But even in prison he rises to the top as the warden’s assistant and now demonstrates an ability to interpret other people’s dreams.  And, if you can remember which was which, it was the baker who is executed and the butler (wine steward) who is freed.  Joseph seizes the networking opportunity tells him he’s innocent and a kidnap victim and asks him to put in a good word with the powers that be.  Unfortunately, the butler forgets, for two years.

Chanukah starts Tuesday night, December 20.  I’ll include Chanukah comments and humor next time.

Shabbat shalom,
5 Things You Can Do to Annoy your Teenager

by Ginger “Mommmmm!Stopit!” Ogle

Stressed out over the hormonal mood swings? Tired of piles of stinky socks on the living room floor? Annoyed with the continual ring of the phone that is never for you? Irritated by bored, monosyllabic responses to your attempts at conversation? Just generally fed up with the giant slouching creature your cute little toddler has evolved into?

Now you can get back at your teenager in small subtle ways that will take them a while to figure out. Here are five things to try:

1.        Hum “It’s a Small World After All” in the morning before she goes to school. It will stick in her head all day. This is good while driving in the car, too.

2.        Learn a few teen slang words and use them in your everyday conversation with your teen.
Example:  “Wuss Up’?”

3.        Talk baby talk to them in front of their friends.

4.        Rekindle your interest in listening to music. Try playing music that your teen may not have experienced before. Country and bluegrass are good for teen fans of rap and hip hop, especially if you know the words and sing along. Crank up the volume.  

5.        Corollary to #4: Ask them to play some of their music for you. Turn it up loud, open all curtains and shades and then start dancing in public view! Invite your teen to dance with you! This works really well if other teens just happen to be walking by. [Note: this is even more effective if you, like me, never  learned to dance.]

Try these at home, folks, they really work. Remember to say afterwards in your sweetest parental voice, “I’m sorry, honey, does that bother you?” That really gets ’em.


After she woke up, a woman told her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for our anniversary. What do you think it means?”
“You’ll know tonight,” he said.
That evening, the man came home with a small package and gave it to his wife.
Delighted, she opened it to find a book entitled “The Meaning of Dreams.”


Astronomy jokes

Q: What did the astronaut cook for lunch?
A: An unidentified frying object.

Q: Why didn’t the dog star laugh at the joke?
A:  It was too Sirius.

Q: How does the solar system hold up its pants?
A: With an asteroid belt.

Q: If a meteorite hits a planet, what do we call the ones that miss?
A: Meteowrongs.

Prison joke

Several years ago, Andy was sentenced to prison. During his stay, he got along well with the guards and all his fellow inmates. The warden saw that deep down, Andy was a good person and made arrangements for Andy to learn a trade while doing his time.

After 3 years, Andy was recognized as one of the best carpenters in the local area. Often he would be given a weekend pass to do odd jobs for the citizens of the community, and he always reported back to prison before Sunday night was over.

The warden was thinking of remodeling his kitchen and in fact had done much of the work himself. But he lacked the skills to build a set of kitchen cupboards and a large counter top which he had promised his wife. So he called Andy into his office and asked him to complete the job for him. But, alas, Andy refused. He told the warden, “Gosh, I’d really like to help you but counter fitting is what got me into prison in the first place.”

Emergency Cake [abridged]

A baker is just getting ready lock his front door when a man rushes up. “I need to have a cake made right now!” he exclaims.

“I’m sorry,” replies the baker. “But I was just closing up. I’m afraid you’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait until tomorrow!” insists the man. “It’s absolutely imperative that this cake be made right now!”

The baker says, “All right, I’ll see what I can do. What is it you need?”

The man whips out a sketch from his pocket. “It has to look just like this,” says the man. “Exactly one foot wide, one foot long, and six inches tall. White frosting, blue icing, and a red cursive “S” in the middle. I need this in fifteen minutes.”

“Fifteen minutes?” responds the baker. “I suppose I might be able to get it done that fast if I used some pre-made dough. It wouldn’t taste as good but…”

“I don’t care. Just get to it, please,” blurts the man, while checking his watch frantically.

So the baker goes back and somehow produces the cake in just under fifteen minutes. He presents it to the man fresh out of the oven.

The man takes a measuring tape from his pocket. He checks the length, width, and height very carefully. He then compares it to the sketch. Suddenly, a look of horror comes across his face. “No no!” he exclaims. “The ‘s’ is the wrong shade of red! It has to be the same shade as the sketch. Oh, what will I do now??”

So the baker quickly takes the cake back and puts on a new “S”. A few minutes later he brings it back to the visibly distraught man.

Once again the man scrutinizes the cake, checking every detail. He compares the shades of red, and this time decides they’re all right. “Okay” says the man quickly, “this is good. Can I pay you now.”

“Of course,” says the baker, hastily readying the cash register. “Now, the boxes we have available are over here. Do you want to pick one out?”

“Oh no, that won’t be necessary,” answers the man. “I’ll eat it here.”


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