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

This week’s reading, Vayeishev, is the first of four that encompass the story of Joseph, his brothers, and their father, winding up the book of Genesis and setting the stage for what follows.  The adventures of Joseph read like a movie script; as I think about that, I have a sudden yen for popcorn.  The reading begins, “And Jacob dwelled in the land of Canaan.”  Jacob expects to have a quiet, settled life now.  The main sources of past troubles – Laban et al., Esau, even his parents to an extent – are gone.  But, ironically, he hasn’t reckoned with how murderous sibling rivalry can be in his own household.

You know the story.  It was the first text I read in Hebrew School in the original Hebrew.  Joseph’s story and the Christmas story from Luke are the only two stories I remember from daily Bible readings in public school (yes, I’m dating myself); the Joseph narrative was read over several days, like a soap opera serial.  Joseph is a bright, handsome 17-year-old whom Jacob designates as future head of the family despite his being born 11th out of 12 sons.  Joseph’s dreams (sun, moon, stars and sheaves of wheat) clearly describe the family bowing down to him.  The brothers are ticked off enough to want to get rid of him and seize the opportunity when the boy comes out to them alone.  Joseph is stripped of his fancy coat and thrown into a pit, seemingly on an impulse, since the brothers don’t seem to know what to do with him.  It’s unclear precisely what happens next and who is responsible.  Is Joseph stolen from the pit by traders? Or taken out by his brothers and sold?  To whom? How many times is he sold?  He lands in Egypt as a slave to Potiphar, distinguishes himself, but is sent to prison when he refuses to sleep with the boss’s wife (workplace sexual harassment) and she cries rape.  In prison, he again impresses.  He interprets the dreams of the royal baker and royal wine steward to mean that the former will hang and the latter will be returned to court.  Joseph asks the wine steward to put in a good word for him, but the steward doesn’t.

There’s another story in Vayeishev, left out of Sunday and Hebrew school lessons, about Judah; his sons Er, Onan, and Shelah; and Tamar.  Tamar is Er’s wife. Er dies childless.  She marries Onan to have children in Er’s name.  Onan dies because he refuses to impregnate her.  Judah doesn’t want to pass her on to Shelah (I wonder why…), so Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute, solicits Judah, and gives birth to twins Perez and Zarah.  Why are we reading this?  Judah is going to become the effective head of the family (whence “Judea” and “Jews” eventually) and Perez is an ancestor of King David.

In previous years, I’ve considered Joseph as a privileged teenager who’s become a spoiled brat.  I’ve also seen him as a CEO-wannabe who learns how to impress the right people the right way, as much as any successful modern corporate manager.  He is called a saint by rabbinic commentators– Joseph the Righteous (Yosef HaTzaddik), in one opinion because he can “control his natural drives better than any one else in Scripture.”  I think, as a 17-year-old, he’s basically clueless regarding interpersonal relations, especially how very deep feelings can lead to unspeakable actions.  That is in part due to his self-centeredness.  He matures in Potiphar’s household and in prison, but he still thinks only of himself.  That is, until he has an opportunity to save Egypt.

Chanukah starts Tuesday night (12/16, also Beethoven’s birthday), so I’ll include some Chanukah humor (chumor?) next week.

Shabbat shalom,

From Good Clean Jokes (A, Kostick et al., 1998) p. 314 – sent out in 2009

Teacher: You have ten older brothers?
Mark: Yes.
Teacher: Does your mom holler at you a lot?
Mark: Nope. By the time she finishes hollering at my brothers and gets to me she usually has laryngitis.


tph dreams in prison


Tom swift-ly* through the old testament (selections)

“I have sinned,” said Adam originally.
“Have an apple,” the serpent said fruitfully.
“Come here, Abel,” Cain said brotherly.
“You snails almost didn’t make it,” Noah said wetly.
“No spika de Inglish,” they babbled at Babel confusedly.
“Nonsense, I’ll look behind me all I please,” replied Lot’s wife saltily.
“Here’s your pottage,” Jacob said hairily.
“My thigh is out of joint,” Jacob said angelically.
“I was the sun and you were the stars,” Joseph said dreamily.
“Hey, Fellas, look at my new coat,” Joseph said colorfully.
“I feel like traveling on, Madame Potiphar,” Joseph said coatlessly.
“Now we can open grain storage area #1,” Joseph said leanly.
*For those not familiar with the genre, a Tom Swiftie is a play on words having “a punning relationship between the way an adverb describes a speaker and at the same time refers significantly to the import of the speaker’s statement, as in “I know who turned off the lights,” Tom hinted darkly. [The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 1st edition (1966)]. (Sometimes) a verb rather than an adverb supplies the pun (e.g. “I’m dying”, he croaked).”


Playing Hooky Joke

The local high school has a policy that the parents must call the school if a student is to be absent for the day. Kelly, deciding to skip school and go to the mall with her friends waited until her parents had left for work and called the school herself. This is the actual conversation of the telephone call.
Kelly: “Hi, I’m calling to report that Kelly so-and-so is unable to make it to school today because she is ill.
Secretary at high school: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I’ll note her absence. Who is this calling?”
Kelly: “This is my mother.”


Things Dad will Never Say to his Son:

Well, how ’bout that?… I’m lost! Looks like we’ll have to stop and ask for directions.
I noticed that all your friends have a certain “up yours” attitude … I like that.
Here’s a credit card and the keys to my new car — GO CRAZY.
What do you mean you wanna play football? Figure skating not good enough for you, son?
Your Mother and I are going away for the weekend … you might want to consider throwing a party.
Well, I don’t know what’s wrong with your car. Probably one of those doo-hickey thingies — you know — that makes it run or something. Just have it towed to a mechanic and pay whatever he asks.
No son of mine is going to live under this roof without an earring — now quit your belly-aching, and let’s go to the mall.
Whaddya wanna go and get a job for? I make plenty of money for you to spend.
Father’s Day? aahh — don’t worry about that — it’s no big deal.


Things a Mother Would Never Say to her Son:

How on earth can you see the TV sitting so far back?
Yeah, I used to skip school a lot, too.
Just leave all the lights on … it makes the house look more cheery.
Let me smell that shirt — Yeah, it’s good for another week.
Go ahead and keep that stray dog, honey. I’ll be glad to feed and walk him every day.
Well, if Timmy’s mom says it’s OK, that’s good enough for me.
The curfew is just a general time to shoot for. It’s not like I’m running a prison around here.
I don’t have a tissue with me … just use your sleeve.
Don’t bother wearing a jacket – the wind-chill is bound to improve.


New Year’s Resolutions  Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

An overweight business associate of mine decided it was time to shed some excess pounds. He took his new diet seriously, even changing his driving route to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning, however, he arrived at work carrying a gigantic coffeecake. We all scolded him, but his smile was cherubic.

“This is a very special coffeecake,” he explained. “I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning, and there in the window was a host of goodies. I felt this was no accident, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to have one of those delicious coffeecakes, let me have a parking place directly in front of the bakery.’”

“And sure enough,” he continued, “after the eighth time around the block, there it was!”

From 2010 – dead link

Wine Jokes And Humor

Now it’s time to pour some wine and smile a little. Many of these wine jokes and quips are available on posters, magnets, and shirts. I haven’t scratched the surface here so check them out for more laughs and maybe something for your wall or fridge or back. Here we go…

  • Forgive me for I have zinned.
  • I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put in the food.
  • Wine drinkers make grape lovers.
  • Wine is like opera. You can enjoy it even if you do not understand it.
  • Dr. Freud would say that pinot noir lovers suffer from pinot envy.
  • Doormat: “We only serve the finest vintage wines. Did you bring any?”
  • In NYC, they hail taxis. In Napa, they hail cabs.
  • How Merlot can you go?
  • Don’t drink and drive – you may spill your wine.
  • Money may not buy happiness but it will buy wine.
  • A cork retriever is not a dog from Ireland
  • Wine improves with age. The older I get, the more I like it.
  • What did the grape say when he was squeezed? Nothing. He just wined.



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