Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1 – 40:23)

Why Joseph?

Though this week’s portion starts out, “And Jacob settled in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan” Joseph immediately takes center stage.  Except for the story of Judah and Tamar (the purpose of which seems to be to flesh out a featured character and show his maturation) and Jacob’s last words to his sons, the final 14 chapters of the book of Genesis tell the story of Joseph.  Yet he is not a patriarch, and his descendants are not the leaders of the nation (Ephraim’s nation of Israel disappears).  His main role seems to be to get the family to (spoiler alert) move to Egypt as part of a divine plan.  Indeed, the mysterious stranger who directs him to his brothers in Dothan (37:15-17) may have been an angel, and when he reveals himself to his brothers in Egypt, he tells them that God, not they, had sent him there.

As narrative, this is a really well-written story, with interesting, flawed characters, intense emotions, and plot twists.  Joseph, now 17, is Jacob’s favorite: he is Rachel’s son (and didn’t cause her death), handsome (probably takes after Rachel), and smart.  He is also clueless with regard to the potential ferocity of his brothers’ feelings.  (Then again, despite his own experience with Esau, so is Jacob, who probably should at least have delayed giving Joseph a special coat that seems to designate him as the future head of the family.)  Does he tattle on the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah because he’s being responsible or because he wants to show them up?  When he tells his brothers of a dream in which their sheaves bow down to his and they react badly, what does he do? He tells them of another dream in which the sun, moon, and stars bow down to him.  Though this confirms to Jacob he has picked the right son, it seals his fate with his older brothers.

In the end, after Reuben’s half-baked attempt to take charge and save Joseph, the brothers sell him to a caravan, and he seems to have been sold once or twice more before landing in Egypt as a slave of Potiphar.  His ability and charm impress Potiphar (good) and his wife (bad).  She repeatedly and unsuccessfully tries to seduce him (classic workplace sexual harassment, which, BTW, in the U.S. is not just man on woman, but can be woman on man, man on man, and woman on woman). She finally accuses him of attacking her, which lands him in prison.

There, he again impresses the boss and rises in the hierarchy.  He also impresses two fellow prisoners when he interprets their dreams: the royal baker will be executed in three days, and the royal butler (wine steward) will be freed in three days.  Now Joseph seizes his chance to get out by telling the butler his story and prevailing on him to put in a good word for him with Pharaoh.  He doesn’t.  Joseph languishes in prison for two more years.  Did Joseph misjudge the butler’s willingness to help him?  Was the butler willing but afraid to ask a favor of one who had so recently thrown him in prison, and for a lowly Hebrew slave? Was the Lord telling to Joseph to just cool his heels as events played out? 

Tune in next week.

Shabbat shalom,


tph lego dream (2)


Funny Family One-liners

  • When I was a boy, I had a disease that required me to eat dirt three times a day in order to survive… It’s a good thing my older brother told me about it.
  • My mom said that if I don’t get off my computer and do my homework she’ll slam my head on the keyboard, but I think she’s jokinfjreoiwjrtwe4to8rkljreun8f4ny84c8y4t58lym4wthylmhawt4mylt4amlathnatyn
  • Please go play with your brother. That’s basically the reason we had him.
  • My parents won’t say which of their six kids they love the best, but they have told me I finished just out of the top five.
  • I wonder what my parents did to fight boredom before the internet. I asked my 17 brothers and sisters and they didn’t know either.


From Good Clean Jokes (A, Kostick et al., 1998) p. 314        

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 sheep colors


Top Ten US Weekly/People Magazine Headlines for Biblical A-Listers

10. Yosef named Sexiest Man Alive in Egypt
9. Scandalous Scoop: David seen canoodling with Batsheva
90 year old Sarah, suddenly expecting!!
After 22 years, Father and Son Reunite in Egypt!
6. Esther wins Fox’s Shushan Idol
5. Miriam’s Az Yashir (the song at the sea) tops Billboard charts
4. “Team Rachel” and “Team Leah” t-shirts hot-seller, which side are you on?
3. Isaac gets PUNK’D!
2. Avrohom and Hagar: Are They Still Together?
1. Who wore it better: Adam or Eve?

——————— (sent out in 2011 – dead link)

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.” 


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1 Response to Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1 – 40:23)

  1. Pingback: Today’s thought “Sun, moon and stars” (January 22) – Belgian Ecclesia Brussel – Leuven

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