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Parashat Vayeshev - 5776

My friends,

This week we read the portion of Vayeshev. It is the first of three portions that deal with Joseph and his brothers, one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible.

Two weeks ago, we read how Jacob was able to pass as his brother Esau to get the blessings from his father Isaac, because Isaac was blind, and could not see what was going on. In Jacob we also find a weakness that is worse than being blind - he is the cause of Joseph acting in an arrogant way towards his brothers, because Jacob shows in a most obvious way that Joseph is the favorite son among the twelve sons. The coat of many colors he gives to Joseph and not to the others, is symbolic for all to see that he is his chosen.

Joseph, who will later be described as a very intelligent and capable administrator, at this point behaves in a very arrogant way and is blind to his brothers' feelings and jealousy. Rather than playing down his father's act, he uses it to demonstrate to his brothers that he intends to rule over them, and he tells them his dreams. His words add to their hate and jealousy.

The favoritism shown to Joseph, Joseph's desire to rule over his brothers, the brothers acting on their deep hatred of their brother, lead to almost the murder of Joseph and to the selling of Joseph to the Ishmaelites. The Ishmaelites take him down to Egypt and sell him as a slave. Now Joseph will not be in the life of his father and brothers for the next twenty-two years.

Consider the serious consequences to these seemingly small acts of talking. This parasha is very relevant to our lives today. Jealousy, hate, the desire to rule over others, are very much in play in our world today.

What do Islamic terrorists see in us, that they are ready to kill innocent lives, if not the deep hate that comes from envy and the desire to rule over us. The Islamic Caliphate's goal is to rule over the world and enforce Islamic law as they interpret the Koran. Their emissaries, who have caused so much tragedy in so many parts of the world, do it because of the hate they have for our way of life.

It happened many years ago among twelve brothers. It is happening today among the nations of the world. Darkness has been brought by the acts of the killers in San Bernadino and by the daily stabbing of innocent Israelis.

Vayeshev is always read during he week of Hanukkah or just a few days before Hanukkah. It reminds us of another nation that wanted to rule over Israel and destroy Judaism by replacing it with Hellenism. We did not give up and the few prevailed, just like a little candle can chase much darkness.

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Hanukkah.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram