Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Vayeshev - 5778

Dear friends,

This week's parasha introduces the main hero and character for the balance of the book of Genesis; namely, Joseph. He will be at the center of each of the next four portions until the end of the book of Genesis, when Jacob and his entire family come down to Egypt. Over the course of many years as they multiply and become a great nation, they will become enslaved in Egypt, thus setting the stage for the book of Exodus.

This parasha begins with the number 17 and the book of Genesis ends with 17. The parasha describes how Jacob sought to relax and enjoy his retirement years ('vayeshev' - he sat, settled, dwelt) in the land of Canaan. Now Joseph who was seventeen years old was Jacob's favorite. Jacob showed his favoritism by loving Joseph more than the others and by getting him the proverbial coat of many colors. Being that Joseph was seventeen, it would mean that this kind of behavior went on for 17 years.

Jacob will suffer and grieve for many years when the brothers sell him as a slave to Egypt. You all know the story about Joseph's dreams and him becoming a viceroy in Egypt and the confrontation between him and his brothers. As a result, Jacob goes down to Egypt and will live there for 17 years. It would seem that Jacob somehow paid for the years that he treated Joseph differently than his other sons. For that he sees his entire family uprooted from Israel and go into exile in Egypt for 17 years.

There is a term in the Talmud called 'middah kneged middah' - 'measure for measure'. The brothers suffered for seventeen years, and now Jacob will suffer for seventeen years wondering if his children will ever return to the Promised Land. However, just like punishment is given 'middah kneged middah', so are rewards for good efforts and acts of kindness.

May HaShem reward you for all your acts of kindness.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram