26/27 Nov: Vayeishev : Shabbat comes in 3:44 pm, ends 4:50 pm
Parashat Vayeishev – Joseph’s Prophetic Dream
This week’s Torah portion opens by describing a ticking time bomb of a family: sons
working hard in the field, while a favoured child receives gifts and praise and brings ‘evil
reports’ of his brothers back to their parents. Ya’akov (Jacob, the father) is only alerted to a
potential problem when Yosef (Joseph, the favourite child) begins to share his dreams with
his family – dreams in which the brothers are all bowing down to Yosef. Ya’akov finally turns
his attention to the matter, and even attempts some kind of equalisation between brothers by
sending Yosef out to the field, but it is apparent that the hatred runs too deep. The brothers
conspire against Yosef, throw him in a pit, sell him into slavery, and tell their father that the
boy died out in the field. Ya’akov is distraught. The brothers keep their secret.
Eventually, after a tumultuous journey involving slavery, false accusations, and
imprisonment, Yosef will rise to power in Egypt as Pharaoh’s right-hand man. The Torah,
which usually wastes no words and is conservative on details, focuses in on the growth and
development of Yosef. He becomes a tzaddik , a righteous man – and a powerful man, too.
When the brothers re-join Yosef’s story, Yosef’s dream becomes reality. His brothers
bow down to him. However, real life is not as glamorous as the dream. Yosef’s brothers
throw themselves at his feet in an attempt to save the youngest, Binyamin, from Yosef.
Finally standing in the place of his dream must feel like a cruel, ironic twist.
At the end of this narrative, Yosef learns that while he has been through a whole
character arc – in which he has grown and changed and learnt – so have his brothers. The
brothers who meet him years later are not the same as the brothers who threw him into a pit.
We are all the main characters of our own stories. We follow our own narratives, our
ups and downs, and experience our own character development. It can be easy to forget
that everyone else is doing the same.
May we all learn to allow each other room for growth.