Summary: VaYesheb is the 9th parasha in the Book of Genesis spanning chapters 37:1-40:23. It recounts the traumatic journey of Joseph’s life; how his father’s favouritism led to his brothers’ intense jealousy.
Nearly murdered, he was instead sold to a caravan on its way to Egypt, becoming a slave in the house of government minister Potiphar. In an unusual digression, the Torah then records the story of Judah & Tamar and the twins born through their union.
Meanwhile, rising to a position of household import, Joseph was daily troubled by the advances of Potiphar’s wife, who thwarted, had him imprisoned on the false accusation of sexual assault.
In the royal prison, Joseph was appointed head of the prisoner’s ward, correctly interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh’s wine steward and baker.
Comment: The story of Joseph and his brothers continues the challenges and the tikkun process (restoration) of ‘making straight the deceptions’ which occurred during Jacob’s life. We hear in the words of the Torah echoes from previous chapters in Bereishith.
There are references to the 2 goats used by Rebecca (Gen. 27:9) to prepare delicacies for her near-blind husband Isaac, in the blood that was used to stain the multi-coloured tunic of Joseph before it was returned to Jacob (Gen. 37:31).
There were also echoes of Isaac when he first met Rebecca and she asked ‘who is that man in the fields?’ (Gen. 24:65) The brothers used the same word halazeh upon seeing Joseph in the distance ‘behold that dreamer has come.’ (Gen. 37:19)
All of this gives reason to believe that something cosmic was happening and Joseph was merely the conduit. That he managed to keep himself morally upright and spiritually whole during this extended period explains why rabbinic literature refers to Joseph as the Tsadik (righteous).
In responding to the wine steward and the baker, Joseph offered the same words that he would later say to Pharaoh – behold, the explanation of dreams is in the hands of G-d (Gen. 40:8)
There are times in our lives when we can’t understand a sequence of events that may involve us. Whether it be an unexpected accident or something completely beyond our expectations and out of our comfort zone, it’s usually these times that offer us the greatest opportunity for spiritual growth.
Like Joseph being exiled from his father’s house, sometimes, we too are tested in our own lives, in order to open up entire new vistas of opportunity. When this occurs, it requires both the awareness that we’re being put through unusual circumstances and the presence of mind to rise to the challenge – searching for G-d in the possibilities that lie ahead.