Parshas Vayeshev in a nutshell

by | Dec 6, 2020 | Nutshell

Parshas Vayeshev in a nutshell

by | Dec 6, 2020 | Nutshell

Parshas Va`Yayshev in a Nutshell

Part 1

Parshas Vayeshev begins with the story of Yosef’s friction with his brothers.

  • The context of the story is explained by Rashi in two ways:
  1.   It is the beginning of the story of how Bnei Yisrael came to settlement.
  2.   Yaakov Avinu wanted to rest in peace after his escapades with Lavan and Esav. Hashem did not like this and said, “Is the next world that I prepared for  Tzadikim not enough, that they wish to live in serenity also in this world?”. Hashem therefore brought upon him the troubles of Yosef.

  • The Pasuk mentions three practices of Yosef Ha`Tzadik, before the Pasuk reveals that his brothers hated him.
  1.   He was overly concerned with his appearance.
  2.   He spent his time and was close to the children of the maidservants.
  3.   He informed his father of the wrongdoings of his brothers, the children of Leah.

It also mentions that Yaakov loved him the most, and gave him a special coat.

  • Yosef has two dreams:

      That the brothers were gathering bundles of grain and then the brothers’ bundles  bowed down to Yosef’s bundle.

  1.   That the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to Yosef.

He told these dreams to his brothers which caused them to be jealous of him and hate him more.

Part 2

  • 1. Yaakov Avinu sent Yosef to his brothers who were shepherding sheep in Shechem, to check on his brothers and on the sheep.
  • 2. In Shechem he met a ‘man’, who was really a Malach; Yosef asked him where his brothers were. “In Dosan”, he answered.
  • 3. Yosef followed them there and the brothers, seeing him from a distance, plan on killing him and thereafter throwing him into a pit.
  • 4. Reuven intervened to save Yosef, suggesting  that they merely throw him into a pit. The insinuation was that they would let him die there on his own.

Part 3

  • On Yosef’s approach, the brothers removed the special coat, that was the symbol of the difference between them and Yosef. They then threw him into an empty pit and . . . sat down to eat.
  • When a caravan of Yishmaelim approached, Yehuda proposed to sell Yosef to the Yishmaelim as a slave. “Yosef is our brother,” Yehuda said, We should not kill him.   He also noted that there was no financial gain to be had from killing him.
  • The brothers pulled him out of the pit, and sold him to the Yishmaelim. The Yishmaelim sold him to some Midyanim, who in turn sold him to Egypt. In Egypt, he was sold to Potifar, who was a minister to Pharaoh the king of Egypt.
  • The brothers dipped Yosef’s coat in the blood of a goat and sent the coat to Yaakov to show him that Yosef was killed by a wild animal.
  • Yaakov mourned his son, and refused to be consoled.

Part 4

  • Yehuda was demoted by his brothers, blamed for not suggesting they return Yosef to his father. They said, “You told us to sell him and we listened, had you told us to return him we would have done the same.”
  • Yehuda marries the daughter of a Canani man named Shua. They had three sons, Er, Onan and Sheyla. Er married Tamar; he was bad in the eyes of Hashem and Hashem caused him to die.
  • Yehuda told Onan to marry Tamar, in a fulfillment of the Mitzva of Yibum. Onan did not dafifydimpregnate Tamar, since he knew that the children would not be his. Rather, he spilled his seed. Hashem did not like this and caused him to die as well.
  • Yehuda did not tell Shela, his youngest son, to marry Tamar and fulfill the Mitzva of Yibum. He was afraid that Sheyla would die like his brothers. Instead he told Tamar to return to her father’s home, until Sheyla got older.
  • Yehuda’s wife died and Yehuda consoled himself by getting absorbed in the shearing of his sheep. Yehuda had partnered with Chira of Adulami and now he went with Chira to Timnasa to shear his sheep. Tamar, hearing this, took the opportunity to do the Mitzva of Yibum. She had no reason to wait any longer; Sheyla had already grown up and she had not been given to Sheyla as a wife. She sat in an intersection on the way to Timnasa, as a prostitute would.
  • Yehuda saw her, but did not recognize her. Yehuda impregnated Tamar, promising to pay her 2 goats and leaving his walking stick, signet ring and shirt as collateral. This was a fulfillment of the Mitzva of Yibum, although Yehuda didn’t know that at the time.
  • Yehuda sent the two goats with Chira to Timnasa, but Chira could not locate her. Yehuda said that since we couldn’t find her, let her keep the collateral instead of the goats I promised her.
  • After it was clear to all that Tamar was pregnant, Yehuda, functioning as a judge, sentenced her to death for adultery. He didn’t know that she was pregnant from him.
  • As she was led to her death, she sent the collateral to Yehuda, saying that she was pregnant to the man whom the collateral belonged to. Yehuda recognized his shirt, signet ring and walking stick and declared that she was correct in what she did.
  • She gave birth to twins, who were named Peretz and Zerach.


Part 5

  • Because Hashem was with him, Yosef was very successful in the house of Potifar the Egyptian.
  • Therefore, Potifar placed him in control of his entire household.
  • From then on Potifar’s house was also blessed by Hashem.
  • Potifar trusted Yosef completely, without any supervision
  • The only person in the house who was not subservient to Yosef was Potifar’s wife.
  • Yosef began eating well and grooming himself well.

Part 6

  • Hashem saw that Yosef was styling his hair, and said, “Your father is mourning and you are styling your hair?!”.
  • Hashem, therefore, sent Yosef a difficult test; Potifar’s wife asked Yosef to lay with her.
  • He refused, saying it would be a lack of Hakaras HaTov. Potifar’s wife persisted for days on end.
  • When an Egyptian holiday came and all went to a temple, Potifar’s wife claimed she was sick and stayed home. Yosef came into the house to do his work, Potifar’s wife grabbed his clothing and said, “Lay with me!”.
  • Yosef ran out, leaving his clothing in her hand.
  • She ran out and told members of her household that Yosef had wanted to lay with her. She thereafter informed her husband Potifar as well, who placed Yosef in a jail.
  • Hashem was with Yosef even in jail, and the jailkeeper placed Yosef in charge of the jail. Here too everything Yosef did was successful and the jailkeeper trusted him without supervision.

Part 7

  • The chief cup-bearer of Pharaoh and his chief patissier sinned against Pharaoh and were placed in the same jail and in the same cell as Yosef.
  • One night the cup-bearer and the patissier each had a dream. Since they did not know the interpretation of their dreams, they were sad. 
  • When Yosef inquired about their sadness,he told them that interpretations of dreams are in the hands of Hashem, and they told him their dreams.
  • The cup-bearer had dreamt of a grape vine with three bunches of grapes, which he then squeezed into Pharaoh’s cup and gave to Pharaoh.
  • Yosef interpreted that the three bunches were referring to three days and in three days the cup-bearer would be restored to his position. Yosef asked the cup-bearer to plead his case before Pharaoh.
  • The patissier had dreamt of holding three baskets on his head, with Pharaoh’s baked goods in the top basket. A bird was eating from Pharaoh’s baked goods.
  • Yosef interpreted that in three days Pharaoh would behead him, and birds would eat his flesh.
  • On the third day, Pharaoh’s birthday, Pharaoh made a party and restored the cup-bearer to his position, while the patissier was beheaded.
  • The cup-bearer forgot to plead Yosef’s case before Pharaoh.