December 4-5, 2015 – 23 Kislev 5776
Annual (Genesis 37:1-40:23): Etz Hayim p. 226; Hertz p. 141
Triennial (Genesis 39:1-40:23): Etz Hayim p. 238; Hertz p. 147
Haftarah (Amos 2:6-3:8): Etz Hayim, p. 247; Hertz p. 152

“… And a Man Found Yosef.”

By Yiscah Smith, CY Faculty

In the course of a lifetime, there are people who can change our lives in an instant. Those people create experiences for us, which, however brief, can profoundly impact, or even define, the rest of our lives.

This very scenario happened to Yosef – and to me as well.

Unable to find his brothers, Yosef seems lost, and wanders:

A man discovered him, and behold! – he was blundering in the field; the man asked him saying, “What do you seek?” And he said, “My brothers do I seek; tell me, please, where they are pasturing.” The man said, “They have journeyed on from here, for I heard them saying, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Yosef went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. (Genesis 37: 15-17)

This encounter, at first glance, seems to be nothing extraordinary. And yet, it defined the rest of Jewish history. It would have been understandable for Yosef to have turned around and return home. But he did not. According to the Rashbam, out of a deep sense of loyalty to his father, he felt compelled to persistently search for his brothers.

We are never told the name of his “man.” The Midrash Tanchuma teaches that the “man” who initiated the complex chain of events that followed was the angel Gavriel. God sent Gavriel to help guide Yosef to this pivotal moment that in turn defined the rest of Jewish history.

For several years, I wandered like Yosef. I too felt compelled to persistently search. Unlike Yosef, though, I had no idea what I was searching for. I imagine I was seeking my authentic self and I did not know where to find that person. I was lost. Similar to Yosef, I was “blundering in the field.”

And then I met my angel. There was “a man who discovered me,” and in a brief encounter lasting no longer than a minute, his words profoundly changed the rest of my life.

One Friday night, I experienced an extraordinarily painful walk home from the Western Wall. Every Friday night brought with it dread and pain, but this night in particular it was more acute. As I walked home, with a group of guests eagerly following me, I quietly screamed out to HaShem, “NO! Please do something so this will stop.” I had nothing left within me to continue this charade, wearing a mask and hiding the real me from the world.

I managed to say my lines and go through the actions on cue as I did every Friday night, but I know it was without soul. It was so painful. It hurt.

Finally it was time for everyone to leave and as the guests were leaving, one of the men, “a man”, asked me in a low voice if he could speak to me alone. In privacy, he said, “That was an amazing act you just performed for all of us over Shabbat dinner. You are in such pain and I can see it. Please take care of yourself.” He then left. I did not know his name nor did I ever see him again. As with Yosef and “a man,” this lasted a minute at most.

I told myself, “Wow”! We never had any guests over again. That night I slept “like a baby.” I thanked HaShem for sending me the angel Gavriel to save me from myself, to save my life.

An excerpt from Forty Years in the Wilderness: My Journey to Authentic Living, Yiscah Smith, Wooded Isle Press, 2014

A Vort for Parshat Vayeshev

By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty

The seed for Joseph’s release from prison and rise to power in Egypt is sown with his interpreting the dreams of the royal butler and baker, who had somehow “offended” (chat’u l’) Pharoah. Rashi says Pharoah’s anger was over a fly in a wine cup and a pebble in a loaf of bread. Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Ferber (1879-1966, Lithuania and England) in Kerem HaTzvi notes that even something very little and apparently insignificant can lead to major events and changes in the world. Who knows what Jewish history would have looked like were it not for that fly, he asks.  For want of a nail, a shoe was lost…

Table Talk

By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty

On to the Joseph story! His brothers hate him, his father loves him and his master’s wife finds him very attractive. Joseph’s roller-coaster of a life takes off in this Parasha.

1) Jacob makes a special coat for Joseph. The Hebrew פסים might not refer to stripes but rather to the ‘line’ of the arm – the wrist. This is a fine suit jacket, not a pushed-up-sleeves worker’s shirt. What message did the brothers understand from this? Consider how Jacob might have viewed the future of the family, based on his current ‘investment.’ (37:1-4)

2) Joseph is sent by Jacob to find out about his brothers’ welfare while they are far from home with the flocks. Not finding them, he is about to return empty handed when a passerby points him in the right direction. The Midrash (and Rashi) considers this person a messenger from God. Why might we think that God would be inclined to intervene here? (37:12-18.)

3) Upon seeing Joseph approaching, the brothers decide to kill him. Both Reuben (the oldest brother) and Judah object. Compare how they go about trying to save Joseph’s life, and what are their reasons for doing so (37:21-27). Which reason is better in your opinion? Why?

4) Joseph is sold as a slave to Potifar, a high ranking official of Pharaoh. Potifar is very impressed by his new slave. What is it that Potifar notices about Joseph (39:3)? What does he do as a result and what happens to his household (39:4-5)? Why do you think this trait is so significant? What might it have suggested to Potifar about Joseph in general?

5) Joseph’s good fortune does not last. After a run-in with Potifar’s wife he finds himself serving Pharaoh’s officials that are in jail, awaiting Pharaoh’s decision about their future. They each dream a dream which Joseph interprets for them. What does each dream mean? Look at their dreams and try to see how this could be deduced already from the dreams themselves (40:8-19).

PDF Vayeshev 5776