Parsha Vayeshev

The selling of Yosef (Joseph) as a slave by his brothers - which eventually positioned Yosef to be second in command in Egypt and enabled him to save the known world from famine.

The indiscretion of Yehuda (Judah) with Tamar (Tamar)...

The attempted seduction of Yosef by Potifar's wife, which ends with her framing Yosef and having him imprisoned.

Yosef interprets the dreams of his fellow prisoners, the wine steward (who was reinstated and forgot to put in a good word for Yosef) and the baker (who was hanged).

​​The Torah states, "And Yisroel ("Israel" -- the name given Jacob when he wrestled with the angel. Translation: "for you have striven with the Divine and with man and have overcome") loved Yosef more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a coat of many colors." (Gen. 37:3) What can we learn about raising our children from this verse?

The Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 10b, see Tosfot), comments on the above verse that ​​parents must never favor one child over another. When Yakov gave the many-colored coat only to Yosef, the brothers became jealous. The eventual outcome was that our forefathers went down to Egypt and were enslaved.

Parents must always be on the alert that their actions or words should not create jealousy. The consequences of jealousy among brothers and sisters can be tragic; we must be careful to avoid doing anything that will breed it. Statements such as, "Why don't you study with the diligence of your brother?" or "Why aren't you as well-behaved as your sister?" are bound to cause ill-feelings.

Some parents might think that their children love and respect one another to such an extent that they are incapable of feeling jealousy towards each other. However, just because a child does not overtly show envy, does not mean that envy is not present.

​The Torah states, "And Yosef was brought down to Egypt" (Genesis 39:1). Anyone viewing the scene of Yosef being brought down to Egypt as a slave would have considered it a major tragedy: He was sold by his brothers as a slave and taken far away from his father and homeland. However, in reality this is the first step to his eventual accession as second in command to Pharaoh with complete control over the Egyptian economy.

Anyone viewing the scene of Yakov, Yosef's father, coming to Egypt would have considered it a very positive one: Yakov is reuniting with his favorite son who is now a powerful ruler, after years of separation; he has every expectation that he will be treated with all the honors of royalty.

What is the reality? Yakov's going to Egypt is the first stage in the exile and enslavement of the Children of Israel.

No human being has the omniscience to know the final consequences of any situation. Therefore, when a situation seems to be extremely negative, do not despair. This could lead to wonderful things for you. Conversely, when things seem to be going extremely well, do not become complacent and arrogant. One never knows what the future will bring.

 

Sometimes we feel jealous - that if we had what someone else has, our lives would be better and happier. But the truth is that God has given each of us just the perfect package of our inner and outer circumstances in life, tailor-made for each individual.

The Torah portion this week teaches us about all the damage people can do to themselves and to others when they forget this important secret.

From now on let's spend our precious time and energy becoming the best we can be instead of comparing ourselves to others.

"And Jacob sat..." (Genesis 37:1).

Rashi, the great commentator, cites the Sages who say that Jacob wanted to live in peace and serenity. However, this was not to be. The troubles of his son Joseph began. The Almighty said, "Is it not sufficient for the righteous that they receive their reward in the world to come? Why do they need to live in serenity in this world?"

What is wrong with wanting to live in serenity? Jacob desired serenity not so that he could devote his time to personal pleasures, but rather to be able to engage in spiritual pursuits.

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz explains that the purpose of this world is for a person to elevate himself by passing the numerous tests that come to him. The goal is spiritual growth from every life situation. Therefore, it was considered improper for Jacob to place his focus on serenity.

This, says Rav Yeruchem, is an attitude we should all internalize. Every occurrence in this world can make you a better person. When you have this awareness your attitude toward everything that happens to you in life will be very positive. Before, during, and after every incident that occurs reflect on your behavior and reactions. Ask yourself, "What type of person am I after this happened? How did I do on this test? Did I pass it in an elevated manner?

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