Dvar Torah Parshat VaYeshev 5775 2014

Yosef was sold into slavery in Egypt and we are told: וַיְהִי יְקֹוָק אֶת־יוֹסֵף וַיְהִי אִישׁ מַצְלִיחַ, “Hashem was with Yosef, and he became a successful man…” (Gen. 39,2)

There is an interesting way to understand this passage. Yosef was a successful man even though he was in slavery because he maintained his faith in Hashem. Even while he slaved under the difficult conditions, he was productive and flourished because he believed in Hashem. He never felt abandoned and kept his faith at all times.

Many times we face difficult obstacles and feel we are under impossible impediments and hindrances and find it almost impossible to continue. At such times we must put our faith in Hashem and we will gain the strength to continue.

When we confront obstacles and hurdles in life and overcome them, we are strengthened and reinforced in our character and have the fortitude to continue against all difficulties. Faith in Hashem and confidence in ourselves will help us overcome all predicaments.

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Dvar Torah Parshat VaYeshev 2012 5773

Yosef was brought down to Egypt as a slave and was bought by Potiphar. Whatever task Yosef performed as a slave was highly successful. When his master saw how diligently Yosef performed his responsibilities he realized he could put him in charge of his entire household.

Yosef found favor in Potiphar’s eyes and: וַיַּפְקִדֵהוּ עַל בֵּיתוֹ וְכָל יֶשׁ לוֹ נָתַן בְּיָדוֹ, “…he appointed him over his household, and whatever he had he placed in his custody.” (Gen. 39,4) We are told in the very next verse that Hashem blessed the Egyptian’s house on Yosef’s account.

This is a phenomenon that repeats itself throughout history. When the Jews are allowed freedom in a country they prosper and help the economy of the country grow. This is true to this very day. We see the economy of countries prosper where Jews are welcome and are offered a free range of activities. Where they are not welcome, this fact is not true.

This is also why individuals and businesses from all over the world are investing in Israel and in its start-up companies. The world does not give credit to Israel’s contribution to the growing technology. Israel also generally does not let it be known that its technology is being used worldwide and that many medical advances of recent years have come from Israel.

In spite of this world attitude Israel continues, with the help of Hashem, to be one of the world’s leading innovators.

Dvar Torah Parshat VaYeshev 5772 2011

Yaakov sends Yosef to Shechem to see how his brothers are faring. The brothers were to be there pasturing their flock. The distance between Chevron, where Yaakov was, and Shechem is over 80 kilometers (close to 50 miles). Why did they have to go so far? Couldn’t they find a place closer to home for their flocks to pasture?

There is a difference between the commentaries about the area of Shechem. Some see it as a dangerous area for Yaakov’s family. This is where Yaakov’s children killed the entire people of Shechem. The surrounding nations would want to take revenge at the first opportunity. That was why Yaakov sent Yosef there to see if his brothers were safe.

Other commentaries regard this location as an area where the inhabitants fear Yaakov’s folks. They saw what two sons could do. How much more can all the brothers pull off together? Hence the brothers went there to demonstrate their ownership of the land, since Yaakov had bought it and they had no fear of the inhabitants. In ancient times grazing cattle on land was an indication of ownership.

When Yosef went to Shechem he did not find his brothers. They had moved on to Datan which was not their property. They grazed in foreign pastures. When Yosef came they sold him and he ended up in Egypt. Their punishment was that they eventually also ended up in Egypt and had to graze in a foreign land in Goshen.

Dvar Torah Parshat Vayeshev 5771 2010

Yosef was sent by his father to inquire about the welfare of his brothers. When he arrived to the place they were scheduled to be, they were not there and he met a man who asked him what he was seeking. Yosef answered: ET ACHAI ANOCHI MEVAKESH, “…I seek my brothers…” (Gen. 37,16)

According to the Midrash Rabbah (Bereshit 84;13) Yosef knew that his brothers despised him and he even knew that they wanted to do him harm. Nevertheless he obeyed his father and did not hesitate to go.

It is clear that when he could not find them where he was told to go he could have rightfully returned to his father. Yet we are told he continued to seek them. Why? The reason becomes obvious when we see how he responded to the man who met him.

Yosef said, “I seek my brothers.” Although he was aware of their feelings to him he wanted to make peace with them. Even facing danger he wanted to win them over and make Shalom in the family. Yosef knew what Jews in all later generations felt. A Jew should seek out his brethren. We are one big family and we should stand up for each other.

More than any other people in the world, Jews are always seeking the welfare of their own people. We are always concerned about the well-being of other Jews and try to assist whenever possible.

Dvar Torah Parshat Vayeshev 5770 2009

Joseph is asked to interpret the dreams of the two fellow prisoners who were with him. First Pharaoh’s cupbearer discloses his dream. He saw a vine with three branches that brought forth grapes. He was holding Pharaoh’s cup in his hand and was squeezing the grapes into the cup and handed it to Pharaoh. Joseph’s interpretation was that in three days he would be restored to his position.

Then Pharaoh’s chief baker related his dream. He saw three baskets of bread on his head. In the uppermost basket were all manners of baked goods for Pharaoh. The birds were eating from the upper basket. Joseph’s interpretation was that he would not be restored to his former position but would be executed in three days. Why did Joseph interpret two dreams, almost identical in nature, in two extremely different ways?

If we analyze the dreams carefully we see a major difference in the manor that the two men reacted in their dreams. The cupbearer pressed the grapes and was performing his duty. The baker stood by idly and allowed the birds to eat of the bread. The former acted. The later was inactive like a dead person. That gave Joseph his clue.

A person who has life in him is active. He is doing. He is performing. Not sitting hopelessly without functioning. A person who is not active and is not doing, is really not living.

Dvar Torah Parshat Vayeshev 2008 5769 דבר תורה פרשת וישב

Two chamberlains or attendance of Pharaoh were cast into the prison where Yosef was. The Torah calls them SAR HAMASHKIM and SAR HA’OFIM. It is interesting that they are given the title of SAR which in Hebrew means a prince or a minister. Obviously they were in the lowly employ of the king and would not have been the bearers of such a lofty title.

This emphasizes that words change their meanings in the passage of time. The term SAR clearly had a different connotation in Egypt at that time in history.

A SAR today in Israel is the title given to ministers who are entrusted with specific tasks that they are to perform for the benefit of the people in Israel. Many, indeed, do carry out their mandate and function in accordance with the mandate they are given. Unfortunately, there are some who do not and much to our regret there are too many who don’t.

Those who do not are merely regressing to the connotation that the title SAR had in the days of Pharaoh. The servants bearing this title were lowly people who acted in their own interest whenever they could succeed to do so.

Dvar Torah VaYeshev 2007 – 5768 דבר תורה וישב

Yosef is in Mitzraim and is in charge of the household of Potifar. The Torah testifies: VAYEHI HASHEM ET YOSEF VAYEHI ISH MATZLIACH, “And Hashem was with Yosef and he was a prosperous man.”

The Chafetz Chaim makes a very interesting observation. When we say the prayer for the new month we repeat one particular phrase. Twice we ask for YIRAT SHAMAYIM, fear of Heaven. No other request is repeated. His explanation for this is that in between these two times we have a request for OSHER VEKAVOD, wealth and honor.

He makes the observation that it is often the nature of people who attain the position of wealth or honor to draw away from his closeness to Hashem. We, therefore, ask again for YIRAT SHAMAYIM implying that even if our prayer for wealth and honor be granted we still want Hashem to help us maintain our close contact with Him.

This is what the Torah testifies about Yosef. Even though he was MATZLIACH, Hashem was still with him. He never lost his YIRAT SHAMAYIM.