Dvar Torah - By Michael Zaroovabeli

The reading starts as Yaakov moved to the land of Canaan. His favorite son, Yosef, brought him false reports about his brothers, accusing them of various misdeeds. Yosef was guilty of failing to judge his brothers favorably (Bereishit 37:2). The Talmud teaches us that the way we judge others is the way that Hashem will judge us in return (Sota 11).

Yaakov made a multi-coloured coat of woolen strips for Yosef. This triggered further hatred and jealousy from his brothers. Yaakov was at fault for showing favoritism, as the Talmud states that a father should not single out one child among the others (Shabbat 10b). Yosef himself furthermore increased his brothers’ jealousy and ill-will by relating prophetic dreams of sheaves of wheat bowing to his sheaf, and of the sun, moon and eleven stars bowing to him, signifying that all his family will appoint him king (Bereishit 37:7).

Later, when Yosef came to Shechem to find his brothers at work, the brothers saw him from a far and decided to kill him (Bereishit 37:18). However, Reuven pleaded with them, to merely throw him into a pit instead (Shabbat 22a), thus saving his life. In fact Reuven was in a period of repentance after a major transgression he had previously committed, and many people use his response as the benchmark of how an individual should repent if transgressing, he was sincere and repented out of love of Hashem, rather than fear. Yehuda then persuaded the brothers to take Yosef out of the pit and sell him as a slave to a caravan of passing Yishmaelites. Reuven returned shortly after, to find the pit empty and then rended his clothes, believing Yosef was dead. The brothers soaked Yosef’s multi coloured tunic in goat’s blood and showed it to Yaakov, who assumed that Yosef had been killed by a wild beast (Bereishit 37:31). Yaakov was absolutely distraught. In fact he mourned for 22 years for what he thought was the death of Yosef, during which time we learn that he did not have the divine presence resting within him, unlike the other years of his life (Megilla 17).

Meanwhile, in Egypt, Yosef had been sold to a man named Potiphar, King Pharaoh’s Chamberlain of the Butchers.

The Torah reading then changes its theme and concentrates on Yehuda’s life as he moves away from his family; Yehuda married and had three sons. His eldest son, Er died as punishment for preventing his wife Tamar from becoming pregnant. Onan, Yehuda’s second son, then married Tamar by levirate marriage (Yibum). He was also punished in similar circumstances. Then as Yehuda’s wife died, Tamar resolved to have children through Yehuda; as at this point she couldn’t marry anyone else as Yehuda still had a young son, whom he hadn’t given to Tamar to marry. Eventually through Tamar's drastic action, posing as a harlot, she was intimate with Yehuda (Bereishit 38:18). Tamar gave birth to a pair of twins, Peretz and Zerach (Bereishit 38:37). This union between Yehuda and Tamar founded the Davidic line, culminating in the Messiah.

Yosef rose to power in the house of his Egyptian master, Potiphar. His extreme beauty attracted the unwanted advances of his master’s wife. She continuously harassed Yosef, and he kept rejecting her, even when she threatened him with humiliation and physical harm (Yoma 35b). Enraged by his rejections, she accused Yosef of attempting to seduce her, and Potiphar imprisoned Yosef (Bereishit Rabba 87/ Sota 36). Yosef did a great act by refusing to be with the wife of Potiphar, in turn he was given the title of 'Porat Yosef - Charm of Yosef,' as he was oblivious to the evil eye, since he did not stray after his eyes (Berachot 20/55).

Yosef made a huge in impact in prison, changing many of the prisoner's' lives and becoming a popular figure there. In the tenth year of his stay in prison, Yosef dreamed a dream that suggested that Pharaoh’s butler would be reinstated as butler after being released from prison. This indeed came to pass, and a second dream about Pharaoh’s baker being executed also came to pass. As a result, the butler informed Pharaoh of Yosef’s expertise (Bereishit 40:14), so that he would release him from prison. Yosef spent a further two years in prison (resulting in his stay totaling twelve years), since we learn that when the butler was released,

Yosef twice urged the butler to hint at his expertise in dream interpretations (Bereishit 40:14); and according to the commentator the 'Brisker Rav,' Yosef should not have urged the butler on two separate occasions to speak to Pharaoh since this showed great desperation on Yosef's part, hinting that he had little faith that Hashem could salvage him out of this dire situation, so for each time Yosef reminded the butler of his expertise, Hashem added an extra year to his sentence in the Prison. In fact, when the Butler was finally pardoned by Pharaoh, the Torah testifies that the Butler initially forgot to quote Yosef's expertise in interpreting dreams (Bereishit 40:23) to Pharaoh.

The Haftorah for this week’s reading is taken from the book of Amos, chapters 2 and 3 respectively (Amos 2:6-3:8). I would like to dedicate this Dvar Torah to the refuah shelaima of Ahuva Bat Chiryah Chaya.