For the week ending 17 December 2022 / 23 Kislev 5783

Parshat Vayeshev

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
Become a Supporter Library Library


Yaakov settles in the land of Canaan. His favorite son, Yosef, brings him critical reports about his brothers. Yaakov makes Yosef a fine tunic of multi-colored woolen strips. Yosef exacerbates his brothers’ hatred by recounting prophetic dreams of sheaves of wheat bowing to his sheaf, and of the sun, moon and stars bowing to him, signifying that all his family will appoint him king. The brothers indict Yosef and resolve to execute him. When Yosef comes to Shechem, the brothers relent and decide, at Reuven’s instigation, to throw him into a pit instead. Reuven’s intent was to save Yosef. Yehuda persuades the brothers to take Yosef out of the pit and sell him to a caravan of passing Ishmaelites. Reuven returns to find the pit empty and rends his clothes. The brothers soak Yosef’s tunic in goat’s blood and show it to Yaakov, who assumes that Yosef has been devoured by a wild beast. Yaakov is inconsolable. Meanwhile, in Egypt, Yosef has been sold to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s Chamberlain of the Butchers.

In the Parsha’s sub-plot, Yehuda’s son Er dies as punishment for preventing his wife Tamar from becoming pregnant. Onan, Yehuda’s second son, then weds Tamar by levirate marriage. He too is punished in similar circumstances. When Yehuda’s wife dies, Tamar resolves to have children through Yehuda, as this union will found the Davidic line culminating in theMashiach.

Meanwhile, Yosef rises to power in the house of his Egyptian master. His extreme beauty attracts the unwanted advances of his master’s wife. Enraged by his rejection, she accuses Yosef of attempting to seduce her, and he is imprisoned. In prison, Yosef successfully predicts the outcome of the dream of Pharaoh’s wine steward, who is reinstated, and the dream of Pharaoh’s baker, who is hanged. In spite of his promise, the wine steward forgets to help Yosef, and Yosef languishes in prison.


Whetting or Jading the Appetite

“…Hashem blessed the Egyptian’s house on Yosef’s account, so that the blessing was in whatever he owned…” (39:5)

In 2010, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates launched the Giving Pledge. It has approximately 81 billionaire signers so far, each of whom have pledged to give away at least half of their wealth. Last July, Gates himself said he planned to give away ‘virtually all’ his $113 billion.

What makes a fabulously wealthy guy like Gates want to give away all his money? Hashem created man with two desires: a physical desire and a spiritual desire. And physical desire just goes so far. You can only sleep in one super-duper king-size bed at a time. You can only swim in a one swimming pool filled with pink champagne at a time. Physical pleasure has its limits (and may require more than Alka-Seltzer when those limits are exceeded).

On the other hand, spiritual pleasures, even

in this world, have no limits. The more money you have, the more pleasure you have when you give it away. As it says in Kohelet, “And also the soul will not be filled.”

Rashi, in defining the Shabbat experience, says in Mesechet Beitza, “He eats a lot is and is not disgusted.” Shabbat is a magic machine that converts the physical into the spiritual. Shlomo Hamelech said, “The one who loves money will not be satiated by money.” But he also says, “The one who loves Torah will not be satiated by Torah.” Physical pleasures leave you feeling empty as soon as they finish, and so you want more and more and more. Even though spiritual pleasures leave you full, but, just like Shabbat, you can consume more and more and more of them. The appetite is whetted, not jaded.

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at [email protected] and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions

« Back to Parsha

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.