this week's commentary will only address a small portion of
what is to be quoted, it is important to include more in
order to demonstrate the entire story.
Yaakov settled in the land of his father's sojournings, in
the land of Canaan:
These are the chronicles of Yaakov - Yosef, at the age of
seventeen, was a shepherd with his brothers by the flock,
but he was a youth with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of
Zilpah, his father's wives; and Yosef would bring evil
reports about them to their father:
Now Yisrael loved Yosef more than all his sons since he was
a child of his old age, and he made him a fine woolen tunic:
His brothers saw that it was he whom their father loved most
of all his brothers so they hated him; and they could not
speak to him peaceably:
Yosef dreamt a dream which he told to his brothers, and they
hated him even more:
He said to them, "Hear, if you please, this dream which
Behold! -- we were binding sheaves in the middle of the
field, when, behold! -- my sheaf arose and remained
standing; then behold! -- your sheaves gathered around and
bowed down to my sheaf.":
His brothers said to him, "Would you then reign over
us? Would you then dominate us?" And they hated him
even more -- because of his dreams and because of his talk:
He dreamt another dream, and related it to his brothers. And
he said, "Look, I dreamt another dream - Behold! the
sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to
And he related it to his father and to his brothers; his
father scolded him, and said to him, "What is this
dream that you have dreamt! Are we to come -- I and your
mother and your brothers -- to bow down to you to the
So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the
matter in mind:
Now, his brothers went to pasture their father's flock in
And Yisrael said to Yosef, "Your brothers are pasturing
in Shechem, are they not? Come, I will send you to
them." He said to him - "Here I am!":
And he said to him, "Go now, look into the welfare of
your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring me
back word." So he sent him from the depth of Hebron,
and he arrived at Shechem:
A man discovered him, and behold! -- he was blundering in
the field; the man asked him, saying, "What do you
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:
They saw him from afar; and when he had not yet approached
them they conspired against him to kill him:
And they said to one another, "Look! That dreamer is
So now, come and let us kill him, and throw him into one of
the pits; and we will say, 'A wild beast devoured him.' Then
we shall see what will become of his dreams.":
Reuvain heard, and he rescued him from their hand; he said,
"We will not strike him mortally!":
And Reuvain said to them - "Shed no blood! Throw him
into this pit in the wilderness, but lay no hand on
him!" -- intending to rescue him from their hand, to
return him to his father:
And so it was, when Yosef came to his brothers they stripped
Yosef of his tunic, the fine woolen tunic that was on him:
Then they took him, and cast him into the pit; the pit was
empty, no water was in it:
They sat to eat food; they raised their eyes and they saw,
behold! -- a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead,
their camels bearing spices, balsam, and lotus -- on their
way to bring them down to Egypt:
Yehudah said to his brothers, "What gain will there be
if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?:
Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites -- but let our hand
not be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh."
His brothers agreed:
focus of the commentary will be on Yosef, the person.
Frequently, in lessons concerning the Torah, the
focus on this entire episode is that the Hand of God can be
seen in all of this. If
Yosef hadn't made his brothers angry and jealous, they would
not have plotted to kill him and sold him to the Ishmaelites.
If he hadn't been sold to the Ishmaelites, he would
not have traveled to Egypt. If Yosef hadn't traveled to Egypt, he would not have become
the viceroy and saved Egypt from famine.
And so on and so forth.
What is many times ignored however is Yisrael and
Yosef's weaknesses and the lessons to be learned from that.
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch says, concerning the third
pasuk (verse), the following:
spite of [his] weaknesses, there was the making of a quite
exceptional man in Yosef.
Not Yaakov, "Yisrael" saw in him the most
excellent of his sons.
He saw himself living on in him, saw, in him, all the
spiritual acquisitions he had made. . . .
That all this was not judicious or wise, that Yaakov
should not have listened to his tattle, that altogether to
show favoritism to one child had only evil effects in the
history of our forefathers, as indeed it has in any home, is
stressed bitterly enough in the pernicious results which are
shown in this story. They
are weaknesses which occur only too frequently in people's
lives, but are none the less weaknesses.
that said, let us back up to the second pasuk and the
commentary on that and specifically the phrase "Yosef
would bring evil reports about them to their father."
Rav Hirsch translates this phrase as "Yosef
brought their tittle-tattle nastily to their father."
The thing we should note here is that Yosef engaged
in the speaking of loshon hara (the evil tongue - gossip and
we will see later, when the Torah brings forth the 613
mitzvot, such behavior is strictly forbidden.
Rav Hirsch notes:
represents] the toddling tottering gait of a little child,
in a stronger form, the single disjointed beats of a
to words, it is a contrast to coherent, intelligent speech.
So that it means tittle-tattle, idle rumors.
Hence also, the mutterings of the lips of one just
awakening from sleep. In
a narrower sense it then comes to mean: speaking scandal. It
is doubtful how this is to be taken.
Either about them, he brought tales of what he saw of
them to his father and moreover, not excusing them, but in a
nasty way; or that this refers to the immediately preceding
sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. The tittle-tattle about the other brothers he brought back in
an unfriendly way to his father.
these two points of commentary, we seem to see a gross
contradiction. Yosef was obviously a very spiritual and gifted person whom
God had a special relationship with.
Yet, at the same time, he is small in his thinking
and mentality to the point that he spoke loshon hara about
his brothers, thereby violating the dictates concerning shalom
bait (peace in the home) and worse, spoke slander.
we learn from these opposing points?
That Judaism is, above all else, humanistic.
Let's consider a few people from Jewish history.
First, we have the Patriarchs - Avraham, Yitzchak,
and Yaakov. Avraham
had a number of weaknesses - especially toward Yishmael and
his occasional treatment of Sarah.
Yitzchak showed a marked preference for Esav even
though he had been instructed that Yaakov was to be the one
to carry on the lineage.
Yaakov does the same thing with Yosef.
Yosef does not do this with his sons but rather worse
things to his brothers. Moshe (Moses) told God that he didn't want the job, among
other things. David
haMelech (King David) had a few faults that I won't go into
as did his son, Shlomo haMelech (King Solomon).
Judaism does not profess a need for perfection.
It never has. It
never will. It stresses improvement.
It shows a road map with the mitzvot and says,
"Do these things and you will improve yourself and in
the process of improving yourself become a better human
being and a better Jew."
We must be both - to improve as a Jew is not adequate
because God commanded us to be a light to the nations.
We can only be that light by example by how we live
which means improving as human beings as well.