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Weekly Parsha Summary

Yacov settles in Chevron with his twelve sons. His favorite is seventeen-year-old Yosef, whose brothers are jealous of the preferential treatment he receives from his father, such as a precious many-colored coat that Yacov makes for Yosef. Yosef relates to his brothers two of his dreams which foretell that he is destined to rule over them, increasing their envy and hatred towards him.

Shimon and Levi plot to kill him, but Reuven suggests that they throw him into a pit instead, intending to come back later and save him. While Yosef is in the pit, Yehudah has him sold to a band of passing Ishmaelites. The brothers dip Yosef’s special coat in the blood of a goat and show it to their father, leading him to believe that his most beloved son was devoured by a wild beast.

Yehudah marries and has three children. The eldest, Er, dies young and childless, and his wife, Tamar, is given in levirate marriage to the second son, Onan. Onan sins by spilling his seed, and he too meets an early death. Yehudah is reluctant to have his third son marry her. Determined to have a child from Yehudah’s family, Tamar disguises herself and seduces Yehudah himself. Yehudah hears that his daughter-in-law has become pregnant and orders her executed for harlotry, but when Tamar produces some personal effects he left with her as a pledge for payment, he publicly admits that he is the father. Tamar gives birth to twin sons, Peretz (an ancestor of King David) and Zerach.

Yosef is taken to Egypt and sold to Potifar, the minister in charge of Pharaoh’s slaughterhouses. Hashem blesses everything he does, and soon he is made overseer of all his master’s property. Potifar’s wife desires the handsome and charismatic young man; when Yosef rejects her advances, she tells her husband that the Hebrew slave tried to force himself on her, and has him thrown into prison. Yosef gains the trust and admiration of his jailers, who appoint him to a position of authority in the prison administration.

In prison, Yosef meets Pharaoh’s chief butler and chief baker, both incarcerated for offending their royal master. Both have disturbing dreams, which Yosef interprets; in three days, he tells them, the butler will be released and the baker hanged. Yosef asks the butler to intercede on his behalf with Pharaoh. Yosef’s predictions are fulfilled, but the butler forgets all about Yosef and does nothing for him.

Rabbi's Shabbos Message

Parshas Vayeishev-Hashem is looking over us

In this week’s parsha, Yosef, after being sold to traders, is en route to Egypt. The Torah goes out of its way to mention that these particular traders are carrying spices. The commentators explain that usually such traders carry more foul smelling materials, yet Hashem chose to send Yosef down to Egypt in a more “pleasant” way.

The commentaries asks, “Do you really think it makes a difference how he travelled? He was ripped away from his family and everything he knew and loved, and is now very much alone, heading who knows where. Do you really think his travelling condition alleviates his situation in anyway?”

Hashem was sending a clear message to him and to us: No matter what situation we are in, no matter how dire or how dark, Hashem is looking over us and is giving us what we need to go through. He’s not simply “throwing us to the dogs”, but every aspect in our lives is being looked out for. Yosef needed to go down to Egypt. However, he did not need to go down in such a foul manner. Since Yosef did not need that, Hashem arranged it so it should not happen. Just as Yosef was going down to Egypt, Hashem made it known, that He was going with him.

Throughout the story of Yosef’s travels, we don’t see him getting depressed or complaining to others of his lot. We see him going through trials and tribulations, but he always cleaves to Hashem.

What is Chanukah? It’s where we celebrate the shining of a little light in the world of spiritual darkness in which we were engulfed in. It’s not a coincidence that it takes place during the time of the year where night last longer than the day. It occurred when the Jewish people were assimilating all over and Eretz Yisroel was under a non-Torah and non-Jewish government. It was not a good time for the Jews.

Nonetheless, a minority of them struggled on despite the odds and were successful in achieving their goals.

The Rambam, in the end of Hilchos Chanukah, says that it is a great mitzvah to recollect and to praise Hashem for the goodness he did for us during those times.

How do we accomplish that? By recognizing that Hashem was with us during those times of darkness and continues to be with us during any of our times of darkness. By thanking Hashem and not complaining for any darkness we might have in our lives, we acknowledge not only His presence, but also His guidance throughout such times. By attuning ourselves to His role in our lives, down to minute details, we continually grow more and more aware of Him. With that awareness, we can properly thank Him for everything.

Have a great Shabbos!