This week’s Portion, VaYashev starts the story of Joseph. He is Jacob’s favorite – the firstborn of his favorite wife Rachel. Joseph’s father had given him a “coat of long sleeves” (not necessarily many colors) and his brothers hated him for it. He had two dreams of his brothers and parents bowing to him, and his brothers hated him even more for it.
They plot to kill him so Joseph’s dreams won’t come true, but they settle for selling him into slavery instead – after all …. he IS their brother! So Joseph is sold to a caravan headed to Egypt.
The scene changes to another sordid tale – this time of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. She is married to Judah’s firstborn … who died. She then married Judah’s second son (according to the Levirate Marriage Custom) to raise an heir in his brother’s name. This second son also died and Judah is reluctant to give her to his third son…. even though that is required under the Levirate Custom. To claim what is rightfully hers, Tamar played the harlot with Judah, she conceived and delivered twins. Despite his incestuous origin, the younger twin, Pharez, ends up in Matthew’s genealogy of Yeshua. God has a plan for each of us – regardless of our background. We serve an Awesome God!
Now … back to Joseph. Upon arrival in Egypt, he was sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s Executioners. He recognized Joseph’s capabilities and put him in charge of his entire household. However, Potiphar’s wife had other ideas; over a period of time she tried (unsuccessfully) to seduce him; and eventually accused him of trying to seduce her! Potiphar is furious (although the text does not say who is the brunt of his anger) and threw Joseph into prison – although he had every right to execute him for his “transgression”.
In prison Joseph met Pharaoh’s Butler and Baker and interpreted their dreams also: the Butler is restored into Pharaoh’s court but the Baker is executed. And it is this relationship with the Butler that leads into next week’s Portion.