Parashah VaYeishev – “And settled”
"God is for all who believe in Him"

This Parashah can be summed up into one message: man cannot alter the overriding purpose of the Divine Power.

There are two incidents that confirm this message: 1) Joseph being sold to the Egyptians for the final purpose of saving the Israelites from the incoming famine and 2) Preserving the Messianic line through Judah.

We are not told yet about the future famine, but there is a little irony in text as the Parashah begins with the words: Va’yeishev Ya’akov... “And Ya’akov settled in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan.” Ya’akov thought that he finally can enjoy the Land. At this text Rashi comments: “Are the righteous not satisfied with what awaits them in the World to Come that they expect to live at ease in This World too?”

Avraham was a sojourner and Ya’akov decided to settle, little that he knew that God had other plans for his family and “settle” was not it. God’s plan was to have the future Jewish nation grow under the protection of a more powerful nation, i.e. Egypt. But, for Ya’akov, Jacob, to be convinced to go and live in Egypt, God would first have to send Yosef, Joseph.

Yosef is noted that he is seventeen years old and has some strange dreams about his family’s future. These dreams are not well received by his father nor by his brothers and, when sent by Ya’akov to his brothers who were shepherding the flocks in the desert, the brothers decided to kill him.

What is interesting about this story is that while Yosef is looking for his brothers in the desert, he is met by “a man.” The Hebrew word is just simply “ish,” man. Could this “man” be the same “man” that Ya’akov wrestled with in an earlier Torah passage? “Then Ya’akov was left alone, and “a man” wrestled with him until daybreak.” Bereishit (Genesis) 32:24

This “man” turned out to be the Angel of the Lord who could not only know the future but also had the authority to change Ya’akov’s name to Yisra’el and, based on Ya’akov’s understanding, this Angel of the Lord was the manifestation of God on earth, as He appeared to Adam and Avraham before him. “So Ya’akov named the place Peni’el, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” Bereishit (Genesis) 32:30

Could it be that God sent the same “man” to tell Yosef where his brothers were so that God’s plan could proceed because Yosef was just wandering around in the desert not finding his brothers and about ready to go back to Ya’akov? We do not know, but in God’s realm anything is possible especially for those who love God and walk in His ways; for them amazing things can happen. There is a spiritual realm which we cannot perceive with our natural eyes. The Scriptures, both Tanach and Brit Chadashah, talk about a world that can only be perceived by faith: “Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, ‘This is hopeless, my master! What are we to do?’ And he said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are greater than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘Yehovah, please, open his eyes so that he may see.’ And Yehovah opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Melachim Bet (2 Kings) 6:15-17

We also find an interesting passage in the Brit Chadashah that will make us think twice on how we treat people who we do not know, who are strangers to us. “Do not neglect hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

Joseph is not killed but sold to Arab merchants for twenty pieces of silver, the price of a male youth, and then resold to the Egyptians. We are not told for how much, but probably the merchants wanted to make a profit, so it could have been for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a servant. “If it be from five years old even to twenty years old, then your estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels.” Vayikra (Leviticus) 27:5 “If the bull gores a man-servant or a maid-servant, thirty shekels of silver shall be given to their master.” Shemot (Exodus) 21:32

But Yosef's life story is interrupted by an event showing God's sovereignty in developing the Messianic line through the extraordinary events in the lives of Yehudah and Tamar.

The prophesy was that the Messiah would be born through the line of Yehudah, but Yehudah's two oldest sons committed evil acts, thus, were unworthy of carrying the Messianic line and Yehovah took their lives. Tamar was the wife of Yehudah’s first born, Er, but since God killed him she married the second son, Onan (based on the Levirate tradition to marry in the family). But Onan did not want to give a son to Tamar and he was also killed by God. Yehudah refused to give her his third son, so Tamar tricked Yehudah to have a son by him. Tamar's righteousness conquered Satan’s intention of stopping the developing roots of the Davidic dynasty and thus his ultimate goal of stopping the coming of Moshiah. Through Tamar’s righteous act, she gave birth to Perez through Yehudah and, down through eight generations later, King David was born. “Now this is the history of the generations of Peretz: Peretz became the father of Hetzron, and Hetzron became the father of Ram, and Ram became the father of Amminadav, and Amminadav became the father of Nachshon, and Nachshon became the father of Salmon, and Salmon became the father of Bo`az, and Bo`az became the father of Oved, and Oved became the father of Yishai, and Yishai became the father of David.” Ruth 4:18-22

God’s plan was accomplished through Tamar’s free-willed act. What it is interesting is how God develops this Davidic line by uniting Jewish men with Gentile women, Tamar was a Canaanite and Ruth was a Moabite. God meant from the beginning for Jews and Gentiles to be together. The “chosen-ness” of the Jews was to be God’s messengers and to convey His ethics to the world but, “to whoever much is given, of him will much be required.” This chosen-ness was, and is, a heavy burden for which Jews had to pay dearly.

With Yosef in Egypt God’s plan is put in motion. But Yosef is not left alone. God will guide him and strengthen him at every encounter. Vayehi Yehovah et Yosef... “And Yehovah was with Joseph.” Genesis 39:2

God took care of Yosef just as God promises to take care of us: “The angel of the Lord, Malakh Yehovah, encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” Tehilim 34:8(7)

Shabbat joy, peace, and blessings! Shabbat Shalom!