PARSHA SUMMMARY: VAYESHEV (AND SHABBAT CHANUKA)
Chanuka begins this Thursday night (tomorrow); full Hallel is said each day of Chanuka, we add Al Ha-Nisim in the Amida and Birkat Ha-Mazon.
In our Sedra, Yakov settles in Israel. Yosef tells his brothers his dream of being master over them. The brothers want to execute Yosef, but throw him in a pit instead. He is then sold to a caravan of Ishmaelites. The brothers dip Yosef’s
coat in goat’s blood & show it to Yakov, who assumes Yosef has been killed by a wild beast. In Egypt, Yosef is sold to Potifar, Paro’s Chamberlain.
In a sub-plot, Yehuda’s sons Er & Onan both die for preventing wife Tamar from becoming pregnant. When Yehuda’s wife dies, Tamar resolves to have children through Yehuda. Posing as a prostitute, she is impregnated by Yehuda; Zerach & Peretz are born.
Yosef rises to power in Potifar’s house. Potifar’s wife seduces him. Rejected, she accuses him of rape & he is jailed. Yosef interprets the dreams of Paro’s wine steward; he is reinstated, but Paro’s baker is hanged. Despite promising, the wine steward forgets Yosef, who stays in jail.
For Maftir, we read “B’Yom Ha-Sheni” in parshat Naso from a second Torah, in honor of Chanuka. Haftora: Zechariah 2:14; “Roni V’Simchi.”
We bentsch Rosh Chodesh Tevet (which is next Wednesday, Dec. 16).
DVAR TORAH: DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS!
RABBI STEWART WEISS
We have often noted that the first word in any Sedra is the key to understanding the action that occurs within. Our Sedra is no exception. The parsha begins, “Vayeshev Yakov b’eretz m’guray aviv, and Yakov settled in the land of his father’s travels (in the land of Canaan).” The key word here is “settled.”
Rashi brings a Midrash: After all his trials and tribulations – his strife with Esav; his struggle with the angel as well as with his conniving father-in-law Lavan; the kidnapping and rape of Dina – Yaakov wanted to finally settle down in tranquility, but Hashem had other plans for him. “Is it not enough – that which awaits Tzadikim in the World to Come – yet they seek serenity in
this world, too?!” ask G-d incredulously. And so, there follows not retirement for Yakov, but the tumultuous saga of his son Yosef’s sale and saga in Egypt.
The message being sent here is that it is not the Jewish way to “settle,” to seek or accept inactivity or stagnation; to simply fade away into obscurity. Rather we must utilize every day, every moment, every opportunity we have for additional growth and accomplishment. Moreover, it is davka the challenges and the tough tests which come our way that most serve to strengthen
us, that propel us to new heights, that define us. If you move, if you react, you are alive – but if you are dormant and still, you are basically dead.
Thank about where innovation and progress come from; usually it stems from a crisis or a seemingly-impossible challenge. It was the military, for example, that we credit for the World Wide Web, or Internet, which evolved from the U.S. Defense Dept. project in the late 1960’s to connect multiple computers in order to communicate on a single network. The “space race”
led to developing satellites, which enabled the creation of Global Positioning Systems (e.g. WAZE), enhanced smart-phone communication, and now sophisticated drones. And no doubt the Corona epidemic will lead to many advances in medical science.
While Yaakov endured terrible turmoil due to Yosef’s disappearance, which was followed by our descent into Mitzrayim and Egyptian slavery, it would all lead eventually to our miraculous liberation, to the giving of the Torah and our return to Israel. It would serve to steel us for any and all future calamities and captivities that might confront us.
Yaakov, we’re told, “settled” in his father’s land. Let us recall that Yitzchak settled in G’rar (BR. 26:6, “Vayeshev Yitzchak b’Grar,” tied for the shortest pasuk in the Torah!). “G’rar” in today’s Hebrew, means “towed.” I suggest that Hashem is telling us that we must keep on going, come what may, and that if we stop, He will do what it takes to make sure we continue moving to
where we need to go, even if He has to tow us!
ASK THE RABBI: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MACCABEE FAMILY?
Matityahu, Kohen Gadol from Modiin, began the struggle to eradicate Greek-Hellenist culture from Israel and sparked the revolt against the Seleucid empire. After his death in 167 BCE, his sons – led by Yehuda – conducted the battle against the Syrian-Greeks. These guerilla fighters were known as “Maccabim” (the word either means “hammer,” or is an acronym for “Mi
Kamocha B’Eilim Hashem, Who is like you, Oh G-d”). Sadly, all the Macabee brothers died a violent death: Yehuda was killed in battle in160 BCE; Eleazar “Avaran” (“the piercer”) by tradition crawled under an elephant being used by the Greek army; he stabbed it in the belly but was killed when it fell upon him. Yonatan was assassinated in 142 BCE, while Shimon was murdered by his son-in-law in 134 BCE. Although the Hasmonean dynasty lasted a century, rabbinic tradition says it fell because its leaders were not only not from the Davidic family -from whom all kings are meant to reign – but they were also Kohanim, who were not allowed by Jewish law to rule. In 63 BCE, the Roman empire took control of Israel, leading ultimately to the destruction of the 2nd Bet HaMikdash.