Parashat Vayeshev וישב

Yaakov, finally resides in his father’s land, the land of Israel (Canaan). The Torah writes “Vayeshev Yaakov” (“וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב”) to teach us that this place is now going to be blessed. Our Sages say that when a Tzadik leaves a town the glory and the splendor of the town disappear with his departure. On the other hand, when a Tzadik settles in a town the glory and the splendor of the town appears. Yaakov is compared to a lost pearl in the sand. While looking for it one might gather lots of sand searching for the pearl. After finding the pearl (Yaakov) all the sand, which is compared to Eisav and others, is being cast off. Yaakov was hoping to live in tranquility in Israel (Canaan). Our Sages explain that true Tzadikim may only live “in tranquility “ in the next world. The word “Canaan” (“כנען”) has the numerical value of 190; this alludes to the number of years Bnei-Yisrael will be “awarded”, instead of the 400 years of exile that HaShem promised Avraham at Berit Bein Habetarim.

When Yaakov was about 77 years old he went to Padan-aram, to Lavan’s (his uncle) land. He was approximately 84 years old when he married Leah. In the following eight years all his children were born, except for Binyamin who was born when he was about 104 years old. Yaakov returned to the land of Israel (Canaan) when he was about 97 years old. Yosef was “taken” to Egypt when Yaakov was about 108 years old. At the age of 130, Yaakov moved to Egypt, where he died 17 years later at the age of 147. These 17 years are same age as Yosef was sold and went down to Egypt. It worth mentioning here that Binyamin was the only one who never bowed to anyone.

Bnei-Yisrael were in Egypt for 210 years; together with the 190 years that were taken off, we get the 400 years as told in the prophecy. The reason Avraham’s descendants were punished with 400 years of exile was Avraham’s lack of faith in HaShem. Avraham asked HaShem a question comprised of four words, “Bame Eida Ki E’rashenah” (“בַּמָּ֥ה אֵדַ֖ע כִּ֥י אִֽירָשֶֽׁנָּה”), how would I know that I am going to inherit the land of Israel? Avraham was punished with 100 years for each word (Lech Lecha 15:8). We also learn from the word “vayeshev” (he settled) a Divine code, as it has a numerical value of 318, teaching us that Avraham took 318 Torah students to fight the five kings in order to save his nephew Lot. Our Sages say that Avraham was punished for disturbing their Torah studies, and for leaving the holy land of Israel. He should have asked HaShem prior to his departure, if such a journey were necessary or even permitted. 

Yaakov hoped that after all his exile (travels) and his wars, he can now settle and rest peacefully in Israel. Yaakov knew the harsh prophecy of Bnei-Israel’s Galut (“גלות” – exile) in Egypt and he hoped that it had already happened since the birth of his father. Yaakov thought that when HaShem told Avraham “your children will live among strangers”, it means that it is over by now as he lived with Lavan. He was hoping that the prophecy of exile was fulfilled with him, his father and his grandfather totaling 430 years combined. Yaakov married at the age of eighty-four and Yosef (“יוסף”) was born when he was ninety-one years old. 

The Torah writes “these are the offspring of Yaakov” (“אֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁבַע-עֶשְׂרֵה”), yet lists only Yosef. Why? To teach us that he was the most beloved by Yaakov and he was very similar to him in many ways. Yosef is described as a “youngster”, alluding to his young age. Our Sages say that he was acting in “immature” ways, kid-like behavior. The Midrash says he was very “boyish”-like, always fixing his hair, putting on eye-liner etc. Yosef was a shepherd for many years and was spending his time with the children of Zilpah (“זילפה”) and Bilhah (“בילהה”), referred to now as Yaakov’s wives. By mentioning that Zilpah and Bilhah were Yaakov’s wives, the Torah teaches us that Rachel and Leah died together and were no longer among Yaakov’s family. The Rambam says that they were considered wives (and not maidservants) only after Leah’s and Rachel’s passing. It is good to know that the word BARZEL (“ברזל” – iron as Iron Dome) is the acronym of “ב.ר.ז.ל”; Bilhah, Rachel, Zilpah and Leah. As we read on Shabbat, the sons of Yaakov will rest in the land of Israel (“יַעֲקֹב וּבָנָיו יָנוּחוּ בוֹ”), just as promised.

The Torah writes that Yosef was seventeen years old (“יוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁבַע-עֶשְׂרֵה”) in order to teach us that he did not understand the secrets of the Torah as his older brothers did. The Zohar says that his brothers knew all the secrets listed in the “Book of Yetzirah” the Book of Creation or the “Book of Formation”, written by Avraham with the help of an angel. They used the holy secrets’ words to supply them with all their physical needs, such as food. Sefer Yetzirah is the oldest and most mysterious of all the kabbalistic writings; it expounds on the dynamics of the spiritual domain, the worlds of the Sefirot, souls, and angels. It was given to Avraham by the Angel Raziel. Yosef’s age is 17 which allude to the goodness he will bring to the world, as the numerical value of the word “good” (“טוב”) is 17. The Zohar reveals that Yosef was Adam’s reincarnations Neshamah (soul) prior to his sin, a perfect unblemished soul. 

The Torah writes that “Yosef was with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah”, he did so because they were not respected by the sons of Leah, this is a testament to quality of a true leader as Yosef who supports the “underdog”. Yosef was reporting to his father all about Leah son’s deeds, thinking they were wrong evil deeds and misbehaviors. He was constantly speaking “Lashon Harah” (“לשון הרע”) about his brothers, but only due to his lack of knowledge. Due to this sin, they all hated him so much that they count even look at him. Yosef would witness partial deeds, and think that he was telling the truth about his brothers to his father. In reality they were mostly righteous people and did not act against the Torah or transgress the Mitzvot. We should always learn from such an incident that what we see may not be what is really taking place. 

The Torah writes that Yaakov loved Yosef more than any of his other children, including Binyamin (“בנימין”), the son of his most beloved wife Rachel. We read in the Torah (verse 3) “VeYisraeal Ahav Et Yosef Mikol Eichav” (“וְיִשְׂרָאֵל, אָהַב אֶת-יוֹסֵף מִכָּל-בָּנָיו”). Yaakov loved Yosef for all the Torah knowledge he had, and Yosef was devoted to his father. Our Sages also explain that Yaakov loved Yosef more then Binyamin, due to Rachel’s death while giving birth to him and the grave loss of his true love Rachel. The Zohar explains that the brothers hated Yosef due to his “complex and complete Neshamah”, Yosef had Adam’s soul as appears in “Tikunie HaZohar.

Yaakov love to his son Yosef was due to the fact that they had so much in common:

  1. Both were born circumcised
  2. Both looked alike
  3. Both were hated by their brothers
  4. Both were sent or went down to Egypt
  5. Both ran away from their brothers
  6. Both became leaders of their nation
  7. Both were blessed by HaShem
  8. VIII.Both were smartest of all during their time
  9. Both died in Egypt
  10. Both were buried in Israel

Yaakov  made Yosef a very special garment called “Kutonet Pasim”, which did not have sleeves; to teach us that Yosef will only occupy himself with spiritual work, and not with physical work. Those who wore sleeveless garments in those days were usually of royal stock. 

This garment had “PASIM” (“פסים), stripes. We learn from that word an amazing code and prophecy. The “PASIM” is an acronym for the words: 

Potifar – פ – Potiphar’s Wife, Zelicha (“פוטיפר”) will try to seduce Yosef

Socharim – ס – Merchants (“סוחרים”) who bought Yosef  

Yeshmaelit  – –  י Yoshmarlim (“ישמעלים”) bought Yosef from the Midyaniets

Midyaniets – מ  – Midyanim (“מדינים”) pulled Yosef out of the pit

The reason Yosef was loved by his father so much, unlike Binyamin, is because Rachel died at Binyamin’s birth. Yosef was blessed by HaShem just as his father, Yitzchak and grandfather, Avraham were blessed by HaShem; as a result his brothers were very jealous of him. The Zohar says that the word “PASIM” alludes to a holy “Tzinor” (“צינור” – pipe or conduit) who feeds the entire world. Yosef was truly the one who created and taught us all about world business, real-estate, gold, food distributions, psychology, dreams interpretations, food management, people management, politics and much more. Yosef managed the entire world while the famine took place in Egypt.

The Torah speaks of Yosef’s divine dreams who are really prophecies. Its good to know that dreams that take place in the last third of the night (prior to sunrise) are usually a glimpse into the future and one should pay close attention to them. Yosef had two very particular dreams that angered his brothers even more. Yosef told his brothers about his first dream; he told them that while gathering sheaves, his sheaf stood up tall in the middle, while their sheaves stood around his in the circle and bowed to him. His brothers got angrier and hated him even more. They asked if it means that he is going reign over them.

The second dream of Yosef included his dead mother, Rachel. In this dream the sun and the moon and eleven stars are bowing to him. After telling his brothers, he then told his father as well about this dream. Yaakov got very angry with him, but he “kept” the dream, meaning he understood the prophecy in it. Yosef was hoping that by including his mother in the dream, his brothers would understand that this is a prophecy from HaShem. The brothers hated him so much, that they could not even be courteous to him anymore. This prophecy, along with the ten brothers’ crime against Yosef, led to the exile in Egypt.

Yaakov hoped that this prophecy would not come true since Rachel was already dead. When Yosef said “my mother”, referring to his dream, he was speaking about Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant, who treated him like a mother. Yaakov asked Yosef about his dream, using the words “Asher Chalamta” (“אשר חלמתה” – as you dreamt). The last letter “R” of the word “Asher” and the word “Chalamta” spell the words Rachel Meta (“רחל מתה” – Rachel is dead). Yaakov understood that Yosef was very special and was chosen by HaShem to lead, and to receive all His blessings, and he was not upset with him as his brothers were.

In the next few verses we witness the shocking story of Yosef’s brothers’ horrific sins, ultimately leading to the selling of Yosef into slavery and to the exile of the entire Bnei-Yisrael. Yaakov understood the prophecy and “walked” Yosef to the inevitable conclusion, as Yosef inquired about his brothers’ whereabouts. The Torah writes (verse 37:4) “And they could not speak to him peacefully”; the word “peacefully” is spelled here without the letter “Vov”, “Leshalam” (“לשלם”), which can also mean to pay. The numerical value of the word “Leshalam” is 400, as the 400 years of exile HaShem punished Bnei-Yisrael for not living peacefully with each other.

On their way, Yaakov was teaching Yosef the laws of Egla Arufa (“עגלה ערופה”), the laws dealing with finding a dead person between two cities. According to Halacha one must find out in which of the cities the dead person should bury the body (which even a Kohen must do even if he becomes impure). After finding the right burial place, we must sacrifice a cow, using a special method of killing it, by breaking its neck (this is one of the complex Mitzvah of Chukat). This is the source of the verse “BaAgalah U’Bezman Kariv Ve’Imru Aman” (“בעגלה ובזמן קריב”) that we say in Kaddish.

Yaakov took Yosef to the burial place of Yitzchak and Avraham in order to receive all the blessings from HaSham, just as he did with his forefathers. The Zohar compares Yosef to Calev Ben Yefune (one of the twelve spies), who went to pray at “Mearat HaMachpela” and to asks HaShem to forgive his brothers for their sins. We notice that Yaakov sent Yosef “Elehim” (“אליהם” – “to them”), which has the same letters as “Elohim” (“אלהים”).

This is a profound moment for Yosef as he accepted his destiny, and for Yaakov who was leading his son into exile. Yaakov understood that such tasks must be completed in order for Mashiach to come. Yosef began his long journey and while looking for his brothers the Angel Gabriel appears, and asked him what did he lose? This is very strange; usually the person that loses something is the one asking for help and not vice versa. The Angel here is referred to as a man and we learn from the book of Daniel that it was an Angel and not a man. Yosef asked the Angel about his brothers’ whereabouts. Knowing that Yosef’s brothers were planning to harm him, the Angel conveyed a message to Yosef, saying that his brothers do not want him anymore. We learn this from the word “ZeH” (“זה”), which in numeric value equals 12; meaning that they do not want to be 12 brothers anymore, and they do not wish to remain his brothers, as they left him too.

The Angel revealed the place of his brothers regardless of his will, trying to disengage himself from the prophecy of exile of 400 years. Yosef could have easily claimed that he could not find his brothers and return home to his father. But he too understood that he must obey HaShem’s decree and fulfill this prophecy. The Angel Gabriel kept HaShem’s promise to protect Yosef, and he sent him on his way to “Dotan” (“דתן”), which means the city of justice. The Midrash says that three Angels came to Yosef on his journey to Egypt. Interestingly enough, the numerical value of the word “Datan” (“דתן”) is 454, same as “Kulam Nikbetzu Alaie” (“כולם נקבצו עלי”), meaning everyone conspired against me.

His brothers saw him from a distance (thinking that he came to say bad things about them again), and immediately they plotted against him and decided to kill him. The Midrash says that they sent a vicious dog to kill him first, but when the dog failed to do so, they decided to kill him themselves.“וְעַתָּה לְכוּ וְנַהַרְגֵהוּ, וְנַשְׁלִכֵהוּ בְּאַחַד הַבֹּרוֹת, וְאָמַרְנוּ, חַיָּה רָעָה אֲכָלָתְהוּ; וְנִרְאֶה, מַה-יִּהְיוּ חֲלֹמֹתָיו” as we see in Verse 37:20.

The Midrash compares the brothers’ feast after throwing Yosef into the pit to the feast of king Achashverosh (“אחשורוש”); after he agreed to Haman’s decree to kill the Jews, he did the same, and he sat and celebrated with food. For this, the brothers were punished and they deserved to be sold as slaves for the next 400 years (which was reduced to 210 by HaShem’s mercy). Ten righteous Rabbis will, in the future, die a horrific death, for the sins of the ten brothers. These are the “ASERET HARUGEI MALCHUT” (“עשרת הרוגי מלכות”). Our Sages explain that the Roman punished the Jews for Yosef’s brothers’ sin, by killing the ten righteous Rabbis.

Ten “עשרת הרוגי מלכות” Asaret Harugei Malchus, the Ten Martyrs:
  1. Rebbi Shimon Ben Gamliel –    was beheaded.
  2. Rebbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol –    his head was skinned alive.
  3. Rebbi Akiva –    His body was combed with burning-hot iron rakes. 
  4. Rebbi Chanaya ben Tradyon –   was burned alive, wrapped in a Sefer Torah with wet wool on his heart to keep him alive and to prolong his agony. The executioner agreed to remove the wool, jumped into the fire and merited Olam Haba.
  5. Rebbi Chutzpis HaMiturgaman.
  6. Rebbi Elazar ben Shamua.
  7. Rebbi Chanina ben Chachinai.
  8. VIII.Rebbi Yesheivav HaSofer.
  9. Rebbi Yehuda ben Dama.
  10. Rebbi Yehuda Ben Bava.
The Roman emperor Hadrian decides to murder 10 Rabbis as “punishment” as a Measure for Measure for the brothers’ sale of Yosef.
The brothers took Yosef’s garment and covered it with the blood of a goat, in order to convince their father that Yosef was killed by a wild beast. Being a prophet, how come Yaakov did not know about his son being alive? The answer is that he lost the power of prophecy (the Shechinah “שכינה”) while Yosef wasn’t with him.

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Yoram Dahan – Author – Book Series – NESS HaTORAH

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