Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #9 Vayeshev (He continued living) B’resheit (Genesis) 37:1- 40:23
Haftarah: ‘Amos 2:6-3:9
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:9-16
Although 27:2 reads “Here is the story of Ya’akov”, what follows is a 14-chapter story about Ya’akov’s sons. But perhaps it is really a story about Ya’akov’s legacy to his sons as we shall see. So, even as Ya’akov tries to settle in and settle down in the Land G-d swore to give him, his family fragments from under him and begins to assimilate. From here we first identify the sons who plotted against Yosef in the first section of the parashah. We read in Gen. 37:2 that Yosef was “with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah”; not the other sons of Leah and Rachel. Bilhah’s sons were Dan, (he judged), and Naftali (my wrestling) (Gen. 30:5-8). Zilpah, Leah’s slave-girl bore Gad (good fortune), and Asher (happy) (Gen 30:9-13). Re’uven (see, a son) was Ya’akov and Leah’s first son. Now that we know the players, let us proceed.
Re’uven was the one that convinced the others not to kill Yosef and to throw him in the empty cistern for a later rescue. Then Judah (Leah’s 4th son) introduced the idea of selling Yosef to the traveling caravan instead of killing him. Re’uven had exited the scene at this point and was unaware of this event. However, when he returned, he took part in the dipping of Yosef’s robe in the blood of a male goat. Fast forward a moment to Yahshua’s crucifixion. His garments were taken, he was sacrificed as an Olah offering; a total consecration such as was commanded by G-d using a male goat, a goat without blemish. As the blood used to saturate Yosef’s robe was a symbol of the covering of our PAST sins(Rom. 3:35; 2 Pet. 1:9) with the blood of Yahshua, so Ya’akov’s grief for his beloved son a symbol of the grief experienced by G-d at the physical death of Yahshua.
The alienation of Yosef by his brothers sows the seeds for the prophesied exile (Gen. 15:13). The lack of love between the brothers and brotherly love in the chosen family was problematic from the beginning. Yishma’el vs. Yitchak; Esav vs. Ya’akov; now Yosef vs. the brothers. Yosef was placed in the most uncertain position in his life. However, the L-rd was with him. Even as his father Ya’akov survived and prospered in exile, now Yosef experiences G-d’s blessings, even though it seems he may have been a little arrogant in telling the story of the sheaves to his brothers. That would seem to be a bad move, but ultimately one that came to pass and was recalled to the brothers at a later time. G-d brings Yosef success in all that he does, even as he is in exile in Egypt. Yet, he was to experience other testings, including the episode with Potiphar’s wife. Yosef refuses her advances (Gen. 39:8-9), but she uses force and seizes his garment as he flees temptation. Again, a garment is used as evidence for a lie, with the result being Yosef losing his most favored position in his master’s household. This time, Yosef is thrown into prison; a pit deeper than the cistern. Yet, the L-rd remains with him even there. (Gen. 39:21). More blessings are in store. Yosef is elevated to head the prison household by the warden who notices that G-d is with Yosef. Yosef is neither guarded nor audited!
Later, he interprets the dreams of the pharaoh’s chief backer and cup-bearer, giving G-d all the glory. But a gap exists between righteous acts in G-d’s name and the workings of divine favor. It seems that Yosef placed his faith and trust in the chief cup-bearer rather than G-d- so perhaps this is why G-d allows him to spend more time in prison. For a third time, Yosef faces being forgotten. His refusal to compromise his moral standards has always put him in a bad position. Now, interpreting dreams to help out a fellow prisoner has been forgotten, or so it would seem. In the end, because Yosef continued to walk closely with G-d, his life changed dramatically. Yosef ended up as one who had the power to enslave and imprison not only his family, but also Egypt, the world empire. So does it matter whether or not we try to be obedient to G-d? Some say our righteousness is as filthy rags and that we merit nothing from G-d. Others say, we have not because we ask not, and that we must walk in faith to get anywhere. But let’s look back at Yosef’s first dream. He did not give the credit to G-d as the Author, although it may not have made any difference at the time. After nearly 12 years of pondering in exile and in jail, he gets another chance. Yosef accurately interprets the dreams of the pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer and chief baker, giving all credit to G-d. Yosef also takes the initiative with the chief cup-bearer, whom he accurately predicts will be freed in three days. He then slides in a plea for a good word to Pharaoh. He confidently waits for things to happen. What could go wrong now? He had been sold for silver, unfairly charged with making advances, and unfairly left to sit in jail for no reason that he could comprehend. Now he sees G-d acting through dreams and knows he’s about to get out (he thinks). Why must he then wait for another set of dreams, which will come two years later? Because, G-d purifies our hearts to give Him all glory. This takes time that G-d also provides as He works with us. In His love for us, he refines us over and over as the refining of gold, for our ultimate best and for His ultimate glory. We are slow to learn as evidenced by the history of Israel (both biological and spiritual) to date. He could destroy us in a moment. Yet, He works with each of us with our individual characteristics and attributes until we will shine if we persevere as did Yosef who was ultimately successful in fulfilling his purpose for which we were all created- to glorify G-d.
At the point in Yosef’s young life, when the brothers had taken a blood drenched coat back to Ya’akov and told him that a wild animal had torn Yosef to pieces, scripture abruptly switches to Judah who left his brothers and married a Kena’ani woman. This narrative begins in Chapter 38. This was a problem from the start. First, we notice that the Scripture does not immediately tell us exactly where Judah settled other than “near a man named Hirah who was an ‘Adulami.” (Gen. 38:1). We must ask ourselves what these names mean and why is it important to mention them. After all, what about any other men that may have been in the vicinity. “Hirah” is translated as hi’-ra (chirah; Septuagint Eiras): A native of Adullam, and a “friend” of Judah (Genesis 38:1, 12). The Septuagint and the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) both describe him as Judah’s “shepherd.” Adullam (Heb. עֲדֻלָּם) was a city in Judah, originally a Canaanite town in which Hirah, a friend and father-in law of Judah resided (Gen. 38:1, 12, 20). But the narrative goes on to say Judah saw one of the daughters of the Kena’ani who was named Shua and he married her (sleeping with someone in those days meant you were married and that stands in G-d’s eyes). Now we know that Adullam was a Canaanite city. Through Shua which means salvation, Er was born. The name “Er” translates as evil. Let’s take a look at the gematria of Judah’s progeny from the point of taking Shua as a wife.
Self- nullification is a consistent Torah theme illustrated again in this parashah. Some mistakenly say “self-confirmation” instead of self- nullification. However, the term “self-confirmation” implies a prideful connotation rather than a humble attempt to nullify our animal souls and surrender our perceived control over our lives to G-d. In this narrative we read of how Tamar was willing to be burnt at the stake rather than embarrassing Judah (Gen. 38:24-5). She had every opportunity to save her life by revealing that the items in her possession belonged to Judah. However, she gave greater emphasis to the embarrassment that Judah would endure if she did so and therefore remained quiet. The Talmud deduces from this that a person must give his life before embarrassing someone else (Bava Metsia, 58b). Keep in mind that this is a rabbinic interpretation, but it is worthy of considering in the context of doing our best to spare someone embarrassment in our everyday activities. How many of us protest loudly and without restraint when it comes to protecting our integrity over saving another embarrassment? This narrative in Tamar’s life represents a quintessential example of self-nullification. Our lives are not our own; we are here at the pleasure of YHVH/Yahshua and we have been given a mission to spiritually and physically in some cases, shine our lights forward and to make His Name known throughout the nations.
Haftarah: Amos 2:6-3:8
This week’s haftarah reflects back on our parashah to the sale of Joseph by his brothers. Amos opens with the bad news first; G-d had been patient with them notwithstanding their transgression of the three cardinal sins- sexual impropriety, idolatry, and murder. Their fourth sin was the last straw; the mistreatment of the innocent, widows, orphans, and the poor.
G-d reminds the Jewish people how He lovingly took them out of Egypt and led them through the desert for forty years to the Holy Land (attempting to refine them as in the story of Yosef). Yet the people did not respond appropriately. They gave wine to those who took the Nazarite vow, and told the prophets not to prophecy. Amos then describes G-d’s punishment: “And the stouthearted among the mighty shall flee naked on that day, says the L-rd.”
This passage ends with an admonition from G-d, one that recalls His eternal love for His people: “hearken to this word which the L-rd spoke about you, O children of Israel, concerning the entire nation that I brought up from the land of Egypt. Only you did I love above all the families of the earth; therefore, I will visit upon you all your iniquities…” As opposed to other nations to whom G-d does not pay close attention, G-d’s love for His nation causes Him to punish us for our misdeeds, to cleanse us and prod us with His rod of justice and staff of grace and love back onto the path of the just. Remember, He chastises those he loves (Heb. 12:6) and His will is perfect (Psalm 18:30). Let us internalize and act upon this truth even when the tempest roars and we cannot physically see the Son. Do not fear or doubt; He is behind and above the clouds of our storms!
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:9-16
“Now the Patriarchs grew jealous of Yosef and sold him into slavery in Egypt. But Adonai was with him; he rescued him from all his troubles and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him administrator over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine that caused much suffering throughout Egypt and Kena’an. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. The second time, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. Joseph then sent for his father Jacob and all his relatives, 75 people. And Jacob went down to Egypt; there he died, as did our other ancestors. Their bodies were removed to Sh’khem and buried in the tomb Avraham had bought from the family of Hamor in Sh’khem for a certain sum of money.”
Joseph’s life reveals a parallel to Yahshua’s, for Joseph was a type of Yahshua to his people. G-d gave Joseph favor and wisdom for his appointed mission in life. G-d provided Yahshua all he needed for his earthly ministry. Joseph was appointed the chief administrator over Egypt. Yahshua was appointed King of Israel and L-rd of all the universe. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery and taken to Egypt that characterized the epitome of all that represented sin. Yahshua was a righteous man sold into the hands of the unrighteous for silver. Joseph had to live in the world of sinful Egypt, but he kept himself separated even in prison. He remained close to G-d and exemplified his faith through his behavior. Similarly, Yahshua came to a sinful world to show us how to live G-d’s Torah not only by His teachings, but by example. Joseph prepared Egypt for the food famine that was about to strike the land. Yahshua shows us how to prepare for the famine to come when the world will no longer have the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) present. Joseph withheld his identity from his brothers until the second time they went to him and confessed what they had done to him, not knowing they were speaking to him. Similarly, the majority of Jews did not recognize Yahshua for who he is the first time He came to earth. He will identify himself to them when He returns the second time and they say “Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai.” Unfortunately, these will be martyred for their faith during the Tribulation. The time is coming soon. Take heed to G-d’s written and Living Torah, and prepare yourselves.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart