Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel

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Joseph & Family: Parashat VaYeshev 5763

Kislev 5763

I enjoyed studying my parasha, VaYeshev, and especially thinking about all the dreams in the story.

I’d like to talk about the dreams and about the connections between them and the relationships between Yosef and his brothers and his abba, Yaqov.

In his first dream, Yosef dreamed that he and his brothers were gathering sheaves in the field, tying them up together. Yosef’s sheaf stood up and the brothers’ sheaves bowed down to his. One rabbi said that this dream was a vision of the future. And another explains this dream by saying that it was through produce that Yosef became an important person (when he would organize food for Egypt to get them through the famine), and that’s why he dreamed about his sheaf standing up, and that it was because of produce that his brothers came and bowed down to him (when they would come to Egypt to ask for food).

In his second dream he dreamed that the sun and the moon and 11 stars bowed to him. His brothers hated this dream and even his father asked: “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Do you really think that I and your mother and brothers will bow down to the ground to you?”

This question is surprising because Yaqov favored Yosef, as “he was the son of his old age” and because Yosef reminded Yaqov of Rahel, Yosef’s mother, whom Yaqov loved very much. What’s the point in loving your child because he reminds you of your dead wife? If it were me, I would try to treat all my children the same way, because in a family you’re supposed to be fair to all your children. Children are special — you have to take care of them even more than yourself, because they can’t take care of themselves.

Children are special because they’re the future, and how adults teach them and treat them is how they’re going to be. Yaqov taught his children that they weren’t all special, and because of that they learned to be unfair. And even more, the rabbis said that parents shouldn’t make their children jealous of each other and that it was because Yaqov favored Yosef above his brothers that the Israelites ended up as slaves in Egypt.

So Yosef’s brothers were very jealous that their father loved Yosef better than them. And because Yaqov loved Yosef so much, he gave him a silk, striped, colorful coat. His brothers were mean to him because they felt jealous about this coat.

On the other hand, Yosef kept bragging about his coat and dreams — and I know that could get annoying. Like when Yael [my sister] keeps talking about Harry Potter — that gets boring. Yosef should not have talked about his dreams all the time because it bothered them. He bragged about them because he wanted his brothers to be interested in dreams and believe his dreams. He also wanted them to believe that he would be like a king over them, because he was so spoiled he thought he should rule over them. And he tried to, even then, by telling on them to their father.

But at the same time, I think that Yosef felt sad and upset that his brothers didn’t love him. And I think that Yosef felt uncomfortable that he got attention and a coat that his brothers didn’t get. Yosef wanted to share love with all his brothers and wished that they would get spoiled by Yaqov too. Yosef wished that Yaqov would give all the brothers something special, not just to him alone.

But the brothers could have done something to improve things, too. They should have asked him to stop telling about his dreams. The brothers should have told him — “could you please talk about something else, because we know our father loves you best and it really hurts our feelings and if you keep talking about it, we’re going to do something bad to you.”

And that’s what they did; they made plans to kill him and instead sold him as a slave. What they did was awful. They shouldn’t have sent away their brother. They broke their father’s heart because Yaqov really believed that Yosef was killed by a wild beast. And they broke their own hearts, too, because they really did love their brother.

I feel bad for Yaqov because his sons lied to him and he really loved Yosef and now he doesn’t have a special son anymore.

Many years later, in the middle of the famine, Yosef’s brothers came to Egypt for food. They bowed down to the ground to Yosef (just like in his dream), but they didn’t know that he was their brother. Yosef, however, recognized them and treated them like strangers.

When Momma asked me how Yosef was able to be nice to his brothers at the end of the story, I said, “But he wasn’t nice — he told them ‘no, you are spies!'”

Yosef didn’t want to be mean, because he was a nice person. Yosef had a plan: God probably told him, “first be mean to them, and then tell them, ‘It’s me, Yosef.'” And the Rabbis also said that Yosef was testing his brothers to see if they had changed.

And they really had changed. Judah, who planned to kill Yosef and sold him into Egypt, offered himself to protect Benjamin, another favored son, and Yaqov from being hurt yet again.

Maybe God helped them grow and learn how to care about other people. God helped Yosef because he had a hard life with his brothers. Some really bad things happened to Yosef but he ended up being a really good person and doing good things, because God helped him. I think that God still helps people grow and change. God helps me.

Being Jewish is important to me because it has been a good way to learn about God and how to grow and change. I want to help make the world a better place and I want there to be peace in Israel and Jerusalem. I like to learn about holidays and learn Hebrew (which is very hard work). I have made a lot of friends at Germantown, Perelman, and at our new shul, BEKI.

Thank you all for celebrating my bat mitzva.

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