Joseph Enters the Picture (VaYeshev)

Joseph begins as a pain in the ass to his brothers.  He is Jacob’s favorite son and isn’t shy about letting his brothers know, wearing the coat of many colors that his father has made for him.  Even more provocative, he tells them about dreams that could easily be interpreted as an assertion that he is superior to them. 

Is Joseph a goody goody?  What is his motivation for behaving the way he does?  Is he an innocent who doesn’t know any better or is he just overwhelmingly conceited?

His brothers are convinced he is the latter, and they fake his killing by an animal to cover the fact that they are literally selling him into slavery.  When shown the bloody coat of his favorite son, Jacob goes into deep mourning.

Yet there isn’t an ounce of haughtiness in Joseph when Potiphar buys him from slave traders and installs him in his household.  Joseph doesn’t need to be coached by HaShem or an angel of HaShem on how to behave.  Nor does he have some elaborate stratagem designed to trick anyone in order to serve his ambition.  

So when the torah tells us that In fact, “The Lord was with Joseph,” there appears to be a tinge of pride on the part of HaShem.  (Gen. 39:7). On his own, Joseph seems to have developed a way to get ahead through his own honesty and work ethic.  

Joseph is also smart enough to know that sleeping with Potiphar’s wife would not only be dangerous, but ungrateful.  Potiphar has put Joseph in charge of all his property.  Why betray him? 

Nor does Joseph whine to HaShem when Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph of making a pass at her and Potiphar has Joseph sent to prison.  Here Joseph’s self-confidence is displayed as finding his niche as an interpreter of dreams.  This will be the path to his rise.

Questions for discussion:  In what ways is Joseph similar to his father?  In what ways is he very different?  Is that important or not?  Why?

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