Va’Yeshev – Genesis 37:1 – 40:23

This Torah portion is called “Va’yeshev,” Hebrew for “And he dwelled.”  Here’s the context:  And Jacob dwelled in the land for the sojournings of his father in the land of Canaan.”  (Gen 37:1).  This is the first of four Torah portions that comprise the Joseph narrative and complete the Book of Genesis.

Synopsis:  Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, is 17 years old when the Torah portion begins.  He gives Jacob “evil reports” on his brothers (specifically, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, Jacob’s concubines).  Jacob (called Israel here) gives Joseph a striped tunic, which generates ire among the other 11 brothers.  Joseph has two dreams that he shares with his family, both of which indicate his superiority over them.  Later on, Jacob sends Joseph out to check on his brothers who are tending sheep in Shechem (the same location where their sister Dinah was sexually assaulted).  The brothers see Joseph, conspire to kill him and throw him in a pit.  Reuben tells the others not to kill Joseph, but they take his tunic and toss him into a waterless pit.  Judah convinces the brothers to sell Joseph to Ishmaelites.  Midianites sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites who take him to Egypt.  The brothers pour goat’s blood on the tunic.  They show the bloodied coat to Jacob who assumes that an animal has killed Joseph.  There’s a side-story about Judah and his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar – Judah mistakes her for a cult prostitute, has his way with her, she is pregnant with twins, and he eventually brings her back into his household.  Joseph is sold into the household of Potiphar, the Pharaoh’s captain of the guard.  Potiphar’s wife has designs on Joseph; she tries to seduce him, he refuses her, and she accuses him of attempted rape.  Potiphar has Joseph imprisoned where he meets the Pharaoh’s wine steward and baker.  He interprets their dreams – the wine steward’s dream indicates that he will be released; the baker’s that he will be executed.  The interpretations come true.  Joseph asks the wine steward to remember him after his release, but he does not.