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ותאמר הכר נא למי החתמת והפתילים והמטה האלה ... ויכר יהודה ויאמר צדקה ממני

And she said, “Identify, if you please, whose are this seal, this wrap and this staff.” Yehuda recognized and he said, “She is right. It is from me.” (38:25,26)

Yehudah and Tamar were progenitors of Malchus Bais David, the Davidic dynasty, and Moshiach Tziddkeinu, who descends from it.  When one peruses the story of Yehudah’s encounter with Tamar: how Tamar was prepared to die rather than shame Yehudah; and Yehudah’s ultimate public confession despite the humiliation that would ensue, we see that the entire incident revolves around the middah, character trait, of bushah, shame. Tamar refused to shame Yehudah, because she understood that if word would get out that someone of his spiritual distinction was involved in a less-than-licit affair, it would humiliate not only him, but also what…

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והבור ריק אין בו מים

The pit was empty; no water was in it. (37:24)

Rashi comments: There was no water in the pit, but there were serpents and scorpions in it.  Horav Elyakim Schlessinger, Shlita explains the halachic ramifications that vary between a pit filled with water and one filled with poisonous serpents and scorpions. It was Reuven who suggested that rather than take action outright against Yosef, they should put him into a pit.  Had there been water in the pit, it would not be a direct act of murder. Throwing Yosef into a pit filled with poisonous creatures, however, is no different than tying a person up and placing him in front…

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וישראל אהב את יוסף מכל בניו כי בן זקנים הוא לו ... וישנאו אתו ... ויקנאו בו אחיו

Now Yisrael loved Yosef more than all of his sons since he was a child of his old age… so they hated him … so his brothers were jealous of him. (37:3,4,11)

The controversy that ensued between Yosef and his brothers was much deeper than sibling rivalry. Certainly, it was understandable that their father favored the son born to Rachel Imeinu after years of barrenness. Yosef was an exceptional young man who studied Torah with his father and had much in common with him. Under normal circumstances, they would have overlooked their father’s love for Yosef, but they felt that Yosef was a rodef, pursuer, who was bent on destroying them and assuming their spiritual position. They simply could not ignore this. Nonetheless, we wonder how the brothers questioned the daas Torah,…

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וישב יעקב בארץ מגורי אביו

Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s sojourning. (37:1)

Chazal infer from the variation in the text describing Yaakov’s taking up residence, vayeishev, he settled, from that of his father, migurei, sojourning, which implies wandering that Yaakov sought to settle, finally to relax in one place with a roof over his head and not worry about what tomorrow would bring. No one questions that Yaakov Avinu had his fill of struggles and troubles.  Would it be so terrible for him to have a little tranquility? Chazal, quoted by Rashi, say: Yaakov bikeish leisheiv b’shalvah, the Patriarch wanted to settle down in tranquility. As a result, Hashem sent the Yosef…

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ויהי בעת ההיא וירד יהודה מאת אחיו

It was at that time that Yehudah went down from his brothers. (38:1)

Rashi explains that the juxtaposition of Yehuda’s brothers deposing him and the loss of his wife and two sons upon the story of Yosef (in fact, it is placed right in the middle of the Yosef incident) teaches us that one who commences a mitzvah (Yehudah undertook to save Yosef, but did not complete his mission), but does not complete it, will bury his wife and children. It seems like a harsh punishment. After all, at least he started the mitzvah, while others did not even bother to get involved. Yet, he is punished; they are not. What is even…

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וימכרו את יוסף לישמעלים בעשרים כסף ויבאו את יוסף מצרימה

They sold Yosef to the Yishmaelim for twenty silver pieces and they bought Yosef to Egypt. (37:28)

The Midrash (cited by Sefer Ha’Yashar) teaches that when the Arab caravan taking Yosef to Egypt passed by Rachel Imeinu’s grave, Yosef ran out to it and prayed. He fell on the tombstone and pleaded, “Mama, Mama! Look at the suffering your son is experiencing. Please, stand before Hashem and plead with Him that He allow me to return to my father (Yaakov Avinu). Do not refrain from helping me!” A young man, orphaned from his mother, was wrongfully sold into slavery. To be relegated to living in a country in which debauchery and hedonism are a way of life…

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אלה תולדות יעקב יוסף

These are the chronicles of Yaakov: Yosef. (37:2)

While the word toldos is usually translated as offspring, in this pasuk it means chronicles, since the only offspring of Yaakov Avinu that the pasuk mentions is Yosef. Rashi explains why the Torah applies the term toldos to Yosef more so than to any of his brothers. First, Yaakov worked for Lavan in order to get Rachel Imeinu, Yosef’s mother, as his wife. Second, Yosef’s countenance closely resembled that of Yaakov. Third, whatever happened to Yaakov (so to speak), happened to Yosef: Yaakov was hated by his brother; so, too, was Yosef (obviously for different reasons); Yaakov’s brother sought to…

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וישב יעקב בארץ מגורי אביו... אלה תולדות יעקב יוסף

Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s sojourning… These are the chronicles of Yaakov: Yosef. (37:1,2)

Yaakov Avinu had more than one son.  Yet, when the Torah enumerates his offspring, it mentions only Yosef.  Furthermore, why does the Torah first inform us that Yaakov continues to live in Canaan, the land that his father chose as his place of habitation, and then inform us about his offspring? Clearly, his family had the obligation to take ownership over the place in which he lived. It is almost as if where he chose to live is connected with his offspring. Horav Sholom Schwadron, zl, explains that in the Torah’s vernacular, offspring is a reference to one who is…

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ואיך אעשה הרעה הגדולה הזאת וחטאתי לאלקים

How then can I perpetrate this evil and have sinned against G-d! (39:9)

Potiphar’s wife did everything within her power and resources to beguile and seduce Yosef. True to his earned appellation of tzaddik, righteous man, he resisted her advances. According to Rashi, he employed ingratitude as an excuse, asserting that his master had entrusted him with the total run of the house. To sin with his wife would be the nadir of ingratitude – not to mention indecency – and a betrayal of trust. In the beginning of his Shaarei Teshuvah, Rabbeinu Yonah derives a different tactic from Yosef’s words – one that should, likewise, apply to each and every one of…

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ויהי בעת ההיא וירד יהודה מאת אחיו

It was at that time that Yehudah went down from his brothers. (38:1)

The Midrash Tanchuma explains the juxtaposition of Yehudah’s marriage, upon the loss of his wife and two sons, and upon the incident of Yosef’s sale, with Yehudah being the one to inform Yaakov Avinu of Yosef’s death. Hashem said to Yehudah, “You have yet to father children; thus, you do not know what raising children and losing them means, the accompanying pain and sorrow. Yet, you were the one to inform your father that a wild animal had killed/torn his son apart. You must now experience the pain of losing a child. Therefore, you will marry and father two sons,…

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