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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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וישב ראובן אל הבור

Reuven returned to the pit. (37:29)

Where was Reuven (that he had to “return”)? Rabbi Eliezer (Midrash) says, “Reuven was occupied with fasting; he was dressed in sackcloth as penitence for changing the placement of his father’s bed. Hashem (in accepting Reuven’s repentance) said to him, ‘From the beginning of time, there has not been anyone who had transgressed and repented. You are the first one. As reward, your descendant will stand and declare/exhort the people to return/repent.’” This is a reference to the Navi Hoshea, a descendant of Reuven, who proclaimed, Shuvu Yisrael ad Hashem Elokecha, “Return Yisrael to Hashem, your G-d.” This Midrash begs…

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וילכו אחיו לרעות את צאן אביהם בשכם... וימצאו איש והנה תעה בשדה

Now, his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem. (37:12)….. A man discovered him, and behold! – He was blundering in the field. (37:15)

Clearly, the entire debacle concerning Yosef and his brothers is cloaked in profound esoteric secrecy. All we can do is to derive snippets of ethical lessons which we should incorporate into our lives. Perhaps the most powerful and illuminating statement made by Chazal is the following: “The tribes/brothers were occupied with the sale of Yosef; Yosef himself was absorbed b’sako u’b’taaniso, in his sackcloth and fasting; Reuven, as well, was immersed in a state of penitence; so, too, was Yaakov Avinu; Yehudah was engaged in the process of looking for a wife. Last – and most important – was Hashem,…

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יוסף ... היה רעה את אחיו בצאן

Yosef … was a shepherd with his brothers by the flock. (37:2)

As parents, we have an awesome responsibility to infuse our children with proper middos, character traits, coupled with yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven, and an abiding commitment to Torah study and mitzvah performance. As parents, we are our children’s first and primary mentors. The rebbeim and moros that we choose for them are a reflection of our standards. Last, the joy in mitzvah observance that we present will have a lasting impression upon our children as they journey forward in the world. Horav Nissim Yagen, zl, relates the story of two American families who, on the outside, maintained similar lifestyles,…

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וישמע ראובן ויצילהו מידם

Reuven heard, and he received him from their hand. (37:21)

Reuven had much to gain if Yosef were to be out of the picture. He was the firstborn. Yosef was a threat to his position, since he, too, was a firstborn. The shevatim rendered a halachic decision, finding Yosef guilty of being a redifah, a pursuer, who was bent on destroying them. Reuven attempted to dissuade them for one purpose: so that he could return later and release Yosef from the pit, thereby saving his life. Horav Zalman Sorotzkin, zl, observes the incredible level of atzilus, nobility, that was manifest by Reuven’s actions. As far as the shevatim were concerned,…

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