From Podcast to Parashah

From Podcast to Parashah

Nov 26, 2021 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Vayeshev

Many of us have become podcast connoisseurs during the pandemic. For me, the interview format has proven most appealing, and within that genre, The Axe Files stands out. Why? Like many interviewers, David Axelrod speaks to authors, politicians, thought leaders, and public figures. What sets his questioning apart is his ability to elicit the background story of his guests: Where were their grandparents from? Where did they grow up? What was their family life like? What challenges did they face in their early lives? And how did this impact the people they have become?

Read More
To Fulfill a Mitzvah

To Fulfill a Mitzvah

Dec 20, 2019 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayeshev

There is an interesting moment in this week’s parashah during Joseph’s search for his brothers. Initially, Joseph seeks them in Shechem, where Jacob supposes them to be. As Joseph fruitlessly seeks his brothers, a man who perceives that Joseph is wandering aimlessly asks Joseph the purpose of his search. When Joseph replies that he is seeking his brothers, the man tells him he has heard that they are headed for Dothan. Joseph then follows his brothers there, and the story unfolds of his sale as a slave and his descent to Egypt.

Read More
Judah and Tamar: Writing the Story

Judah and Tamar: Writing the Story

Nov 30, 2018 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Vayeshev

One of the most gripping stories in the entire Bible appears in this week’s parashah. Chapter 38, a self-contained unit, interrupts the ongoing Joseph saga to tell the story of Judah and Tamar.

Read More
Yosef: A Light in the Darkness

Yosef: A Light in the Darkness

Dec 8, 2017 By Eitan Fishbane | Commentary | Vayeshev | Hanukkah

Parashat Vayeshev takes us deep into the pain and alienation of being human, of yearning from a low place of darkness and suffering. And yet the narrative also conveys the power of hope—a longing for God and redemption, for spiritual and moral healing in our human relationships.

Read More
Whose Words?

Whose Words?

Dec 23, 2016 By Jeremy Tabick | Commentary | Vayeshev

[W]e push through the crowd, heading somewhere. Bodies clear frame and we see the HOMELESS MAN sitting on a park bench. His sign reads: “THEE END”. The Homeless Man smiles into camera. We continue forward and in a slow, mysterious, subtle fashion his face slowly transforms into the very pleased, FACE OF GOD, who winks and we CUT TO BLACK.

—Script for Bruce Almighty by Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe, Steve Oedekerk

Read More
Being Raised from the Pit

Being Raised from the Pit

Dec 23, 2016 By Simeon Cohen | Commentary | Vayeshev | Hanukkah

Three years ago, Jewish novelist Dara Horn published her fourth novel, A Guide for the Perplexed. Borrowing its title from Maimonides’s quintessential work of Jewish philosophy, the book follows two sisters, Josephine and Judith, as they struggle with issues of faith, reason, memory, and sibling rivalry. Josephine and Judith serve as stand-ins for Joseph and Judah; in a sense, the novel functions as an extended midrash on a key biblical incident which can be found in this week’s parashah, Vayeshev: the casting of Joseph into the pit at the hands of his brothers. Ultimately, Horn’s Josephine and the biblical Joseph arrive at the same conclusion: through suffering, which both characters experience in their respective tales, one can ultimately come to achieve greatness.

Read More
The Values of a Jewish Home

The Values of a Jewish Home

Dec 5, 2015 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayeshev

A few weeks ago, Etgar Keret, an accomplished author on the Israeli literary scene, made a pilgrimage from his home in Tel Aviv to JTS’s Schocken Institute in Jerusalem to address a group of rabbinical students from JTS and HUC. Among the many thoughtful and reflective insights he shared, he spoke of the need for Israeli society to reflect the best of Jewish values. 

Read More
Redemption in the Dark Pit

Redemption in the Dark Pit

Dec 5, 2015 By Jason Gitlin | Commentary | Vayeshev

Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.

Read More
His Father’s Son

His Father’s Son

Dec 12, 2014 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Vayeshev

We stand in a very long line of children of Israel who have been fascinated with Joseph, the first person to have stood in that line. It’s hard in 2014 to see him, like the Rabbis, as a great tzadik, even if he did resist the temptation of betraying Potiphar by sleeping with his wife; brought his brothers to teshuvah (repentance) through an elaborate and risky ruse; forgave them for selling him into slavery; and apparently administered the entire wealth of Egypt without ever profiting personally from his position. Joseph seems too worldly for the role of tzadik, too complex, too much a man of action rather than reflection.

Read More
Power of Redemption

Power of Redemption

Nov 20, 2013 By Mitchell Cohen | Commentary | Vayeshev

The theme of oppression and redemption is repeated throughout Parashat Vayeshev, as we read of many instances in which pain and suffering lead to freedom and joy.

Read More
The Land of Sojourning

The Land of Sojourning

Nov 19, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayeshev

After the relative insecurity and turbulence of Jacob’s life (masquerading as his brother Esau, taking flight to Laban’s home, becoming the victim of deception vis-à-vis a wife and his wages, and the wrestling match of last week), Parashat Vayeshev opens with the hope of the patriarch transitioning into a calmer stage of life.

Read More
Forgetting to Remember for Posterity

Forgetting to Remember for Posterity

Dec 5, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Vayeshev

Remember the Sabbath day. Remember what Amalek did to you in the wilderness. Remember what God did to Miriam. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. Memory is integral to our identities as Jews and as individuals. What happens when we lose our memories, or our ability to remember altogether?

Read More
Transformative Women

Transformative Women

Jan 16, 2012 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Vayeshev

Male characters and voices dominate biblical literature, yet the near-absence of female characters is particularly striking in Parashat Va-yeishev. Here is the story of Jacob (his wives don’t appear) and his 12 sons (his daughter doesn’t appear) exploring the world of men—in the field, on the road, in the city, and in prison. These narratives are rough and even violent, and this tone carries over to the two stories in which women do appear: Judah’s coarse treatment of Tamar and Joseph’s encounter with Potiphar’s unnamed wife, who physically accosts him.

Read More
Slaves Will One Day Be Free

Slaves Will One Day Be Free

Dec 17, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Vayeshev

In the narrative unfolding of the biblical drama, the Joseph story accounts for the arrival of Jacob’s sons and their descendants in Egypt. It also serves to introduce one of the main themes to emerge from the rest of the biblical story: the overturning of oppression with redemption.

Read More
Going Up in Holiness

Going Up in Holiness

Nov 27, 2010 By David Levy | Commentary | Vayeshev | Hanukkah

Next Wednesday night, Hanukkah begins and Jews all over the world will gather around the menorah to light one candle for the first night of Hanukkah. We take it for granted that we light a candle on the first night, two on the second, and so on, but it could have been different.

Read More
Rituals and Ethics in our Food

Rituals and Ethics in our Food

Nov 27, 2010 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Vayeshev

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than forty-five million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the U.S. at Thanksgiving. In 2010, more than 242 million turkeys are being raised with an average liveweight per bird of twenty-eight pounds. By contrast, in 1970, only 105 million birds were raised, with an average liveweight of seventeen pounds.

Read More
The Challenge of Living Torah

The Challenge of Living Torah

Dec 11, 2009 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Vayeshev

I don’t think Jews are playing out a tale for which God wrote the plotline many centuries ago. Sometimes, however, the correspondence between archetypal biblical narrative and contemporary Jewish situation is remarkable. Consider today’s parashah as a case in point.

Read More
To Fulfill a Mitzvah

To Fulfill a Mitzvah

Dec 19, 2008 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayeshev

There is an interesting moment in this week’s parashah during Joseph’s search for his brothers. Initially, Joseph seeks them in Shechem, where Jacob supposes them to be. As Joseph fruitlessly seeks his brothers, a man who perceives that Joseph is wandering aimlessly asks Joseph the purpose of his search. When Joseph replies that he is seeking his brothers, the man tells him he has heard that they are headed for Dothan. Joseph then follows his brothers there, and the story unfolds of his sale as a slave and his descent to Egypt.

Read More
Joseph the Righteous One

Joseph the Righteous One

Dec 1, 2007 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Vayeshev

I have always been deeply curious as to why—of all the characters in the Torah—the Rabbis attributed to Joseph the appellation, “ha-Tzadik” (the righteous).

Read More
Greetings of Peace

Greetings of Peace

Dec 16, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayeshev

Greetings and farewells are significant in Jewish tradition. Appropriately enough, the word “shalom” meaning “peace” is often the thread that ties many of these expressions together. Sometimes, it is a simpleshalom; and other times, a warm embrace is accompanied by “shalom aleichem,” meaning “peace be upon you.” To which one responds by reversing the greeting “aleichem shalom” (“to you, may there be peace”).

Read More
Reset Search

SUBSCRIBE TO TORAH FROM JTS

Our regular commentaries and videos are a great way to stay intellectually and spiritually engaged with Jewish thought and wisdom.