07 Dec Rabbi Hillel Skolnik’s Torah Spark for Parashat Vayeishev 5778 – Weekend of December 9, 2017
This Shabbat we read from Parashat Vayeishev which begins for us the story of Joseph and his brothers. The story begins with Joseph being sold by his brothers to a passing group of Ishmaelites who take him down to Egypt. It is worth noting that the brothers had originally planned not to sell Joseph into slavery, rather to kill him. It was the oldest brother, Reuben, who suggested the idea of casting him into a pit so that Joseph could later be returned to his father, a suggestion which saved Joseph’s life even as it lead to years of servitude. It seems that whenever we tell this sad tale of Joseph and his brothers, we have a tendency to see the brothers as purely jealous, hateful brothers who had no care for the wellbeing of the younger Joseph. And while that is mostly accurate, there are a few precious moments of attempted goodness by individual brothers that should not be overlooked. Reuben’s actions in this week’s Torah reading are the first of these instances. It reminds us that even people who act poorly and inappropriately throughout life have moments where their deeds are righteous and those moments of goodness and righteousness deserve to be highlighted and celebrated.
Rabbi Hillel Skolnik