Vayeshev – Perspective
The great saga of Joseph’s life begins in this week’s reading. Jacob has a deep attachment to Joseph and he favors him as the child of Rachel. He spends more time with Joseph than with his other sons and is not at all subtle with his favoritism. Joseph’s brothers resent this and they begin to dislike Joseph. The rift between Joseph and his brothers grows deeper when Joseph relays his dreams to them, dreams of superiority over his brothers and of royalty.
It was, perhaps, immature of Joseph to relay these dreams to his brothers, effectively boasting of his destiny. It also shows a great degree of naivete in Joseph. He seems oblivious of his brothers’ hatred toward him despite no attempts on their part to conceal it. Should Joseph have turned down his father’s request to visit his brothers? And Jacob? Could he not see what was happening? His father Isaac had shown similar favoritism to Jacob’s brother, which Jacob had to work hard to overcome. One would hope that Jacob would have learned from the errors of his father.
Joseph accepted his father’s mission to travel to his brothers and report about their welfare. Upon seeing his approach his brothers conspired to kill him. They wished to finally be rid of this ‘dreamer’ who was such a pain in their sides and in fact was a mortal danger to them (see seforno commentary). First Reuben intervened, insisting that they not kill him directly, rather allow him to die on his own in a pit. Then Judah recommended selling Joseph as a slave to passing merchants rather than kill him.
By selling him into servitude Joseph’s brothers were ensuring that Joseph’s dreams would never materialize. They would never be forced to subjugate themselves to a slave and they would never have to bow before him. Little did they know that their actions were hastening the fulfillment of the dreams. Joseph’s destiny of rising to power in Egypt was set into motion by that very sale into servitude.