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Parshat Va-Yeishev

Talk about a collision of worlds: Shabbat Mom thinks this week's parsha is the Biblical version of her favorite Brady Bunch episode, the one in which middle-child Jan Brady yells, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" because she's sick of hearing about her perfect big sister! Jacob’s sons are furious that their father clearly favors their younger brother Joseph (in fact he "loved him more than any of his brothers"). Jacob's gift to Joseph of an "ornamented tunic" (seen here in the duct-tape version) doesn't help matters: the brothers “hated him so that they could not speak a friendly word to him”. When tone-deaf Joseph shares his symbolic dreams about his elevated status, the band of brothers conspire to kill him.

Ultimately, thanks to the intervention of Reuben and Judah, the brothers decide instead to cast Joseph into a pit and sell him to “Midianite traders...for twenty pieces of silver”. Jacob, shown Joseph’s bloody “tunic” that the brothers have dipped in an animal’s blood, believes that his beloved boy is dead and “(mourns) for his son for many days”. Meanwhile, a new chapter begins for Joseph—and ultimately for the Jewish People—as he is brought to Egypt. Joseph works in the home of Potiphar, “a courtier of Pharoah and his chief steward” and attracts the unwanted attentions of Potiphar's lusty wife. Joseph is thrown in jail after his spurned mistress falsely accuses him of sexual assault (there was no #MeToo movement for men in those days). Imprisoned, Joseph interprets his cell mates' royal dreams, a gift that eventually will lead to his freedom. In the middle of Va-Yeishev there's another dysfunctional family tale that takes Shabbat Mom's breath away. (That's the beauty of Bereshit: all these crazy family dynamics make you feel better about your own!) When Judah’s son Er dies, Er’s widow Tamar, according to ancient law, is entitled to marry her late husband’s brother Onan. But Onan “knowing that the seed would not count as his, let it go to waste whenever he joined with his brother’s wife...”. But what he does is “displeasing to the Lord...” and Onan dies as well. Judah, fearing that Tamar is bad luck, refuses to turn over his son Shelah, next in line. So Tamar, a strong-willed woman determined to get her due, disguises herself as a “cult prostitute” and tricks her father-in-law into impregnating her.

Shabbat Shalom!

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