This week’s Torah portion, Parashas Vayeishev, tells the famous story of Yosef HaTzaddik’s dreams and his family’s reactions to them. Soon after, Yaakov Avinu sends Yosef to check on his brothers and the brothers plot to kill him. Reuven saves Yosef and instead he is put into a pit. The brothers change their mind once again, however, when an Arab caravan comes by selling spices, and they sell them them to the Arabs.
The brothers come back to Yaakov Avinu and claim that Yosef is dead. Yaakov Avinu refuses to be comforted from the loss of his son Yosef and doesn’t believe them.
The story of Yehuda and Tamar is recounted, telling us the roots of the family of Dovid HaMelech in the birth of Tamar’s twins.
Yosef is sold down to Mitzrayim (Egypt) where he is bought as a slave in the home of Potifar, one of the high ranking officers in Mitzrayim. Potifar’s wife makes up a story about Yosef not doing his duties correctly and he is sent to jail.
In jail, Yosef meets the butler and baker of King Paroh (Pharaoh) and interprets their strange dreams. Yosef beseeches the butler to remember him upon his return to the palace but the butler promptly forgets him. And that’s how the parasha ends!
There’s so much to talk about in this parasha but let’s just focus on one seemingly insignificant part. Reuven, the oldest of the brothers, is concerned that the brothers are making a mistake in plotting to kill Yosef, so he convinces them to throw him into a pit instead. He intends to take him out after the brothers leave, but unfortunately for him, the brothers change their minds and sell Yosef away before Reuven can do anything about it.
The Midrash tells us that had Reuven known that the Torah would mention his effort to save Yosef, he would have picked him up on his shoulders and carried him back to Yaakov Avinu right away.
Why? For the honor of being written about in the Torah? Clearly that wouldn’t have been his intention, as Reuven was a very righteous person and wasn’t running after honor! Rather, if he would have realized that this small action of his was so important in history, that the Torah would write about it, he would have done it with that much more enthusiasm and excitement. Then, for generations, everybody would know how enthusiastic you should be when performing a mitzvah (commandment)!
Obviously the Torah is sealed; there are no more prophets recording people’s actions to be recorded in the twenty-four books of Tanach (Bible). Did you ever wonder, though, what happens with our actions?
Well, they are also being written down! Eliyahu HaNavi (the Prophet) and Moshiach himself are recording every world-affecting action that goes on in our days. And although we may not know it, those little things we do that seem to have no significance might be in that book!
Each of those actions is recorded in minute detail. In the times of Moshiach, the whole world might just know what you did today when you helped that nice lady with her baby and her groceries. Was it willingly? Were you smiling? Did you run out to help?
How do you want your actions to be recorded in the Book of our Lives?
(I don’t have precise sources but this concept is from my high school Chumash teacher, Mrs. Avruch)
Listening to one of my favorite songs, Yosef, by Ari Goldwag from his newest album Am Echad! Here’s the lyrics to this gorgeous song, partially based on this week’s Parasha! Enjoy!
A heavenly light shone upon his mind
Revealing the path he was meant to find
The dreams that he dreamt reflected this glow
He knew of his mission, his God-given role
A guide he would be to his nation’s first growth
They’d bow to his wisdom, embracing his hope
In all that would be, he’d show them the hand
Of Hashem’s guiding love, the bright future He’d planned
Yosef, Yosef, one day the world will know
Your dreams will be fulfilled and your heart will overflow
Yosef, Yosef, you’ll teach all of mankind
Reveal that secret light, let it shine for all times
So young at that time, the dreams that he’d share
Arousing such hatred, his brothers would dare
To send him away, left only to fate
But he’d never allow his heart to wallow in hate
Wherever he’d go, Hashem’s name was on his tongue
Success somehow followed every deed that he’d done
Each challenge he’d face with an unswerving faith
‘Til the day he was freed and to prominence raised
When their paths crossed again, the brothers seemed blind
To him it was clear it had now come the time
To cleverly guide and help them reclaim
The greatness inside have it fanned to a flame
They stood, as a wall, ‘round their father’s last son
They’d accomplished the goal, now they’d all join as one
Their betrayal and shame, he dismissed out of hand
It was all but a part of Hashem’s master-plan
Have a great Shabbos!