Parashat Vayeshev

Joseph's dreams anger his brothers, who sell him into slavery in Egypt, where he eventually ends up in prison, still interpreting others' dreams.

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Meanwhile, Joseph was now sold to Potiphar, the chief of the cooks for the Egyptian Pharaoh.

Yehudah & Tamar

Yehudah, who had had the idea to sell Joseph, removed himself from his brothers and married in another land. He became a father to many children. His first-born son, Er, married a woman whose name was Tamar.

But, Er was evil in the eyes of God and God caused him to die. The second son was also displeasing in the eyes of God and God caused him to die. Yehudah then decided Tamar would stay with them and he would give her his youngest son in marriage. When Yehudah does not follow through on his promise, Tamar goes out one night dressed like a widow. She sat waiting for Yehudah to come home from shearing sheep.

Mistaking Tamar for a prostitute rather than his daughter-in-law, Yehudah is intimate with Tamar and she conceives their child. Later Yehudah finds out that his daughter-in-law Tamar has prostituted herself and become pregnant. He orders her to be burned (not realizing that she is the prostitute with whom he was intimate) until she shows him the gifts that he had given her. Yehudah recognizes them saying, "Tamar is more righteous than I because I did not give her my youngest son as I had promised." Yehudah did not ever become intimate with Tamar again, but there were twins in her womb.

Joseph The Interpreter

In Egypt, Joseph was flourishing, with God's help, under Potiphar. He became Potiphar's personal servant and overseer of his property. Then Potiphar's wife sought to be intimate with Joseph. Joseph refused, saying "How can I possibly commit such a great wickedness against Potiphar and a sin against God?"

In response, Potiphar's wife blamed Joseph for trying to seduce her. Potiphar was livid to hear such news and cast Joseph into the Pharaoh's dungeon. But God was with Joseph and caused Joseph to find favor in the eyes of the chief of the prison.

The chief of the prison selected Joseph to oversee all the other prisoners, for it was known that God was with Joseph and that whatever Joseph did, God caused it to succeed.

Then the Pharaoh's butler and baker were sentenced to the jail where Joseph was the overseer. They both dreamed one night. The next morning Joseph could see they were troubled. They told him that they each had vivid dreams and were seeking an interpreter.

"Do not interpretations belong to God?" said Joseph. "Please tell it to me."

The chief butler went first. "I had three vines which bloomed into cluster of ripe grapes. I pressed the grapes into the Pharaoh's cup and gave it to him."

"Your job as butler will be restored in three days," interpreted Joseph. "Now please remember me to the Pharaoh if this comes true, so I shall get out of jail. I am innocent."

Then the baker told his dream. "There are three baskets of all kinds of baked foods and the birds ate them out of the basket on my head."

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.