Vayeishev -- Genesis 37:1–40:23

CoatLife is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake up and live!

The Hebrew Bible seems to go out of its way to counter this vision proffered by Jamaican reggae artist, Bob Marley (1945-1981). Jealousy, sibling rivalry, preferential treatment -- all necessary elements of intrigue in any gripping novella -- are surprisingly integral to the narrative of Joseph.

Jacob singles out Joseph, born late, with his gift of a multi-colored tunic. The gift causes Joseph's brothers to become murderously jealous, but Joseph recounts and interprets dreams of his siblings’ plots against him. The tunic itself serves as a leitmotif, a recurring symbol linking episodes of the narrative to Joseph’s trials: (1) it is dipped in blood per Reuben’s suggestion, thereby staving off the other brothers desire to kill Joseph and instead allowing them to convince Jacob that his favorite son was devoured by a wild beast; (2) Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce Joseph but he flees, leaving the tunic in her hands; (3) finally imprisoned and stripped of his tunic, Joseph wears a prison garb.

Yet it is in this darkest of prisons that Joseph interprets the disturbing dreams of the chief butler and baker -- both incarcerated for offending their royal master, the Pharaoh. Joseph’s expectations of intercession on his behalf, whether as the favorite son or as the dream interpreter in jail, lead nowhere.

Ultimately, Joseph comes to realize that his own redemption depends on his developing a new, more mature appreciation of his ability to interpret dreams: how much is original and how much is a divine gift?

- Rabbi Glazer

Image credit: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," by Jennifer Caprio, 2014 (costume design patterned on Marc Chagall’s stained-glass windows at Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem)