From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/vayeishev
Vayeishev (וַיֵּשֶׁב — Hebrew for “[Jacob] settled”) – Gen. 37:1-40:23
Jacob now settled in the land of his father’s sojourning, in the land of Canaan. – Genesis 37:1
- Jacob is shown to favor his son Joseph, whom the other brothers resent. Joseph has dreams of grandeur. (Genesis 37:1-11)
- After Joseph’s brothers had gone to tend the flocks in Shechem, Jacob sends Joseph to report on them. The brothers decide against murdering Joseph but instead sell him into slavery. After he is shown Joseph’s coat of many colors, which had been dipped in the blood of a kid, Jacob is led to believe that Joseph has been killed by a beast. (Genesis 37:12-35)
- Tamar successively marries two of Judah’s sons, each of whom dies. Judah does not permit her levirate marriage to his youngest son. She deceives Judah into impregnating her. (Genesis 38:1-30)
- God is with Joseph in Egypt until the wife of his master, Potiphar, accuses him of rape, whereupon Joseph is imprisoned. (Genesis 39:1-40:23)
From The Haftarah Commentary, Gunther Plaut/Chaim Stern UAHC Press 1996 p.92
Connection of haftarah and sidra:
The sidra relates how young Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and in the first verse of the haftarah Amos castigates Israel for selling a tzaddik (righteous person) for silver. In the Talmud, Joseph is called tzaddik [B. Ketuvot 111a], and therefore the Rabbis assumed that Amos must have had a person like Joseph in mind when he used the term.
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/vayeishev
By: Rabbi Stacy Rigler
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH and REFLECTION
For Torah Study, instead of the portion from the Book of Genesis that is read on this Shabbat, we will read the Haftarah (a selection from the prophets) following this portion. This week we read Amos 2:6-3:8. Amos is particularly significant to the Reform Movement’s ongoing dedication to social justice. You can read this week’s Torah Portion at https://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.37.1-40.23 and the Haftarah we will be studying at https://www.sefaria.org/Amos.2.6-3.8
From “The Torah / A Women’s Commentary” edited by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D.
וישב Vayeishev – Genesis 37:1-40:23
Another View – by Susan Niditch, p. 226
POTIRHAR’S WIFE AND TAMAR provide two models of the feminine and help to forge the contrasting characterizations of Joseph and Judah.
Potiphar’s wife is overtly sensual and verbally aggressive. Like the negative archetype of the feminine in one passage of the book of Proverbs (7:1–23), she tempts the young man into sexual impropriety. Potiphar’s wife serves as a test in the initiation of Joseph, the young wisdom hero who refuses to allow a woman to make him unfaithful to his master.
Tamar, a young childless widow, becomes a trickster, a marginal figure who succeeds in indirect ways, by deceiving those in power. The trickster’s marginality may be rooted in gender, age, economic or social status. Biblical tricksters include Abraham (Genesis 12:1–10), Jacob (Genesis 27), Rebekah (Genesis 27), and Tamar. Tales of tricksters appeal to the underdog side of each of us, but they may have special appeal among groups who feel themselves out of power–for example, women in a world dominated by men.
In Genesis 38, the qualities of the feminine that limited Tamar become her source of strength. When Judah sends her back to her father with empty promises of giving her his third son in good time, Tamar, like other marginal females in ancient Israelite social structure, is caught betwixt and between social categories available to women–as virgins or as child-producing, faithful wives. Eventually, Tamar takes matters into her own hands. Dressing as a prostitute and standing at the crossroads in a double symbolization of her marginality, she becomes pregnant by Judah. Wisely she has demanded and then kept his pledges, symbols of his identity and status. Judah–who is no more appealing in this tale than in the selling of Joseph–orders that Tamar be burned alive when he hears she is pregnant, dismissing her with two words. But she–clever girl–produces the tokens that identify Judah as the father, and even he must admit he has been bested. Judah, coconspirator in the exile of Joseph, is one of the many biblical males, including Samson, Sisera, and Isaac, who are tricked by women’s wiles. It is Tamar’s right to bear children in Judah’s line, and the twins indicate abundant fertility. She will be the ancestress of kings. Tamar’s power is indirect, circumscribed by the realm of precreation and supported by tricksterism. It is a power, nevertheless, that is celebrated in the biblical tale.
Post-biblical Interpretations – by Carol Bakhos, pp. 226-228
Around that time (38:1). Pondering why the story of Joseph is interrupted by events in the life of his brother Judah, the Rabbis draw our attention to the pivotal roles women play in the lives of both men. Midrash B’reishit Rabbah 85.2 explains that Judah’s and Joseph’s adventures are juxtaposed “to bring the stories of Tamar and Potiphar’s wife into close proximity, in order to teach that as the former was actuated by a pure motive, so was the latter. For Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said: Potiphar’s wife saw by her astrological arts that she was to produce a child by Joseph, but she did not know whether it was to be from her–or from her daughter.” In fact, as related in B’reishit Rabbah 86.3, the Rabbis believed that the woman whom Joseph eventually married was none other than the daughter of Potiphar and his wife, since they identified Potiphar with “Potiphera priest of On,” Joseph’s future father-in law (41:45).
covered herself up with a veil (38:14). For the Rabbis, Tamar’s heroic actions displayed the wherewithal, foresight, and fortitude of a matriarch such as Rebekah. They allude to this association in B’reishit Rabbah 60.15 and 85.7: “Two covered themselves with a veil, and each gave birth to twins–Rebekah and Tamar.” Tamar’s behavior is considered a praiseworthy response to a situation of injustice.
he turned toward her (38:16). The Rabbis saw Tamar’s deception as foreordained since they believed that the messiah will ultimately arise from her long-ago union with Judah. B’reishit Rabbah 85.8 recounts that an angel intervened on Tamar’s behalf in order to make sure that Judah did not pass her by: “Rabbi Yohanan said: He wished to go on, but the blessed Holy One made the angel who is in charge of desire appear before him and say to him: ‘Where are you going, Judah? From where are kings and redeemers to arise?’ Thus: he turned toward her.”
a kid from the flock (38:17). B’reishit Rabbah 85.9 makes clear that Judah received his comeuppance: “The blessed Holy One said to Judah, ‘You deceived your father with a kid of goats [when you hid the truth about Joseph’s disappearance, 37:31–32], thus Tamar will deceive you with a kid of goats.”
“Your signet seal, your cord, and the staff in your hand” (38:18). In B’reishit Rabbah 85.9, the Rabbis further express their support for Tamar’s actions by interpreting the pledges that Judah gives her as emblems of (future) royalty.
she became pregnant by him (38:18). Even Tamar herself was mindful of the important role her descendants would later play. During her pregnancy, “she would pat her belly and exclaim, ‘I am big with kings and redeemers’” (B’reishit Rabbah 85.10).
A 1st-century-C.E. Jewish work known as Biblical Antiquities (by an unknown author usually referred to as Pseudo-Philo) presents Tamar as a role model for the Israelites in Egypt. In that account, Amram, Moses’ father, speaks of her as “our mother Tamar.” The emphasis falls on her determination to perpetuate the line of Judah despite risk–which Amram uses to encourage the people to continue to perpetuate life despite their slavery (Biblical Antiquities 9.5–6).
Judah … said, “She is more in the right than I” (38:26). According to B’reishit Rabbah 97, Judah was rewarded for his confession that he had wronged Tamar, since God delivers those who admit their misdeeds–and promises them a life in the world to come.
after all this, his master’s wife (39:7). Tamar and Potiphar’s wife are both presented in midrashic texts as powerful, beautiful, clever, and seductive women. However, while Tamar is universally praised because she ensured the future destiny of the tribe of Judah–from which the Davidic dynasty would eventually spring–Potiphar’s wife emerges as a more ambiguous figure. She is most often depicted as both seducer and seduced. She is portrayed as an immoral woman who meant to taunt and tease Joseph but was overwhelmed by his great beauty. According to B’reishit Rabbah 87.10, when Joseph was in prison, she would say to him: “See how I have made you suffer. By your life, I will persecute you in other ways too.” The midrash continues: “She went so far as to place an iron fork under his neck so that he should have to lift up his eyes and look at her. Yet in spite of that he would not look at her.” Rabbi Huna explains that Jacob’s outcry–“a wild animal has devoured him” (37:33)–was actually a moment of clairvoyance in which the distraught father perceived Mrs. Potiphar’s wicked ways and her obsession with Joseph (B’reishit Rabbah 84.19). Indeed, the more depraved and seductive she acted, the more commendable was Joseph’s resistance and display of honor.
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds especially directed at individuals and specific communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, 23 Kislev through 29 Kislev, we lovingly remember:
Father of Jane Kolber
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, December 16, 2022. For the next few months we will read and discuss the Haftarah, each selection from the prophets following the weekly Torah Portion.
Zoom regularly updates its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening with wine/grape juice for Kiddush and Challah for Motzi.
Topic: Torah Study – Haftarah Vayëshev: Amos 2:6-3:8
Time: Dec 16, 2022 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Dec 16, 2022 07:30 PM Arizona
To join Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat/Gut Shabbos
PS – Chanukah is two days away. This year, Chanukah begins at sundown on Sunday, December 18, 2022 and ends at nightfall on Monday, December 26, 2022. We are still looking at our options for a Chanukah gathering on Friday, December 23. We remain committed to keeping our Temple Kol Hamidbar community, friends, and family members as safe as possible.
PSS – About the Book of Amos (listed third of the Trei Assar):
From Jewish Encyclopedia
From My Jewish Learning
Timelines from Wikipedia