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Parshas Vayeshev

A Dream Come True
by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

The story of Yosef and his brothers is one of the most perplexing episodes related in the Torah. Seemingly the shevatim's hatred and jealousy of Yosef ran so deep that they almost killed him. They decided instead to throw him in a pit and subsequently sold him into slavery, causing endless misery and suffering to their aging father. However we must remember that we are discussing the shivtei Ka - no less than Hashem testifies to their righteousness and attaches His name to theirs. Therefore this parsha deserves more than a superficial reading, and we must avoid the temptation to judge the behaviour of the shevatim against the way we might choose to deal with sibling rivalry and other challenges we face in our personal lives.

More puzzling than the brother's treatment of Yosef was Yosef and his dreams. Yosef must have realised that the brothers despised him. Why then, did he insist on relating his dreams to them? This surely only added fuel to the fire. Later when they came down to Mitzrayim, the Torah states: "And Yosef recalled the dreams that he dreamt about themů." (42:9). Although Yosef did not take full advantage of his authority to avenge his kidnapping and humiliation, nevertheless he did imprison them and talk harshly to them. This was all done on account of his desire to see his dreams fulfilled. He exhorted the brothers to bring Binyamin down to Mitzrayim in order that all the shevatim would bow down to him in fulfilment of his dream. Is one permitted to inflict pain and suffering on another so that his dream may come true?

In answer to the last question, the commentators explain that Yosef perceived the dreams to be nevua, prophecies. He therefore felt it was his duty to bring them to fruition. To do otherwise would be withholding nevua, a grave sin. We might add that Yosef saw in this prophecy that he should act as he did. Perhaps the harsh treatment of the brothers was meant as atonement for their mistreatment of Yosef or as a test to see if they had fully repented and were committed to the unity of the shevatim. Ordinarily one cannot decide that someone else requires atonement or cause him or her grief, because one feels they deserve it. However Yosef felt compelled to do so because of his dreams. (Ramban, Ha'Emek Davar). Although this explains Yosef's behaviour in Egypt, his decision to relate the dreams in the first place requires clarification. The shevatim openly displayed their hatred to Yosef. So why would he choose to tell them about his first dream? Moreover, after seeing their hostile reaction to this dream, why did he continue and relate the second one to them? Wouldn't the dreams have been fulfilled even if the brothers were unaware that Yosef had dreamt them? (See however the Gra.)

The Seforno writes that the brothers perceived Yosef as a rodeif, one who pursues another with the intent to kill. In this situation, not only is it permissible, but indeed, all are obligated to kill the rodeif. Avraham Avinu had two children, Yitzchak and Yishmael. Yitzchak was righteous and was therefore chosen to carry on Avraham's mission and Yishmael was cast aside. Yitzchak also had two sons. Yaakov was the tzaddik and deserved to be chosen to be the next Av. Eisav on the other hand willingly spurned that role, disdaining the bechor, first born. Yosef's derogatory remarks about them, and Yaakov's favoritism concerning Yosef gave the brothers the impression that Yosef was portraying them as another Yishmael or Eisav and not as an integral part of the Jewish nation. He would be king and they would merely be second class citizens.

Realising this, Yosef related his dreams to allay their fears. In Yosef's dream, he was a bundle of wheat, symbolising that his authority would be for their benefit, providing them with sustenance (Malbim). Also in the dream they surrounded him and bowed down to him. This demonstrated that they willingly accepted him as ruler for if eleven people would surround one, they could easily tackle him. If they still bow to him, it shows their acquiescence to his authority. The brothers however were only angered by the dream. They claimed that if Yosef dreamt of being king, it demonstrated that his thoughts were only of ruling over them. His dream was not a prophecy, but the result of his megalomaniac imagination.

In Yosef's next dream, the brothers were stars. This showed Yosef's great respect for them. Also his father appeared in this dream. Surely, Yosef was not trying to rule over Yaakov Avinu. This is why he related the second dream. However once again it did not have the desired effect. The fact that Yaakov bowed down to him together with Yaakov's harsh rebuke of Yosef demonstrated that there was truth to this dream. It was not just a fantasy on Yosef's part, rather the Divine plan was for him to be ruler over them. However the seeds of jealousy and hatred that were already planted blinded the brothers from seeing the benevolent nature of Yosef's monarchy. They only saw him ruling over them and this they could not bear. All of Yosef's subtle overtures fell on deaf ears.

Although Yosef had to endure many years of hardship before his dreams were realised - he was thrown into a dangerous pit, sold into slavery, libellously charged and finally imprisoned - ultimately they were fulfilled. We too, must not become discouraged when faced with crisis and turmoil. In the end, our hopes and dreams will be fulfilled, we will merit the coming of Mashiach, and we will be reunited in Eretz Yisrael. May we witness it speedily in our days.

Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2001 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

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