The family dynamic in the Book of Genesis just keeps getting crazier with every parashah. This week, in Vayeshev, the enmity between Yosef and his brothers boils over and it almost leads to homicide. Instead, the brothers throw Yosef in a pit, sell him into slavery, and events cascade from there.
Parshat Vayeshev begins with the description of Ya’akov’s blatant display of favoritism toward Yosef. Then Yosef arrogantly shares his dreams of superiority with his brothers. If the reader can’t come to the obvious conclusion that they don’t get along well, the Torah spells it out: “They hated him so that they could not speak a friendly word to him” (37:4); “And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams” (37:8); “So his brothers were wrought up at him…” (37:11).
So what does Ya’akov do? “One time, when his brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem, Yisrael said to Yosef, ‘Your brothers are pasturing at Shechem. Come, I will send you to them” (37:12-13). Is Ya’akov the only person who doesn’t know how the relationship among his children has deteriorated? What was he thinking, sending Yosef into the middle of nowhere, unprotected, to be surrounded by people who can’t stand him?
Given what happened to Yosef as a result of this excursion, is it fair to say that Ya’akov was (at worst) guilty or at least complicit in Yosef’s exile? Was he fanning the flames of an intractable conflict? We’ll look at this episode and this theory on Shabbat morning.