As if we haven’t seen enough of this throughout the book of Bereshit, our parashah this week includes another episode of favoritism. “VeYisrael ahav et Yosef mikol banav–Now Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons” (Genesis 37:3). What is the Torah’s given reason for this? Because Yosef was a Ben-zekunim lo–a child born in Ya’akov’s old age. But the Torah’s logic is curious, because Ya’akov was even older when Binyamin was born!
Maybe Ya’akov gave Yosef special treatment because there was something inherently special about this son?
There’s a hint of this explanation in Ya’akov’s reaction to hearing Yosef share his dreams with him and his increasingly hostile brothers. “The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me,” he tells them. “And when he told it to his father and brothers, his father berated him. ‘What,’ he said to him, ‘is this dream you have dreamed? Are we to come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow low to you to the ground?’ So his brothers were wrought up at him, and his father kept the matter in mind.” (37:10-11)
In one verse, Ya’akov berates Yosef; in the next, he “kept the matter in mind” while his other sons stewed in anger. That leads us to wonder about the tone and content of Ya’akov’s reprimand. Is he yelling at Yosef for content or form? That is, does Ya’akov reject the dream, or does he accept it and scream at Yosef for boasting about it? Does Ya’akov’s “keeping the matter in mind” in the next verse offer any clues, and does it help or hinder the family dynamic?
On Shabbat morning in shul, we’ll look at one traditional commentator’s take on Ya’akov’s response to the dream. Then, we’ll see a new approach to the Yosef story that sees him as a special-needs child. See you then…
Rabbi David Wise