Parashah #9: Vayeshev ( He continued living) B’resheit ( Genesis 37:1-40:23)

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #9 Vayeshev (He continued living) Genesis 37:1-40:23
Haftarah: ‘Amos (Amos) 2:6-3:8
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:9-16

This week we are going to focus on a couple narratives in our parashah. First, it is important to know who the sons were that plotted against Yosef in the first section of this week’s parashah. We read in Gen. 37:2 that Yosef was with the sons of Bilhah, and the sons of Zilpah; not the biological sons of Leah and Rachel. Bilhah’s sons were Dan, (he judged), and Naftali (my wrestling) (Gen. 30:5-8). Zilpha, Leah’s slave-girl bore Gad (good fortune), and Asher (happy) (Gen 30:9-13). Re’uven (see, a son) was Ya’akov and Leah’s first son.
Re’uven was the one that convinced the others not to kill Yosef but throw him in the empty cistern for a planned later rescue. Then Judah (Leah’s 4th son) introduced the idea of selling Yosef to the traveling caravan instead of killing him. Re’uven had exited the scene at this point and was unaware of this event. However, when he returned, he took part in the dipping of Yosef’s robe in the blood of a male goat. Fast forward a moment to Yahshua’s crucifixion. His garments were taken, he was sacrificed as an olah offering, a total consecration such as was commanded by G-d using a male goat, a goat without blemish. As the blood used to saturate Yosef’s robe was a symbol or antitype of the covering of our PAST sins (Rom. 3:25; 2 Pet. 1:9) with the blood of Yahshua. Ya’akov’s grief for his beloved son was a symbol of the grief experienced by G-d at the physical death of Yahshua.
The scripture abruptly switches to Judah who left his brothers and married a Kena’ani woman. This was a problem from the start. First, we notice that the Scripture does not immediately tell us exactly where Judah settled other than “near a man named Hirah who was an ‘Adulami.” (Gen. 38:1). We must ask ourselves what these names mean and why is it important to mention them. After all, what about any other men that may have been in the vicinity. “Hirah” is translated as hi’-ra (chirah; Septuagint Eiras): A native of Adullam, and a “friend” of Judah (Gen. 38:1,12). The Septuagint and the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) both describe him as Judah’s “shepherd.” Adullam (Heb. עֲדֻלָּם) was a city in Judah, originally a Canaanite town in which Hirah, a friend and father-in law of Judah resided (Gen. 38:1, 12, 20). But the narrative goes on to say Judah saw one of the daughters of the Kena’ani who was named Shua, and he married her (sleeping with someone in those days meant you were married to him or her). Now we know that Adullam was a Canaanite city. Through Shua which means “salvation,” Er was born. The name “Er” translates as “evil.”
You will notice a seeming oddity in Chap.38:3-5. Note that Y’hudah named his firstborn Er but “she” named the other two boys. According to the Zohar, there is a profound mystical allusion n these sentences. “Thus, Judah going down from his brethren symbolizes the moon becoming obscured and descending from the perfect grade to another grade to which the serpent becomes associated, as is indicated in the statement “ and he turned into a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.” Er was evil on the sight of Adonai and He killed Er. The description of “evil” echoes the sentence “ for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21).
Onan was also killed because he spilt his seed on the ground and not uphold the laws of the Levirate marriage, providing children for one’s brother. From the rabbinic Jewish perspective, Er and Onan did not want Tamar’s beauty to be marred by pregnancy. They believed that any children with Tamar would be a reincarnation of Er’s soul; Ramban describing the process of yibum by which the soul of the deceased brother gains a new life as one of the mysteries of the Torah. As Messianic Jews, we do not subscribe to the concept of reincarnation in that each soul is an individual given the breath of life for a specific role in making G-d’s Name known throughout the nations. There are no second chances once our souls depart our physical bodies and returns to our Creator.
Self- nullification is a consistent Torah theme illustrated again in this parashah. In this narrative we read of how Tamar was willing to be burnt at the stake rather than embarrassing Judah (Gen. 38:24-5). She had every opportunity to save her life by revealing that the items in her possession belonged to Judah. However, she gave greater emphasis to the embarrassment that Judah would endure if she identified his personal items, so she remained quiet. The Talmud deduces from this that a person must give his life before embarrassing someone else (Bava Metsia, 58b). Keep in mind that this is a rabbinic interpretation, but it is worthy of considering in the context of doing our best to spare someone embarrassment in our everyday activities. How many of us protest loudly and without restraint when it comes to protecting our integrity over saving another embarrassment? We find in Phil. 2:1-30 admonishment not to do anything out of rivalry or conceit but out of humility count others more significant than ourselves. We should not look only to our own interests, but also to the interests and well-being of others. Tamar’s actions demon-strated the epitome of restraint, wisdom, and humility for which Adonai rewarded her with twin boys Peretz (breaking out) and Zerach ( scarlet), the descendants of Peretz to include the Davidic line including our Messiah Yahshua (Matt. 1:3-5; Luke 3:23-33)!
Haftarah: Amos 2:6-3:8
This week’s haftarah reflects back on our parashah to the sale of Joseph by his brothers. Amos opens with the bad news first; G-d had been patient with Israel notwithstanding their transgression of the three cardinal sins; sexual impropriety, idolatry, and murder. Their fourth sin was the last straw; the mistreatment of the innocent, widows, orphans, and the poor.
G-d reminds the Israelites people how He lovingly took them out of Egypt and led them through the desert for forty years to the Holy Land. Yet the people did not respond appropriately. They gave wine to those who took the Nazarite vow and told the prophets not to prophecy. Amos then describes G-d’s punishment: “And the stouthearted among the mighty shall flee naked on that day, says the L-rd.”
This passage ends with an admonition from G-d, one that recalls His eternal love for His people: “hearken to this word which the L-rd spoke about you, O children of Israel, concerning the entire nation that I brought up from the land of Egypt. Only you did I love above all the families of the earth; therefore, I will visit upon you all your iniquities…” As opposed to other nations to whom G-d has not singled out to live as an example to the world of how believers are to live for G-d and relate to others, G-d’s love for His treasured people (Ex. 19:5) causes Him to punish them for their misdeeds, to cleanse them and prod them with His rod of justice and staff of grace and love back onto the path of the just, just as He outlined what is necessary for us to become and remain a treasure unto Him in Exodus 19:5. Remember, He chastises those he loves (Heb 12:6) and His will is perfect (Psalm 18:30). But we are required to obey G-d’s mitzvot, statutes, and rulings.
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:9-16
“Now the Patriarchs grew jealous of Yosef and sold him into slavery in Egypt. But Adonai was with him; he rescued him from all his troubles and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him administrator over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine that caused much suffering throughout Egypt and Kena’an. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. The second time, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. Joseph then sent for his father Jacob and all his relatives, 75 people. And Jacob went down to Egypt; there he died, as did our other ancestors. Their bodies were removed to Sh’khem and buried in the tomb Avraham had bought from the family of Hamor in Sh’khem for a certain sum of money.”
Joseph’s life reveals a parallel to Yahshua’s to a degree:
Joseph was a type of Yahshua/ Messiah to his people. G-d gave Joseph favor and wisdom for his appointed mission in life. Similarly ,G-d in the role of Father provided Yahshua (G-d in the role of Son and Messiah) all he needed for his earthly ministry.
Joseph was appointed the chief administrator over Egypt. Yahshua was appointed King of Israel and L-rd of the entire universe.
Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery and taken to Egypt that characterized the epitome of all that represented sin. Yahshua was a righteous man sold into the hands of the unrighteous for silver.
Joseph had to live in the world of sinful Egypt, but he kept himself separated even in prison and even when Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him. He remained close to G-d and consistently exemplified his faith through his behavior. Similarly, Yahshua came to a sinful world to show us how to live G-d’s Torah not only by His teachings, but by example.
Joseph prepared Egypt for the food famine that was about to strike the land. Yahshua shows us how to prepare for the famine to come when the world will no longer have the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) present.
Joseph withheld his identity from his brothers until the second time they went to him and confessed what they had done to him, not knowing they were speaking to him. Similarly, the majority of Jews did not recognize Yahshua for who he is the first time He came to earth.
Joseph finally identified himself after his brothers after they confessed their sin against him. Yahshua will open the eyes of our Jewish brethren and identify Himself when He returns the second time when they will say “Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai.” Unfortunately, these will be martyred for their faith during the Tribulation. The time is coming soon. May we study and internalize the truths of G-d’s Torah that provides us so many examples of how He teaches and leads those who are called and respond. Learn to practice self-nullification diligently with the ultimate goal of ascending to YHVH/Yahshua and serving Him in the world to come even as we live in the present world as did John the Baptist. We too must decrease because Moshiach Yahshua must increase (John 3:30-35).
For additional learning:
Masoretic text, (from Hebrew masoreth, “tradition”), traditional Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible, meticulously assembled and codified, and supplied with diacritical marks to enable correct pronunciation. This monumental work was begun around the 6th century AD and completed in the 10th by scholars at Talmudic academies in Babylonia and Palestine, in an effort to reproduce, as far as possible, the original text of the Hebrew Old Testament. Their intention was not to interpret the meaning of the Scriptures but to transmit to future generations the authentic Word of God. To this end they gathered manuscripts and whatever oral traditions were available to them. The Masoretic text that resulted from their work shows that every word and every letter was checked with care. In Hebrew or Aramaic, they called attention to strange spellings and unusual grammar and noted discrepancies in various texts. Since texts traditionally omitted vowels in writing, the Masoretes introduced vowel signs to guarantee correct pronunciation. Among the various systems of vocalization that were invented, the one fashioned in the city of Tiberias, Galilee, eventually gained ascendancy. In addition, signs for stress and pause were added to the text to facilitate public reading of the Scriptures in the synagogue.
When the final codification of each section was complete, the Masoretes not only counted and noted down the total number of verses, words, and letters in the text but further indicated which verse, which word, and which letter marked the center of the text. In this way any future emendation could be detected. The rigorous care given the Masoretic text in its preparation is credited for the remarkable consistency found in Old Testament Hebrew texts since that time. The Masoretic work enjoyed an absolute monopoly for 600 years, and experts have been astonished at the fidelity of the earliest printed version (late 15th century) to the earliest surviving codices (late 9th century). The Masoretic text is universally accepted as the authentic Hebrew Bible.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart