In this week's Torah reading of "Vayeshev", the central figure is Yosef. The Talmud tells us that before the appearance of Mashiach Ben David, there is another one, Mashiach Ben Yosef. Why do we need both?
Yosef’s behavior in relation to his brothers raises many questions. In the first stage, we find that the brothers hated Yosef because of Yaakov’s preferential treatment. However, afterwards, the dreams that Yosef had, which demonstrated his expectation to have full leadership, and especially the fact that he shared these dreams with his brothers, just made things worse. Regarding the dreams, the matter happened in two stages – first, he told them that he had dreams; then, he specified their details (see Bereishit 37:3-8). Why did Yosef, who saw that his brothers already hated him due to the special cloak his father made for him, continue to do things that exacerbated the hatred?
Are the miracles of Chanuka relevant in our generation? The answer is: more than ever. Let us start with this week’s parasha. Yosef’s sale into slavery, taking him from Eretz Yisrael to Egypt, could be described as the beginning of a period of exile – a long, painful path stemming from a loss of independence.
It is well known that Avraham and Sarah converted many to monotheism, as the pasuk says: “the people he made in Charan” (Bereishit 12:5). The midrash (Bereishit Rabba 84:4) expands on this phenomenon regarding all the forefathers. It demonstrates that Yaakov was also heavily involved in it. Yaakov instructed those around him (“his household and all who were with him”) to remove the idols from their midst (Bereishit 35:2-4). They infer from the first pasuk of our parasha that Yitzchak was also involved in conversions: “Yaakov lived in eretz megurei aviv.” While as written, this means the land of his father’s inhabitation, they read it as the land of “giyurei aviv” (of his father’s conversions). So we see that conversion was something in which our patriarchs and at least one of our matriarchs invested much time and energy.
After completing last parasha with a quick rundown of the genealogy and early history of Eisav’s family/kingdom, the Torah embarks on a much longer discussion of the emergence of Yaakov’s family into nationhood. Rashi (Bereishit 37:1) says that the discrepancy in length is due to Hashem’s special regard for our nation. Actually, it is not just the length of the discussion that is different but the fact that Eisav gets settled in his land and seems to effortlessly have a large, structured family with a leadership hierarchy, whereas Yaakov and family undergo many difficulties before becoming settled in their land.