Telephone Torah Study: Joseph in Living Color
This week’s Torah portion— Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)—tells of Joseph’s foibles, dreams, trials, tribulations and most famously his technicolor coat.
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Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) weekly Torah commentary, David Segal’s ‘Clothes Make the Story.’ He discusses how the recurring motif of clothing is the driving force in Vayeishev.
As the parashah opens, the tension between Joseph and his brothers reaches its boiling point. They conspire to kill him out of jealousy, for he is their father’s favorite son, but Reuben convinces them not to go that far. “So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colors that he had on; then they took him and threw him into a pit . . .” (Genesis 37:23-24).
It is darkly poetic that the brothers’ first act of violence against Joseph attacks his clothing, the special coat given him by Jacob as a sign of paternal favoritism. With Joseph out of the picture, the coat becomes the brothers’ vehicle for revenge against Jacob, too. They stain it with goat’s blood and show it to Jacob as false evidence that Joseph has been killed. “Do you recognize it?” (Genesis 37:32) they ask Jacob, rhetorically and cruelly. The sight of the special coat, now torn and bloodied, breaks Jacob’s heart.
Torah Verse of the Week
Yet Israel loved Joseph better than his other sons, for he was to him the son of his old age; he therefore made him a coat of many colors. (Gen. 37:3)
Take a quick look at last year’s suggested reading and torah verses for Vayeishev: click here