Torah: Genesis 37:1 - 40
Haftarah: Amos 2:6 - 3:8
Brit Chadashah: Matthew 1:1 - 6, 16 - 25
As we examine this week’s portion, the Torah almost immediately identifies Joseph as the favored son of Jacob (Israel), seemingly setting Joseph up for what the trademark of his life will be - suffering. Looking at the life-events of Joseph, as well as all of the other Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the early rabbis said, “Everything that happens to the Patriarchs is a signpost for their children and decreed to happen to their descendants” - Nachmanides. Thus, we can look at the lives in two ways - as lessons regarding our faith in Adonai, as well as prophetic signs dealing with Israel’s future. When we look a the lives of the patriarchs as signposts in regards to our faith, we often see that within the midst of trial of tribulation, there is hope. Yet, on the other hand, when we look at the lives of patriarchs as prophet signposts in regards to Israel’s future, we see that our hope actually has its fulfillment - the Messiah. But much like what was happening at this time, hope is sometimes difficult to see, when either all looks lost or, we, ourselves, stand in the way.
In Jewish tradition, the words “vayeshev” have never been followed by anything good. This is because when these words appear in Torah - “and he settled” - they appear in times of complacency and where places that the patriarchs weren’t supposed to “settle,” but instead move on toward the promise. Thus, it can be said that the reasons trial and tribulation came upon Israel and the patriarchs during these times, was because they “settled” in places they weren’t called to settle. This is to also mean that we aren’t called to live lives of complacency, because our faith compels us not to complacency, but to action - as it is written, “So also faith, if it does not have works is dead by itself. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works” - Jac 2:17-18. Later on in Torah, we would see another consequence of “settling” when Israel “settled” in Egypt - as it is written, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” - Ex 1:8. Of course we know what happened shortly after this new Pharaoh arose to power - it would only through exodus that Israel would gain freedom - leaving a world that had them enslaved in order to be free. Adonai does not call us to complacency. He calls us to faith - and to faith in action. As it is written, “The righteous shall live by emunah (faith)” - Rom 1:17; Hab 2:4.
If we examine the spiritual implications of “settling” we quickly learn that Adonai has not called us to “settle.” The Scriptures are filled with commandments that tell us the contrary - the greatest of these is this, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh” - Mt 28:19. Early rabbis expressed that the Hebrew word “yeshev” (to settle), implies that when one “settles” one also adopts and becomes a part of that place where they settled. In other words, one begins to live as those who are citizens of that certain place in which one settles. The early rabbis said that this was actually one of the reasons why Israel faced so many hardships whenever they “settled” in a place where Adonai commanded them not to remain. For, every time they “settled” they perhaps drew further away from the ways of Adonai and closer to the ways of the world in which they “settled.” Yet, in addition to this, the people of the lands did not desire to know the G-D of Israel, and simply hated Israel for who they were - the Chosen People of Adonai. Messiah taught us two things concerning this truth. One, we may be in this world, but we are not of this world - we are not called to settle in this world and adopt it ways. Secondly, the world simply hates us for who we are - Children of Adonai. As Messiah Himself said, “I have given them Your Word; and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” - Jn 17:14.
Of all the trials and tribulations that exist in this world, it is the trial and tribulation of temptation that affects us the most - as Messiah Yeshua warned us, “Keep watching and praying, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” - Mt 26:41. As we read on in our portion, we soon see that even Joseph himself wasn’t exempt from temptation, as he soon became its victim in the form of Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39). Yet, in this moment of temptation, Joseph was able to remain pure, as the Torah tells us that Joseph fled (Gen 39:13). Temptation is indeed a daily trial for the believer as long as we remain in this world. Yet again, we must remind ourselves, that although we may be in this world, we are not part of this world. Thus, when temptation comes upon us we must stand firm and flee from it (1 Col 16:13; 2 Tim 2:22) for Adonai has provided a way for us to escape its grasp - as it is written, “No temptation has taken hold of you except what is coming to mankind. But God is faithful - He will not allow you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so you be able to endure it” - 1 Col 10:13. By keeping our eyes and minds focused on Messiah Yeshua and His sacrifice, we are able to endure temptation so that we are able to flee far from as Joseph did - as it is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” - Deut 8:1; Mt 4:4.