Parshas Vayeishev
(Genesis 37:1 - 40:23)

Family Problems ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. James W. Belk, may he rest in peace.

The world we live in can be a very challenging place without the added difficulties of brotherly hatred. Even the meaning of the words brotherly and hatred are opposed to each other. Yet we are told that Yoseif's brothers hated him. "They could not speak to him peaceably." {Genesis 37:4}

Maybe we can relate to the jealousy Yoseif's brothers felt when Yaakov expressed more love for Yoseif than all ten of them combined. Maybe we share similar feelings with Yoseif's brothers. They were frequently reminded of Yaakov's deep love for Yoseif each time he wore the coat of many colors. He didn't have to flaunt it. He didn't have to wear it with an attitude. All Yoseif had to do was wear the coat of many colors. It was a living witness of Yaakov's great love for Yoseif.

Yet Yoseif was not wrong for wearing it because his father had given it to him! He wore it in honor of his father. When a man gives his wife a diamond, he is honored when she wears it OFTEN. It speaks of his great love for her. He receives great pleasure when she wears it! In a similar fashion Yaakov received great pleasure from Yoseif wearing his special coat.

After all Rachel, Yoseif's mother and the wife that Yaakov loved, was childless while Leah bore him six sons and a daughter and while Bilhah bore him two sons and Zilpah bore him two sons. There was this pent up frustration. Rachel's sister Leah and her half sisters Bilhah and Zilpah were sandwiched into this relationship with Yaakov. For seven long years they fussed, they competed with each other! For seven long years they bore him children. For six long years he hurt as Rachel went childless. For seven long years he provided for the wives he did not desire to marry. For seven long, hard years he assisted in the pains and hardships of raising children while longing, while desiring just for Rachel, his beloved wife, to bear him a son. Try to identify with Yaakov's pent up frustrations!

Then eventually after seven years of marriage, Yoseif was born. Yaakov in a short time poured out upon Yoseif seven years of backed up love. Yoseif was born to the wife he loved. Yoseif was the son he desired. He was the son that Yaakov labored fourteen years to have....

None of this was hidden. All the emotions, the feelings and the actions of Yaakov's wives, their children, relatives, servants, friends and enemies were visible. It was difficult to contain the floodgates of frustration, etc. Equally difficult were the obvious springs of expressions of overwhelming joy that Rachel's pregnancy and the birth of her son Yoseif evoked. All of this set the stage for pre existing difficulty for Yoseif.

Then Yoseif complicates very strained relations by giving evil reports of his brothers and by sharing his dreams. Then Yoseif stays at home with his father while his brothers catch the out of town assignments, keeping their enormous flocks. All of these surfacing emotions... all of these family problems... all of these feelings lead to Yoseif being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Family problems are real. They do happen. They are not just good bedtime stories for our children. They are powerful lessons! They are compelling places for each of us to connect with in the Torah! We can identify with these types of everyday problems.

One granddaughter receives Grandma's diamond ring while seventeen other granddaughters don't.

One son becomes the president of the family business. The other sons take orders from him even though he is not the brightest or the most qualified, each of them are...

The spouse of an extremely difficult relationship which ends in divorce produces children... the spouse of a loving relationship struggles just to have one child...

The father of the loving relationship pours out great love and affection on his children from that relationship. Then the spouse, children, relatives from the difficult relationship become angry, resentful, jealous, etc...

We see these emotions and many more in this week's parsha.

Seeing them is not enough. Understanding them is insufficient! Watching these storm clouds gather, the ones out of your control, the ones you are helpless in preventing are the ones bound to hurt and destroy those you love.

Which brings us to the emotions and feelings that Yitzchok and Rivkah saw between Eisov and Yaakov but could not prevent...

Which brings us to the emotions and feelings that Yitzchok as the grandfather of these children could see coming but could not prevent...

Which bring us to the emotions and feelings that Yaakov could see but didn't prevent... Maybe couldn't prevent?

Which brings us to the emotional edge of Yoseif's brothers when they made plans to kill Yoseif because of their pent up hatred. They actually kidnapped him, sold him into slavery and deceived Yaakov by placing Yoseif's coat in goat's blood.

Which brings us to the emotions and feelings of being kidnapped by our close kin, being sold into slavery, being falsely accused of improper sexual advances as a slave and being imprisoned.

All of these emotions and feelings are so sick... so awful.. so dreadful! One can only imagine how bad anyone of them might feel until G-d forbid we experience one or more. Unfortunately these are the nasty shape and difficult sudden turns of family problems.

When we see these problems we wonder where in the Torah are the answers...

We see the answers simply in forgiveness.

Yaakov did not retaliate against his sons for what they did... even though some may say on his deathbed he did.

Yoseif did not retaliate against his brothers for what they did... even though some may say as Viceroy he did.

Without long extended theological arguments, both Yaakov and Yoseif forgave the offenders. Within families it is impossible to extract enough justice to satisfy the offended party. It cannot be done!! The only solution is forgiveness! That means...

you let go of the thirteen years you mourned for Yoseif...
you let go of the thirteen years you were a slave
you let go of the years you were in prison...
you let go of the obvious overwhelming display of love one parent has for one child over the others
you let go of the mountains of hatred built one layer upon another

One simply lets go by forgiving...

If one cannot forgive then one lets go of as much as they can and forgives as much as they can and goes on the best they can...

If serious principles of Torah are at stake one hopes and prays for repentance and repair. One seeks rabbinical assistance as necessary. Then one goes on the best they can...

Only feeling sorry about an incident has impaired reach. However, heartfelt repentance, genuine ownership of an incident, determination not to repeat the incident and restitution where possible is the material that rebuilds broken bridges.

Other related subjects:

 If I Have Done Anything To Offend You

Am I Doomed By My Intentional Sin?

 Making A Visible Change

 But I Said I'm Sorry

 Separating From Parents Who are In Error

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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