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Haftara of Parshat Vayeshev – Joseph and His Brothers – Comparing their relationship in the era of Yaakov & in the era of Amos

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Based on a class that R. Yehudah Shaviv of the Gush Etzion Yeshiva The prophet makes it clear about the crime of the sale of Joseph by his brothers. The decline of the house of Yaakov through the sale of Joseph and the moral decline of Yehudah are startling. Interestingly enough, these two stars who in the future will be the central components of the House of Yaakov, the Torah doesn’t shy away from sharing their flaws. If the sin of the sale expresses the difficult family division, then in contrast, in the time of Amos, another sin mentioned by the prophet expresses the apparent unity as the scripture states in verse 7, “A man and his father shall go to a young girl. However this unity is a desecration of G-d’s Holy Name. Instead of the father being an educational example before his son, the opposite happens. The father turns into a cause that assists the son to actively sin. There is not even shame before one to another. So too in our Parsha, we find a father and son having relations with the same woman, but under certainly different circumstances. Er, the first born son of Yehudah, married Tamar, but he deviated from the path of G-d and died. And so too, Yehudah’s second son Onan did not want to perform the mitzvah of kindness of marrying his sister in-law Tamar. When Tamar sees that she’s not being married by the family of Yehudah, she is insistent that she merit to be one of the building blocks of the future royalty of Israel, and dresses as a harlot, and Yehudah has relations with her—not knowing that she is his daughter in-law. However the result of this action unlike the desecration of G-d’s Name in the haftarah, is the sanctification of G-d’s name through the birth of Peretz who will bring down the lineage of the future king of Israel. Could Joseph also be hinted to in another section of our Haftarah? Vs. 16 says “the courageous heart of all the mighty, without clothing he shall flee on that day, G-d says.” It seems that the picture of Joseph that fled without his cloak amidst the enticing of Potiphar’s wife is what the prophet is hinting to and stands in his eyes as an exhibition of spiritual power and courage, unlike the failure of Yehudah with Tamar, as it states two verses beforehand: “And the mighty shall not escape.” What’s happening to the prophets and the Nazarites in Amos’ generation? In verse 11 and 12, the prophet rebukes the wicked of the generation, that in spite of G-d establishing in the nation of Israel prophets and Nazarites, there are wicked people that are enforcing and outlawing the prophets and the very pious Nazarites to function. Question: Is there a parallel to our portion of the week? It could seem that the root of this phenomenon when Joseph who is twice called a Nazarite, once by his father Yaakov in Gen. 49, and once by Moses in Deut. 33, is thrown into the pit and later sold by his brothers in spite of his prophetic dreams which gives us the message that in the future Joseph will be a king. In our Parsha, the Galut (Exile) has begun, as Joseph is brought down to Egypt, yet we learn from Amos in verse 10 that G-d took the Jewish people out of Egypt. To conclude, we learn about the great principle of faith that can be construed from the last sic verses of our Haftarah. All the decisions and action of the figures in our Tanach, that describe their downfalls and mistakes. We notice that Hashem at the same time is brewing great developments for His future nation. The Midrash points this out in Breishit Rabbah 85:1: the tribes were busy with the sale of Joseph, Joseph was occupied with his sackcloth and mourning, and the Almighty was creating the light of the Messiah.

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