Questions of Darkness and Illumination Joseph and Chanukah Parshat Vayeshev
Home and Exile: Havoc Wrought by Settling
1א

(א) וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּאֶ֖רֶץ מְגוּרֵ֣י אָבִ֑יו בְּאֶ֖רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן׃ (ב) אֵ֣לֶּה ׀ תֹּלְד֣וֹת יַעֲקֹ֗ב יוֹסֵ֞ף בֶּן־שְׁבַֽע־עֶשְׂרֵ֤ה שָׁנָה֙ הָיָ֨ה רֹעֶ֤ה אֶת־אֶחָיו֙ בַּצֹּ֔אן וְה֣וּא נַ֗עַר אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י בִלְהָ֛ה וְאֶת־בְּנֵ֥י זִלְפָּ֖ה נְשֵׁ֣י אָבִ֑יו וַיָּבֵ֥א יוֹסֵ֛ף אֶת־דִּבָּתָ֥ם רָעָ֖ה אֶל־אֲבִיהֶֽם׃ (ג) וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אָהַ֤ב אֶת־יוֹסֵף֙ מִכָּל־בָּנָ֔יו כִּֽי־בֶן־זְקֻנִ֥ים ה֖וּא ל֑וֹ וְעָ֥שָׂה ל֖וֹ כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים׃ (ד) וַיִּרְא֣וּ אֶחָ֗יו כִּֽי־אֹת֞וֹ אָהַ֤ב אֲבִיהֶם֙ מִכָּל־אֶחָ֔יו וַֽיִּשְׂנְא֖וּ אֹת֑וֹ וְלֹ֥א יָכְל֖וּ דַּבְּר֥וֹ לְשָׁלֹֽם׃

(1) Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan. (2) This, then, is the line of Jacob: At seventeen years of age, Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers, as a helper to the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. And Joseph brought bad reports of them to their father. (3) Now Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him an ornamented tunic. (4) And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him so that they could not speak a peaceable word to him.

2ב

רַב אַחָא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהַצַּדִּיקִים יוֹשְׁבִים בְּשַׁלְוָה וּמְבַקְּשִׁים לֵישֵׁב בְּשַׁלְוָה בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַשָֹּׂטָן בָּא וּמְקַטְרֵג, אָמַר, לֹא דַיָין שֶׁהוּא מְתֻקָּן לָהֶם לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא אֶלָּא שֶׁהֵם מְבַקְּשִׁים לֵישֵׁב בְּשַׁלְוָה בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה. תֵּדַע לָךְ שֶׁהוּא כֵּן, יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ עַל יְדֵי שֶׁבִּקֵּשׁ לֵישֵׁב בְּשַׁלְוָה בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה נִזְדַּוֵּוג לוֹ שִׂטְנוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף. וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב (איוב ג, כו): לֹא שָׁלַוְתִּי וְלֹא שָׁקַטְתִּי, לֹא שָׁלַוְתִּי מֵעֵשָׂו, וְלֹא שָׁקַטְתִּי מִלָּבָן, וְלֹא נָחְתִּי מִדִּינָה, וַיָּבֹא רֹגֶז, בָּא עָלַי רָגְזוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף.

Midrash on Desire for Tranquility

Rav Acha said: When the righteous sit in tranquillity and desire to sit in tranquillity in this world, the Satan acts as accuser. He exclaims “Is that which is set for (the righteous) in the World to Come not enough that they seek serenity in this world?” This is certainly the case – Yaakov Avinu sought to dwell in serenity in this world and the “Satan” of Yoseph attached himself to Yaakov – “And Yaakov dwelt … etc.”(Gen 37:1)

“I had no repose, no quiet, no rest, and trouble came.” (Job 3:26)

I had no repose – from Esav,

No quiet – from Lavan,

No rest - from Dinah,

And trouble (lit. anger) came – the trouble of Joseph. Genesis Rabbah 84:3

Babylonian Talmud on Settling
3ג

אמר רבי יוחנן כל מקום שנאמר וישב אינו אלא לשון צער

Rabbi Yoḥanan says: Everywhere that it is stated: And he dwelt, it is nothing other than an expression of pain, of an impending calamity,

4ד

Elie Weisel on the Dangers of Reassurance (Settling in your mind on answers)

"When will you understand that a beautiful answer is nothing? Nothing more than illusion! Man [sic] defines himself by what disturbs him and not by what reassures him.

When will you understand that you are living and searching in error, because God means movement and not explanation."

[The Wandering Jew. Elie Wiesel. Legends of Our Time pg.126]

5ה

Kedushat Levi on Chanukah: Upending Habituation

This is why the mitzvah is to be performed “between sunset and the time when feet [regel] disappear from the marketplace.” The setting sun refers to the hidden miracles, those that are not so easily seen. “Until the regel disappears from the marketplace” – you have to contemplate the Hanukkah candles until you overcome your sense that the world is conducted by the ordinary [hergel] force of nature . . . When you kindle Hanukkah lights, this thought disappears from you, and you no longer see the world as ordinary . . .

In this way you come to the faith that the hidden miracle is not merely natural, but that God is constantly re-creating the world, in every hour and moment. Sometimes God re-creates the natural order set into motion in the six days of Creation, and sometimes God changes something, like a revealed miracle. But once you accept that there are hidden miracles, you realize that all is constantly being re-created, even the established natural order .

Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740–1809), also known as the holy Berdichever, and the Kedushat Levi. He was a Hasidic master and Jewish leader. (At Romemu he is best known as Evelyn Goodman's ancestor).

6ו

Jacob and Joseph: Parallel Lives

Louis Ginsberg, Legends of the Jews. 2:1

Among the sons of Jacob Joseph was the one that resembled his father most closely in appearance, and, also, he was the one to whom Jacob transmitted the instruction and knowledge he had received from his teachers Shem and Eber. The whole course of the son's life is but a repetition of the father's. As the mother of Jacob remained childless for a long time after her marriage, so also the mother of Joseph. As Rebekah had undergone severe suffering in giving birth to Jacob, so Rachel in giving birth to Joseph. As Jacob's mother bore two sons, so also Joseph's mother. Like Jacob, Joseph was born circumcised. As the father was a shepherd, so the son. As the father served for the sake of a woman, so the son served under a woman. Like the father, the son appropriated his older brother's birthright. The father was hated by his brother, and the son was hated by his brethren. The father was the favorite son as compared with his brother, so was the son as compared with his brethren. Both the father and the son lived in the land of the stranger. The father became a servant to a master, also the son. The master whom the father served was blessed by God, so was the master whom the son served. The father and the son were both accompanied by angels, and both married their wives outside of the Holy Land. The father and the son were both blessed with wealth. Great things were announced to the father in a dream, so also to the son. As the father went to Egypt and put an end to famine, so the son. As the father exacted the promise from his sons to bury him in the Holy Land, so also the son. The father died in Egypt, there died also the son. The body of the father was embalmed, also the body of the son. As the father's remains were carried to the Holy Land for interment, so also the remains of the son. Jacob the father provided for the sustenance of his son Joseph during a period of seventeen years, so Joseph the son provided for his father Jacob during a period of seventeen years.

Descending into the Pit of Nothingness
7ז

(כב) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֣ם ׀ רְאוּבֵן֮ אַל־תִּשְׁפְּכוּ־דָם֒ הַשְׁלִ֣יכוּ אֹת֗וֹ אֶל־הַבּ֤וֹר הַזֶּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר וְיָ֖ד אַל־תִּשְׁלְחוּ־ב֑וֹ לְמַ֗עַן הַצִּ֤יל אֹתוֹ֙ מִיָּדָ֔ם לַהֲשִׁיב֖וֹ אֶל־אָבִֽיו׃ (כג) וַֽיְהִ֕י כַּֽאֲשֶׁר־בָּ֥א יוֹסֵ֖ף אֶל־אֶחָ֑יו וַיַּפְשִׁ֤יטוּ אֶת־יוֹסֵף֙ אֶת־כֻּתָּנְתּ֔וֹ אֶת־כְּתֹ֥נֶת הַפַּסִּ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָלָֽיו׃ (כד) וַיִּ֨קָּחֻ֔הוּ וַיַּשְׁלִ֥כוּ אֹת֖וֹ הַבֹּ֑רָה וְהַבּ֣וֹר רֵ֔ק אֵ֥ין בּ֖וֹ מָֽיִם׃ (כה) וַיֵּשְׁבוּ֮ לֶֽאֱכָל־לֶחֶם֒ וַיִּשְׂא֤וּ עֵֽינֵיהֶם֙ וַיִּרְא֔וּ וְהִנֵּה֙ אֹרְחַ֣ת יִשְׁמְעֵאלִ֔ים בָּאָ֖ה מִגִּלְעָ֑ד וּגְמַלֵּיהֶ֣ם נֹֽשְׂאִ֗ים נְכֹאת֙ וּצְרִ֣י וָלֹ֔ט הוֹלְכִ֖ים לְהוֹרִ֥יד מִצְרָֽיְמָה׃

(22) And Reuben went on, “Shed no blood! Cast him into that pit out in the wilderness, but do not touch him yourselves”—intending to save him from them and restore him to his father. (23) When Joseph came up to his brothers, they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the ornamented tunic that he was wearing, (24) and took him and cast him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. (25) Then they sat down to a meal. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels bearing gum, balm, and ladanum to be taken to Egypt.

8ח

The Experience of the Pit

Dara Horn, A Guide for the Perplexed

“The sides of the pit rose up around her, merciless surfaces of mud and stone. For a long moment, oxygen fled her brain, returning in a dizzying rush that flung her to the ground. She lay on her back, looking up at the sky, feeling the frantic rise and fall of her chest” (36).

9ט

The Light that Sustains us in the Pit

Tree of Souls Mythology of Judaism

Howard Schwartz

.....Jacob .....gave the stone to his beloved son, Joseph, when he gave him the coat of many colors. Jacob made Joseph promise to wear the stone all the time, but he did not reveal its power which he knew well. And because his brothers did not know the amulet was precious they did not take it from him when they stripped him of the coat of many colors and cast him naked into the dark pit.

Now snakes and scorpions lived at the bottom of the pit. And when Joseph heard them slithering and creeping in the dry leaves, he shivered in the darkness at the bottom of the pit. All at once a light began to glow and Joseph saw that it was coming from the amulet he wore around his neck. And as long as Joseph was in the pit, the amulet continued to glow and so that he was never afraid. At last Joseph heard Midianite traders call out to him from the top of that pit. They pulled him out of pit and brought him to Egypt where they sold him into slavery, and to the destiny that fate held for him, which was to become prince of Egypt.

When Joseph was imprisoned in the dungeon, he discovered that if he placed his tsohar in his cup and peered into it, he could read the future and interpret dreams. That is how he interpreted the dreams of the butler and the baker, and later the dreams of Pharaoh that prophesied the seven years of famine.

......

That cup, with the precious jewel in it, was placed inside Joseph's coffin at the time of his death, and remained there until Moses recovered Joseph's coffin and was told in a dream to take the jewel out and hang it in the Tabernacle, where it became known as the Ner Tamid, the Eternal Light. And that is why, even to this day, an Eternal Light burns above every ark of the Torah in every synagogue. (p.86)

Totalizing and Integrating
10י

ת"ר לפי שראה אדם הראשון יום שמתמעט והולך אמר אוי לי שמא בשביל שסרחתי עולם חשוך בעדי וחוזר לתוהו ובוהו וזו היא מיתה שנקנסה עלי מן השמים עמד וישב ח' ימים בתענית [ובתפלה] כיון שראה תקופת טבת וראה יום שמאריך והולך אמר מנהגו של עולם הוא הלך ועשה שמונה ימים טובים לשנה האחרת עשאן לאלו ולאלו ימים טובים

The Sages taught: When Adam the first man saw that the day was progressively diminishing, as the days become shorter from the autumnal equinox until the winter solstice, he did not yet know that this is a normal phenomenon, and therefore he said: Woe is me; perhaps because I sinned the world is becoming dark around me and will ultimately return to the primordial state of chaos and disorder. And this is the death that was sentenced upon me from Heaven, as it is written: “And to dust shall you return” (Genesis 3:19). He arose and spent eight days in fasting and in prayer. Once he saw that the season of Tevet, i.e., the winter solstice, had arrived, and saw that the day was progressively lengthening after the solstice, he said: Clearly, the days become shorter and then longer, and this is the order of the world. He went and observed a festival for eight days. Upon the next year, he observed both these eight days on which he had fasted on the previous year, and these eight days of his celebration, as days of festivities.