Parashas Vayeishev

This week’s parashah describes the conflict between Yosef and his brothers. The Torah relates (Bereishis 37:3-4): “Now Yisrael loved Yosef more than all his sons because he was a child of his old age, and he made him a fine woolen tunic. And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and they hated him, and could not speak to him for peace (לשלום).” The Maggid notes that the prefix ל- on the word לשלום (which I rendered “for peace”) is peculiar and has caught the attention of many commentators; it would have been more natural for the Torah to write simply שלום. In addition, he remarks that it is puzzling that despite the various other points of contention between Yosef and his brothers, as recorded in Bereishis Rabbah 84:7 and noted by Rashi, the Torah chose to mention only the issue of the special tunic.
The Maggid explains the matter as follows. The Torah exhorts (Vayikra 19:17): “You must not hate your brother in your heart; you must surely reproach your neighbor, and not attribute sin to him.” We know that when a person’s hatred is stirred against a relative or neighbor because of some offence the other person committed against him, his subsequent state of mind depends on how he reacts to this feeling. If he keeps his hatred buried deep in his heart and refrains from reproaching the other person, his hatred will constantly build up more and more. But if he reproaches the other person right away, the other person has a chance to explain what he did, and it often will emerge that he had absolutely no evil intent. The offended person’s anger will then quickly die down, and the two parties will make peace with each other. Accordingly, the Torah teaches that when a person feels that someone has wronged him, he must reproach him, and thereby avoid attributing sin to him, for the other person will be able to explain his actions and clear himself.
Now, Yosef’s brothers hated him on account of various apparent offences. With regard to each of these issues, the brothers could approach Yosef, speak to him about the matter, and give him a chance to explain, and thereby open the way for the two sides to make peace. But in regard to Yaakov’s loving Yosef more than his brothers and giving him a special tunic, there was no way for Yosef to explain and dissolve his brothers’ hatred, for Yaakov, and not Yosef, was the one who had generated this source of resentment. It is now easy to see why the Torah mentioned only the matter of the tunic and not the other issues. And it is easy to see what the Torah meant when it said that the brothers could not speak to Yosef “for peace” – they could not initiate a discussion with Yosef about the issue in an attempt to make peace.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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