This week’s parshah from the Torah is Vayeshev, which translates to “and he lived.” While I don’t generally use this blog as a weekly Torah study or discussion (there are plenty of scholars and rabbis who beat me to the punch), I think that this particular week’s portion is worth talking about, if not only for its widespread prevalence in popular culture. Vayeshev introduces us to the famous Joseph and his colorful tunic, coat, or whatever one wants to refer to it as. Many of us know the story of Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, and his jealous brothers. Perhaps you have even seen the Donny Osmond version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” To summarize, Joseph really grinds the gears of his brothers when he tells them of a particular dream that he has had. Joseph lets his brothers know that in this vivid dream the whole family was putting sheaves of wheat together, when suddenly Joseph’s sheaf stood up tall, and his brothers’ sheaves all began to bow to his. Oy.
Now, for those of you who don’t know the rest of the story; this outright arrogance got Joseph shipped to Egypt, where he eventually fell into favor with the Pharaoh, and moved up the corporate Egyptian ladder. When Jacob and his other sons were desperate during extreme famine, they eventually traveled to Egypt, and begged the now-successful and powerful Joseph for help. Ultimately, Joseph’s initial dream came to fruition. Lesson–Joseph was a master dream interpreter, but certainly could have used some lessons in social tact and humility.
In all seriousness, I found myself quite interested in Joseph’s dream of sheaves of wheat. After doing some reading, I stumbled across a lesson from the parshah that truly resonated with me. According to Rabbi Menachem Feldman, The collection of disparate stalks of wheat into a bundle could actually be representative of the purpose of the Jewish people. What does that mean? To me…
Perhaps, the ultimate journey of the Jewish people is to collect all of the moments that occur throughout lifetimes and to tie them together into a meaningful purpose. I often write about the living of life Jewishly, and finding the profundity in everything. It is easy to feel a great sense of divine purpose when praying at schul, but those moments are specific and relegated to particular times of the week. How do we live with purpose while simply walking down the hall, filling out paperwork, or waiting in line at the DMV? It can often be difficult to appreciate the beauty and divinity that encompasses us at all times. If we are living our lives with intention, or that wonderful Kavanah (Read my post about Kavanah!), perhaps we can move in a direction wherein we are beginning to bundle those seemingly dissimilar stalks of wheat into a consequential collection.
If one truly ascribes to the ideas of Tikkun Olam (the healing of the world), every breath of life is a possibility for divinity. Every deed, even the seemingly most miniscule, can repair the entire world. It is certainly not always easy to feel so impactful, but we absolutely are. Holding open a door, greeting people using their names, or actually taking 30 seconds to listen to someone–all of these, and so many more, can send ripples throughout multiple lives. Listening, truly listening, is an art form, and I would encourage you to try listening without giving advice. It is much more difficult than you can imagine. If we are able to live each moment as if we were methodically collecting stalks of wheat–with the idea of a grand sheaf always somewhere in our purview, no moment would pass without a glimmer of the divine.
May all our lives be as the tunic of Joseph, whose coat of so many seemingly separate colors, intersected at one point in time and space to become a beautiful piece of art. The colors become a coat, and the stalks become sheaves. Our moments become legacies, and our legacies span across lifetimes.