Sedra of the Week: Vayeishev

Sedra of the Week: Vayeishev

Rabbi Jeff Berger looks ahead to this week's portion of the torah!

We are familiar with the uncomfortable story of jealousy that nearly destroyed Jacob’s family after their return to Canaan. This week’s parsha explores its impact on Joseph’s life.

Leah envied her sister Rachel, the ‘loved wife’. Leah’s children hated Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn and their father’s ‘favoured child’. The brothers plotted to kill Joseph and disaster was thwarted only when Reuben and Judah intervened.

Instead, Joseph was sold to traders who took him to Egypt – one of the earliest incidents of human trafficking.

Commentators say this was ‘God’s Divine Plan’; Joseph’s destiny was to descend to Egypt, rise to second in command of the world’s leading economy, and save its population from famine. The cure was put in place before the malady.

Others admit this decision left an indelible blemish on the sons of Jacob and the Jewish people. But the overlooked message is about the danger of dehumanisation.

The brothers needed another way to work through their anger. If on that fateful day they had all, including Joseph, sat down to speak, rather than plotting against him, history would have unfolded very differently.

Last year, Human Trafficking UK reported 13,000 victims of slavery. Perpetrators have many motives, including jealousy. While great efforts are employed to stop this terrible crime, none of the victims will be as fortunate as Joseph.


  •  Jeff Berger is the founding rabbi of Rambam Sephardi Synagogue in Elstree/Borehamwood and can be contacted at

Listen to this week’s podcast here:

read more: