Friday, December 15, 2006

Vayeshev: The Multi-Colored Coat

The midrash states that Yosef's brothers felt threatened by his favored status in Ya'akov's heart. They felt that Yosef and Ya'akov planned for Yosef's continuation of the Godly mission passed from Avraham to Yitzchak, excluding Yishmael, and from Yitzchak to Ya'akov, excluding Esav. In the same way, Yosef would be the leader of the nation of God, while the rest of the brothers would fade into the scenery of history. They felt this, in part, because of the beautiful multi-hued coat that Ya'akov weaved for Yosef.

Aside from the obvious favoritism displayed to Yosef, perhaps the brothers saw the very coat as a symbol of the continuation of the nation of Ya'akov. The coat was a tapestry of many different colors, all used harmoniously to make up a complete garment. The brothers might have seen this as an allegory, that in Yosef's offspring, the diversity and individuality of Israel would be expressed, leaving them out of the picture.

What is the first thing the brothers do to Yosef? They tear off his cloak and dip it in blood. They effectively obliterate the vibrant and distinct colors, making the point that Yosef is, at best, only one valid aspect of the nation of Israel, amongst the rest of them. And in the end, they are proved right, and all the children of Ya'akov make up the tapestry of Israel.

The tragic part of it all is that Ya'akov probably never meant the coat in the way that the jealous brothers perceived it, and Yosef probably did not interpret it that way, either. Yet the animosity engendered by this jealousy was so intensely passionate, that it led to our incarceration and enslavement in Egypt. What a lesson in parenting! We must not only have equal appreciation and love for our children, but we must make absolutely sure that each child feels it. No child may be allowed to feel second to any other in parents' love.