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Dvar for Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)

The Parsha describes the story of Yosef’s deteriorating relationship with his brothers and their resulting plot to kill him. The brothers ultimately settle on selling him to Ishmaelites—as soon as they finish their lunch. While they callously break bread away from the pit where Yosef was begging for mercy, a gang of Midianites come by, see Yosef, pull him out, and sell him to the Ishmaelites before the brothers can (37:28). If the brothers neither killed Yosef nor sold him to Egypt, what was their crime?

Rabbi David Fohrman explains that the brothers’ insensitivity to Yosef’s cries as they broke bread was their main infraction. Conversely, much later in the story, when Yosef is in jail, he notices that two of his fellow inmates are distraught and asks them why they seem sad (40:7). This act of compassion leads to his eventual release and ultimate redemption arc. Our parsha seems to be demonstrating to us the dangers of indifference and, conversely, the value of empathy. A single act of kindness can change the course of history.