In this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Vayeishev, Yaakov settles in Hevron with his family and twelve sons, who tend to his many flocks of sheep. He clearly favors Yosef, the eldest son of Rachel (his most beloved wife), and gives him a multi-colored coat. The other brothers become jealous of this treatment and they have difficulty speaking with Yosef peacefully. They become even more jealous after he recounts his dreams in which there are twelve sheaves of wheat in a field and the other eleven bow to his sheaf and in which there are eleven stars, a sun and moon all bowing to him (of course these dreams are prophetic of what is to come in next week’s parsha). They do not like the notion that he is suggesting he will rule over them. One day as the brothers are taking care of their sheep in a field, they see Yosef approaching and Shimon and Levi plot to kill him, when Reuven suggests they throw him in a pit instead (intending to come back later and save him). The Torah tells us “the pit was empty and there was no water in it.” Rashi says that there was no water, but there were snakes and scorpions that the brothers didn’t see (according to Mizrahi). They see a group of Ishmaelites traveling and Yehuda suggested that rather than kill their brother, they sell him to the caravan, which they do for twenty pieces of silver. When Reuven returned to the pit and found Yosef missing, he tore his clothing thinking he was dead. The brothers dipped Yosef’s coat in the blood of an animal and brought it back to Yaakov as proof that Yosef was killed by a wild animal. Yosef is taken to Egypt and sold as slave in the house of Potifar.
Yehuda marries and has three children, Er, Onan and Shelah. His eldest, Er, marries Tamar but he is wicked and dies young and childless. Tamar is then given to Onan to marry but the same thing occurs. Yehuda tells her to go to her father’s house and wait for Shelah to become older, as Yehuda is afraid that he too will die. Tamar eventually disguises herself and comes to Yehuda and becomes pregnant with twins. When they were born, the first baby stuck out his hand and a red string was tied around his hand to signify that he emerged first but then he went back in and the other baby was born. The first baby to be born was named Peretz and is the ancestor of King David, the second who was born with the red string tied on his hand is named Zerach.
Back in Egypt, Hashem blesses Yosef’s work and he is very successful in Potifar’s house and is promoted to the head servant in the household. Potifar’s wife tries to seduce Yosef and when he refuses her, she has him thrown in jail. While in jail, Hashem was once again with Yosef and he gained the trust of his prison guards, who put him in charge of the other inmates. Yosef meets Pharaoh’s butler and baker who are both in prison and have had troubling dreams. Yosef listens to their dreams and interprets them. The butler dreams that there are three vines on which grapes grow. He picks the grapes and makes them into wine which he gives Pharaoh. Yosef tells him that in three days he will be released from prison back into the service of Pharaoh and asks him to remember him when he is free. The baker’s dream is not as pleasant. In his dream, he was holding three baskets on top of his head filled with his baked goods and the birds were eating them. Yosef sadly tells him that his dream indicates that in three days, he will be hanged. And so it was in three days, it was Pharaoh’s birthday and he had a big celebration. The butler was released from prison and the baker was hanged. The parsha closes by telling us that the butler forgot about Yosef and his request to try to get him set free.
This week’s parsha contains many different symbols that lends themselves well to parsha sweets and treats! Rainbow sour belts are a popular choice this week and symbolize the mutli-colored coat that Yaakov gave Yosef to wear. If you are looking for a healthy alternative, a rainbow fruit or vegetable salad, or rainbow-colored fruit skewers, work as well. Star candies, white nonpareils and Atomic Fireballs symbolize the stars, sun and moon in Yosef’s dream. Jelly snakes symbolize the snakes in the pit that Yosef was thrown in. Silver chocolate coins symbolize the 20 coins that the brothers received for the sale of Yosef (and are readily available in the stores this close to Chanukah!). Red licorice ropes or lassos (or Twizzlers Pull and Peel) can symbolize the sheaves of wheat in Yosef’s dream (when wrapped together), the red blood on Yosef’s coat, and the red string tied around the hand of Zerach. Perhaps they could even symbolize the bars on Yosef’s prison cell. Finally, grapes, or candy grapes, symbolize the dream of the butler that Yosef interpreted in prison. Please share your ideas in the comments section below!