Monday, December 7, 2009


The stories of Yosef, well-known and often-retold in religious school classrooms, contain more detailed narration than any other of the stories of B'reisheet.  There is more description of peoples' feelings than anywhere else.

A few thoughts:

  1. The brothers of Yosef seem to have little love or affection for their "baby" brother.  What is it about the family dynamics that leads to their actions?  Who do you hold responsible for the situation?  Whose responsibility do you think it was to improve the situation?  Explain your answer.
  2. What do you think we are supposed to learn from the encounter Yosef has with the "man" when he is looking for his brothers?  What does the story tell us if the "man" is simply a man?  What if the "man" is actually God's messenger?  
  3. Where do you think Reuven was when the brothers decided to sell Yosef to the Ishmaelites?  Whose idea was it to do this?
  4. Does Reuven seem to know what has actually happened to Yosef?  Does your answer to this question affect how you feel about him?
  5. Skipping over (for the moment) the story of Yehudah and Tamar, what are your thoughts about Yosef's behavior in the house of Potifar?
  6. What kind of person do you understand Yosef to be from what we read in this week's parasha?  If you didn't know what comes next, what might you imagine at this point?
  7. Back to Yehudah and Tamar - what is this story doing here?  How can you connect it to the story of Yosef?  To the bigger story of the development of the Jewish people?
Some interesting commentaries that may help you shape your thoughts:
  • God Was In That Text
  • G-dcast - take a look, click on and read the lyrics, and note how much is not in the original Torah text.  What do you think about adding this additional material?  Does it change the story?  Does it make it clearer?  Does it confuse the issues?  Explain your response.
  • Divine and Human "Nudging"on the Path of One's Destiny is written by Jill Minkoff, a student at the Academy for Jewish Religion.  What is the tension between "destiny" and "free will" that she describes?  How can you know if your decisions are the decisions God would want you to make?  What is "bashert"?  

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