Two posts this week. I didn't want such an important parsha to go by without thinking about it and posting.
Parshat Vayeishev is the beginning of Joseph's story, but not its ending, as it begins a narrative that spans many chapters and contains great detail, including conversations, intrigue and perhaps even dark glimpses into the underlying feelings of the siblings, Ya'akov and especially Joseph himself.
This parsha introduces us to Yosef as a teenager, who engages in a variety of teenage behaviors. His character is so vividly painted, not just because of his colorful coat, but because of the telltale dreams he shared with his brothers. In Parshat Vayeishev one can almost imagine Yosef as a teenager in any given high school today, not surrounded by his brothers, but by school mates passing him by in the hallway.
Joseph's brothers grew to hate him because they were jealous of him. The Joseph of this brief story is largely ignored as fellow students pass him by. Joseph wakes up each day wishing to fit in; to be a part of the family group. How he longs for this acceptance, both as a teen, but also as a grown man, where this sorrow and frustrations overwhelms him.
How different is the story of Joseph different from teens today, many who suffer from loneliness and a burning desire to be accepted, but not knowing how to achieve it?
This poem is a description of "that kid." It could be Yosef...Perhaps, it could be someone you know or perhaps once upon a time it was you.
Thank you for taking the time to read these words.
Chag Chanukah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,
That skinny kid
stoop shouldered, ungainly,
with feet too big,
small red pimples dotting his forehead.
He stands in the hall
wearing that crazy striped sweatshirt.
(He wears it every day, you have to ask yourself why?)
complusively smoothing his hair,
his hand never still,
He stands like The Fonz
or an aspiring basketball superstar,
despite not quite reaching the height of
those guys tramping through the hall.
He is too cool for high school.
So clueless, as adolescents can be,
waiting to grow into his feet,
blindly wishing for his dreams to come true.
He launches into his daily soliliquy,
colorful promises, snippets of odd dreams,
while other kids,
in various shades of gray,
glide by him like shadows,
never stopping to listen as he continues.
No one looks back as they walk away.
He pretends not to care,
not to notice that he stands alone;
the cackling class clown;
leader of the pack
That teen who tries too hard,
who can clearly envision himself
(still with that sweatshirt?)
smiling on the jumbo-tron.
He is the one who misses the mark every time,
sharing his dreams too freely,
never looking anyone in the eye
but staring as they walk away,
his eyes hard. Petrified.
We all know him.
Maybe we are him.
That kid in the crazy striped sweatshirt.
He just wants to fit in.
Image courtesy of Wix available images.
Now Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons—he was his “child of old age”; and he had made him an ornamented tunic.
And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him so that they could not speak a friendly word to him.
Once Joseph had a dream which he told to his brothers; and they hated him even more.
He said to them, “Hear this dream which I have dreamed:
Genesis: 37: 3-6
I am particularly grateful to Sefaria for being an amazing resource for seekers of Torah knowledge.
To Matan's erudite and thoughtful weekly Torah podcast, Women Talk Torah, hosted by Dr/ Yosefa (Fogel) Wruble
To Pardes's excellent weekly Torah podcast, Pardes From Jerusalem, wisely hosted by Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield.
To Rabbi Shmuel Silber's daily podcasts, both on Daf Yomi and Parshat Hashavuah.