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Vayeshev 5762

Vayeshev (Genesis 37-40 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  There is much confusion amongst Jews as to what we believe in as Jews. What are the essential Jewish beliefs? Actually, throughout the ages the greatest of our sages have dealt with this question. Rambam, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), is well-known and revered by Jews across the board as a Jewish philosopher and scholar. He formulated The 13 Principles of Jewish Belief as the essential beliefs required of every Jew. They are found in almost every prayer book and are accepted as the unambiguous creed of Judaism.

The Thirteen Principles of Belief fall into three categories:

  1. The nature of the belief in God.
  2. The authenticity, validity and immutability of the Torah.
  3. The responsibilities upon human beings and our ultimate reward.

Every principle as stated by Maimonides is prefaced with "I believe with complete belief that..." For the next few weeks I will enumerate and elucidate with the explanations found in the Artscroll Siddur. The Nature of the Belief in God has five principles:

  1. The Creator creates and guides all creatures; He alone made, makes, and will make everything. (There is no partnership in creation. God is the sole Creator and the universe continues to exist only because He wills it so. He could exist if everything else were to come to an end, but it is inconceivable that there could be any form of existence independent of Him).

  2. The Creator is unique and there is no uniqueness like His in any way; that He alone is our God, Who was, Who is and Who always will be. (God is a complete and total Unity. He is not a collection of limbs and organs, as are man and animals. He cannot be split as can a rock or divided into component elements as can everything else in creation).

  3. The Creator is not physical and is not affected by physical phenomena; there is no comparison whatsoever to Him. (His essence cannot be understood by human beings who are physical; we cannot conceive of a Being unaffected by the laws of nature and physics).

  4. The Creator is the very first and very last. (He is eternal and the first source. He created everything and transcends time which is also a creation. See Genesis and the Big Bang by Gerald Schroeder -- and the classic commentaries on the book of Genesis).

  5. To the Creator alone is it proper to pray; it is not proper to pray to any other. (No creation has any power independent of what God assigns to it. To attribute ultimate power to any thing or being other than God falls in the category of idol worship).

For a brilliant exposition on the Thirteen Principles of Belief, read Fundamentals and Faith by Rabbi Yakov Weinberg, of blessed memory, former Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel Yeshiva in Baltimore (and brother of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, founder and leader of the Aish HaTorah). Another excellent book is Maimonides' Principles -- The Fundamentals of Jewish Faith by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Both are available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.

Portion of the Week


This week's portion includes four stories:

  1. The selling of Yosef (Joseph) by his brothers -- which eventually positioned Yosef to be second in command in Egypt and enabled him to save the known world from famine.

  2. The indiscretion of Yehuda (Judah) with Tamar (Tamar) ...

  3. The attempted seduction of Yosef by Potifar's wife, which ends with her framing Yosef and having him imprisoned.

    Yosef interprets the dreams of his fellow prisoners, the wine steward (who was reinstated and forgot to put in a good word for Yosef) and the baker (who was hanged).


    Dvar Torah
    based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

    The Torah states, "And Jacob sat..." (Genesis 37:1). Rashi, the great commentator, cites the Sages who say that Jacob wanted to live in peace and serenity. However, this was not to be. The troubles of his son Joseph began. The Almighty said, "Is it not sufficient for the righteous that they receive their reward in the world to come? Why do they need to live in serenity in this world?"

    What is wrong with wanting to live in serenity? Jacob desired serenity not so that he could devote his time to personal pleasures, but rather to be able to engage in spiritual pursuits.

    Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz explains that the purpose of this world is for a person to elevate himself by passing the numerous tests that come to him. The goal is spiritual growth from every life situation. Therefore, it was considered improper for Jacob to place his focus on serenity.

    This, says Rav Yeruchem, is an attitude we should all internalize. Every occurrence in this world can make you a better person. When you have this awareness your attitude towards everything that happens to you in life will be very positive. Before, during, and after every incident that occurs reflect on your behavior and reactions. Ask yourself, "What type of person am I after this happened? How did I do on this test? Did I pass it in an elevated manner?


    Aish HaTorah is an international Jewish educational outreach organization dedicated to ensuring the Jewish future. The greatest problem facing the Jewish people is ignorance of our heritage. One cannot love what he does not know. Aish HaTorah's forte is presenting our heritage in a manner which attracts modern Jews and shows them the relevance of Torah to their lives -- how to be happy, choose the right spouse, make a marriage work, raise children with values and get more joy out of life.

    Aish's success comes from its intellectual approach and emphasis on free will. We encourage our students to ask every question and then to use their own freewill to choose their own level of belief and observance. To learn more about Aish, visit our website at .

    CANDLE LIGHTING - December 7:
    (or go to

    Jerusalem  3:59
    Guatemala 5:14  Hong Kong 5:21  Honolulu 5:31
    J'Burg 6:32  London 3:34  Los Angeles 4:26
    Melbourne 8:13  Miami 5:12  Moscow 3:41

    New York 4:10  Singapore  6:39


    A diamond
    is a piece of coal
    that made good under pressure.

    With Special Thanks to
    Douglas and Dawne Ellison

    for dedicating this edition

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