Vayeshev

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This portion begins “This is the line of Jacob: Joseph…” (Gen. 37:2).

From the previous portion, here is what we know: Joseph is the oldest of the youngest, and Rachel, the favored wife, is his mother .

From several previous portions, here’s what else we know: The Torah tends not to favor primogeniture (the rule of inheritance always going to the first born son). Both Jacob and Isaac displace older siblings – Esau and Ishmael, respectively – to inherit their fathers’ birthrights. By gifting Joseph a so-called coat of many colors (or amazing technicolor dream coat, if you prefer) his brothers see a cycle about to repeat itself.

In his collection of midrashim, biblically based narratives, Salomon Buber (19th Century, Ukraine) points to the parallels that appear in father and son. What do we make of a history that repeats itself? What makes this time unique?

Read on: Full parshah text.