Perashat Vayeshev is a very surprising Torah portion on many levels: How could hatred escalate to such an extent amongst brothers all raised in the house of Ya'akov Avinu? Why does Yosef insist on taunting his brothers with his prophetic dreams, all the while knowing the impact of this behavior on them? Why does Ya'akov, who surely understood the depth of the animosity, still send Yosef on a mission alone -to Shechem to see how the brothers and their sheep are doing? This epic story of providence, of the divine Hand that guides the children of Israel into Egyptian exile- has many perplexing twists and turns.

Early on in the story , the Torah introduces us to the relationship between Ya'akov and his son Yosef.

וישראל אהב את יוסף מכל בניו כי בן זקנים הוא לו
Israel loved Yosef the most of all of his sons, because he was the son of his old age

The preferential treatment given Joseph served to inflame the brother's jealousy and hatred of him.

Now, aside from the plain meaning of the text - that Ya'akov Avinu's emotional tie to Yosef stemmed from the fact that he bore Yosef in his later years, Rashi offers two other approaches:

ואונקלוס תרגם בר חכים הוא ליה כל מה שלמד משם ועבר מסר לו

דבר אחר

שהיה זיו איקונין שלו דומה לו


Onkelos translated it as "the son of his wisdom" - everything that he learned from Shem and Ever, he gave to him.

Another explanation:
(It's an acronym indicating that) Yosef's facial appearance was similar to that of Ya'akov.


These two approaches paint seemingly diametrically opposed pictures of what drew Ya'akov to his son Yosef. According to one view, it was the depth of the learning relationship that he forged with his son that drew Ya'akov to Yosef. Whatever the content of the Torah of Shem and Ever consisted of at the time, what bonded them was a deep spiritual connection generated through the Talmid-Rebbe relationship. The second view seems relatively rather superficial: Ya'akov was drawn to Yosef because Yosef looked like him?

I would like to suggest that these ideas are actually two sides of the same coin: A Torah teacher invests his intellectual, emotional, and spiritual energy in his student. The payoff of this investment is the degree to which the rebbe sees his talmid transformed by the Torah taught by the rebbe. A rebbe not only conveys the content of the section of Torah being taught, but educates his talmid on how to think in a logical, disciplined manner. The Torah teacher hopes that well into the future, the student can approach new questions with the system of thinking that he learned in his youth. He hopes to fill the student with the tools to grapple with new circumstances with logic and a sensitivity to the question: What does G-d want of me?

With this in mind, perhaps Rashi's second explanation means just this: that Ya'akov began to see in Yosef a true reflection of himself; Yosef had internalized his father's knowledge and his values. "His face was similar to his."

This could also be the key to understanding one of Rashi's later comments: What held Yosef back from engaging in illicit relations with Potiphar's wife? It was the "image of his father" that appeared to him, pre-empting the sin.

Given what we've said above, Rashi may not literally mean that Yosef had a vision of his father. Rather, the standards and values that his father had taught him had succeeded in becoming part of him. Instead of a mystical vision of his father warning him not to indulge- Yosef dug deep into his own moral fabric, and experienced the imprint of his father's teachings. When Yosef saw a vision of Ya'akov, he was essentially peering into his own face.

Shabbat Shalom!