This week’s Parashah Torah Portion Vayeishev is taken from Genesis 37:1 - 40:23. Join Dr. Jeffery Myers, as he reveals the underlying narrative of Beresheet (Genesis), which is a contest for generational continuity. Find out how this important revelation pertains to us today!
Follow along in the AUDIO PODCAST, by clicking on the play button below, and reading along with the notes, as you listen to today's Parashah Torah Portion:
Lion of Judah Speaks: Parashah Torah Portion Vayeishev - Genesis 37:1 - 40:23
There appears to be a key word that is used throughout the book of Genesis. The word “generations” or tol’dot in Hebrew frames the whole drama of Genesis. Adonai desires a family, a people to establish a godly line that will follow in His ways and preserve the knowledge of Him from generation to generation. Even though it is Adonai’s desire, He has an enemy that fights against it. This enemy is humanity itself! Man, repeatedly opposes, rebels against, or simply ignores the divine will of the Creator. So, what we find in the narratives of Beresheet is a contest for generational continuity, and nowhere is this contest more evident than in the story of Joseph, which begins with the final occurrence of the phrase, eleh tol’dot: Genesis 37:2, “These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
The Scripture says, “These are the generations of Jacob”, and immediately focuses on Joseph, designated by Jacob as the heir apparent. Reuben had already disqualified himself from the right of inheritance as the firstborn because of sleeping with his father’s concubine (Gen. 35:22). Simeon and Levi, next in line, proved their unworthiness by their violent and treacherous behavior toward Shechem (Gen. 34; 49:5). What about Judah? He is next in line, so will he prove himself worthy to be Jacob’s heir? This will play out at the end of Genesis and will play out in biblical history far beyond that point. But for now, the focus is on Joseph.
From the beginning, Adonai has called forth a human line that will truly represent Him and be a co-laborer along the way from Creation to fulfillment of time. In Adonai’s ultimate wisdom, He decides that the path for this journey must pass from generation to generation in one extended family lineage. He favors Abraham because he has proven faithful in this task of generational transmission: Genesis 18:17-19, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of Adonai, to do righteousness and justice, that Adonai may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”
Adonai’s strategy of self-revelation, moves forward by one-on-one telling— “that you may tell your son and your son’s son.” When we tell our children, or any younger generation about what Adonai has done, we too have a responsibility in declaring His name, that is, His reputation and glory, that which He has done for us by His saving grace, to those around us. Because this generation-to-generation transmission is essential to Adonai’s plan, it will entail a battle, the contest for continuity.
Joseph’s life is threatened by his brothers. They are jealous of him and his status with their father. We know his story quite well, but the brothers spare his life and sell him into slavery. After many twists and turns, we arrive at the point in the narrative where the life of his whole generation is threatened by famine. Joseph must pass through many trials—rejection, slavery, imprisonment, lies- as well as unparalleled success, before he establishes a new generation of his own. In his own reasoning, this is a battle well worth fighting, as he will tell his brothers at the end of the story. “You meant evil against me; but Adonai meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones” (Genesis 50:20-21).
It is a contest for Adonai, through Joseph, “to save many people alive.” In the same way, there is a contest today to preserve the next generation. We need a powerful move of Adonai, a move that requires us to take on the mantle of “passing down” to the next generation of Who our Abba is and what He stands for and how to follow His Word. It is truly a contest, but in this struggle, we pass on not only the remembrance of events, but an immediate and intimate knowledge of Adonai, as Moses said, “What He did for me.” Adonai desires that through our story, a new generation “may know that I am Adonai” (Exodus 10:2).
Hashem revealed in Torah, who moves and acts redemptively on the stage of history, Himself in Yeshua the Messiah. He now moves and acts redemptively in our lives. We pass on His legacy by displaying “what Adonai did for me…” concretely in the way we behave; the way we speak, and the way we treat each other. If we will accept the Word of Adonai, submit to its truths by living them out in faithfulness, Adonai will fulfill His Word to us and bless us.
Joseph stands before us as a clear model of such faithfulness. Will we accept the Word of Adonai and act upon it or not? Joseph is given revelation from Adonai and reports it to his brothers, the contest of continuity. Jeremiah proclaims the Word of Adonai to the people of his day; and Yeshua came as the full and perfect revelation of Yah as the Living Torah. Will we take ahold of the contest…will we pass along the Word to the next generation at any cost? Do we take this calling as seriously as Adonai does? From his own past Joseph gained a steadfast confidence in the One Who directs human destiny. He was able in all good conscience to announce to his descendants that there would be a future redemption, because he himself had been the object of the great workings of Yah’s invisible hand.
Psalms 145:4, “One generation commends your works to another, they tell of your mighty acts…”. Each generation must pass along the values, memories, and beliefs to the next generation; which include the spiritual values of our faith—we don’t want their faith to be dropped after they leave home. Joshua 24:31, “Israel served Adonai throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything Adonai had done for Israel.” However, the passing on of faith broke down after that generation died. Somewhere along the line, parents failed to instruct their children and the larger spiritual community failed to honor Yah. Judges 2:10, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their father, another generation grew up, who knew neither Adonai nor what He had done for Israel.” We cannot assume past faithfulness will continue or that future generations will be aware of the great historical legacy available to them. The passing on of our faith must continue to be refreshed with each generation. Each generation must be taught who Adonai is and what He has done for mankind. Passing on our faith begins in the family home as spiritual practices and adds knowledge through the larger community of faith. Let’s take this contest seriously… We must pass on whom we serve!
Shabbat Shalom Mishpocha!
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