Why So Blue?: Vayeshev 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How many times a day are you asked some version of, “How are you?” How often do you give a thorough answer? How often do you give a truthful answer?

In the depths of an Egyptian prison, Joseph asks a type of this question to two of Pharaoh’s incarcerated servants – leading to a conversation that changes Joseph’s fate forever:

The Pitch: “[Joseph] asked Pharaoh’s courtiers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, saying, ‘Why do you appear downcast today?’” – Genesis 40:7

Swing #1: “Besides Joseph’s many outstanding qualities, which we ought to try and emulate, in this rather simple passage Joseph reminds us to be genuinely interested in other people’s well-being. And that it should not be beneath our dignity – nor should we be inhibited – to make an honest and sincere enquiry as to their condition. Who knows? It may not only change their lives, but ours.” – Rabbi Yossy Goldman, From Where I Stand: Life Messages From the Weekly Torah Reading

Swing #2: “It is interesting that Joseph was concerned about their welfare. The incident hints that Joseph had something of the healer in him, a quality that goes along with [his] shamanistic type of personality.” – John A. Sanford, The Man Who Wrestled With God

Swing #3: “His master had entrusted the [prisoners’] well-being to him … If it had not been for this, it would not have been appropriate for Joseph to enquire into the private affairs of these ministers awaiting their final sentence.” – Sforno

Late-Inning Questions: Why do our commentators believe that this seemingly mundane moment of conversation is included in our text? Do you get the sense that Joseph asks the question out of sincere concern, or just to make small talk? How do we know when small talk becomes something bigger?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: Please join us virtually to light candles each night of Hanukkah! Times and the Zoom link are on the TBT website.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of small talk, it can be amusing to watch opposing baseball players schmooze on the basepaths between pitches. It’s a heartening reminder that, even in the heat of competition, these athletes can see each other as more than simply opponents.

Shabbat Shalom!