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This week’s Torah message is one of emotions, feelings, and relationships: If you don’t like someone, tell them, and try to work things out. And it goes without saying, that when you love someone, be sure to tell them often!

This week’s Torah portion is Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1 – 40:23). In recent Torah portions we have read extensively about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In Vayeishev, however, Joseph takes center stage. As many readers might be familiar: Joseph and his brothers did not get along too well, to say the least! As the Torah says:

“And Joseph’s brothers saw that their father loved him more than all the brothers, and they hated him, and they could not speak peacefully to him.” [37:4]

How could this be? How could the children of our forefather Jacob be filled with so much hate that they couldn’t even say “Good Morning” to their brother Joseph? Who raised such kids?

Indeed, such wholesale conduct is outrageous. Instead, some of the commentators suggest that perhaps the brothers “hated” Joseph because they thought that he was trying to degrade them in order to promote himself to positions of greatness.

And what would make them think such a thing?

Joseph was the ultimate “tattle-tale” who reported every little misbehavior of the brothers to their father. This is true even though in all such episodes, the brothers truly believed that they were doing nothing wrong. Indeed, they were all the sons of the holy Jacob who were raised in an atmosphere of holiness. None of them – not Joseph or any of the brothers- would intentionally do something wrong. As such, it was actually THE BROTHERS who felt persecuted, hated, and harassed with the constant tattle-taleling, and therefore they reacted to Joseph the way they did.

Even in their hatred, however, our sages teach us that we can learn something good from the brothers’ conduct. As Rashi says: “From their disgrace we learn their praise: they would not say one thing with their mouths and another in their hearts.” Meaning, they were not liars or con artists! They didn’t like Joseph and they didn’t try to hide it. If they didn’t like someone— they would say so! They wouldn’t try to hide their feelings or be “two-faced.” They didn’t want to pretend to like Joseph. That wouldn’t be honest.

Make no mistake; we are not condoning hatred between anyone. But what the sages are trying to point out is that even in the seemingly poor conduct of the brothers we can learn some positive attributes. Be honest with yourself, and especially with others. Furthermore, if you are angry or upset at someone, tell them! Don’t let the anger fester inside of you. It only makes the anger and hatred stronger. In fact, if the brothers would have gotten their suspicions and complaints off their chest, confronting Joseph for his tattle- taleing, the entire family feud would have been over long ago! And who knows, perhaps the Jews would never have been forced to descend to Egypt and become slaves to Pharaoh!

This week’s Torah message is one of emotions, feelings, and relationships: If you don’t like someone, tell them, and try to work things out. And it goes without saying, that when you love someone, be sure to tell them often!

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

Click below to read more of my Torah articles about this week’s fascinating Torah portion:

Living Torah: Follow your Dreams!

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

Rabbi Ari Enkin