When Hatred Becomes Jealousy by Nachum Fisch


In this week’s Parashah, we read about Yosef and his relationship with his brothers. Early on in the Parashah, Yosef receives an amazing multicolored coat from his father. This causes a rift between him and his brothers, as the Pasuk writes (BeReishit 37:4), “VaYisne’u Oto,” “And they hated him.” He then has his first dream, in which Yosef’s brothers are gathering sheaves of wheat, and their wheat bows to his. After the first dream, the Pasuk comments that the brothers now hate Yosef even more. Following this dream is another one, this time about the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowing to Yosef. He describes this dream to his father, who criticizes him for having such a dream and interprets it incredulously to mean that Yosef wants his father, his mother, and his brothers to go and bow before him. After this, the Pasuk informs us that, “VaYikane’u Bo Echav,” “And his brothers were jealous of him” (37:11). Why does the brothers’ prevalent emotion now change from hatred to jealousy?

One possibility is that their hatred isn’t replaced by jealousy; jealousy is added to their hatred. A reason for this might be that in the second dream, Yosef is specific in the number of the stars, so the brothers know that he was referring to them. On the other hand, in the first dream, when the number of sheaves is not specified, the brothers are not sure whom Yosef is referring to. Therefore, the dream about the sun, moon, and stars is the one which sparks the brothers’ jealousy.

A third approach focuses upon a completely different angle. In every occasion in BeReishit when a person has a dream that is interpreted by a Tzaddik, the interpretation comes true. In three recorded cases, the person whose dream it is becomes even more important after the dream is interpreted. The cases are Par’oh’s dreams of the cows and the sheep which eventually lead to him possessing all of the land in Egypt, the Sar HaMashkim’s dream which allowed his sentence to be commuted and has his job returned to him in full, and here with Yosef. We might have thought without this knowledge that it is strange that the brothers feel jealousy towards Yosef; after all, they finally see Ya’akov criticize him! With this we see that the brothers are justified in their jealousy, as there are other times when situations like this have become advantageous to the dreamer. Therefore, why are they just jealous? Shouldn’t they face the facts and become subservient to Yosef? Perhaps not, as there is also precedent for the downfall of a dreamer, as was the case by the Sar HaOfim, who has his dream interpreted by Yosef but is subsequently killed. While it isn’t likely that a Tzaddik as great as Ya’akov would be wrong in a situation like this, the brothers may have felt that there is always hope that the interpretation would turn out incorrect and they would not become subservient to Yosef.

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