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     Parshas Vayeishev - The Boy Who Would Be King   

"and he was a youth with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpa, his father's wives..." (37:2)

After hearing Yoseif recount his dreams which foretold his superiority to his brothers, they began to hate him. Their hatred of him culminated with their plot to kill "the dreamer". The Talmud teaches that a dream is a minor prophecy. If Hashem had indicated to Yoseif that he would be the monarch, how could his brothers harbor resentment for something that was Hashem's will?

There is a major distinction between a dream and a prophecy. A prophecy is Hashem's way of revealing to the recipient a reality which will unconditionally occur, while a dream portends that which can potentially occur if the recipient both interprets the message and develops his propensities in the appropriate manner. Yoseif interprets his dreams as a message that he is fit to be the king. Therefore, he immediately begins acting upon this perception. Rashi explains that the description of Yoseif as a "na'ar" refers to his acting in an immature manner, i.e. constantly fixing his hair and eyebrows. However, his apparent preoccupation with his looks is not an expression of vanity, rather a manifestation of his sovereign duties, for the Talmud teaches that there is a scriptural requirement that the king be groomed daily.

The brothers did not necessarily deny the message of Yoseif's dreams as portend to the future conditional to Yoseif developing his potential. What they took issue with was Yoseif's attempts to define the present based upon his dreams. They viewed these pretensions as dangerous and divisive. Yoseif's dreams were his own private messages, encouraging him to develop these qualities. His acting upon them prematurely is what raised the ire of his brothers.

Tangentially, we have an insight as to why a teenager is referred to as a "na'ar" which is also often used as a term of derision. A teenager is only potentially an adult, yet he demands to be treated as one in his present state. A na'ar is a person who expects to be treated based upon his propensities, not upon the reality of his present condition. Often we encounter individuals who possess great potential, but expect to be dealt with in a manner commensurate with what they will become rather than what they are at present. Until a person actualizes his potential he has no right to expect others to treat him based upon his potential alone.        

Rabbi Mordechai Shifman       


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Parsha Vayeishev - The boy who would be king by Rabbi Mordechai Shifman