Vayeshev: What kind of a mother sends her daughter to cross a wolf-infested forest ?


Tamar Pelleg

Since then, a lot of water has flowed in the river of my life. Today, apart from my everyday writing in my “Morning  Diary”, I write regularly on topics related to the Hebrew Bible’s portion of the week, from a psycho-spiritual perspective and on topics  related to relationships that I post on  Facebook, blog, digital story collections and recently I am engaged in writing a  book and my  dream begins to come true.



His father’s scolding shook him. It felt like a whip on bare flesh.

“And his father rebuked him, and said unto him, what is this dream which thou hast dreamed?”

He looked at him embarrassed, like a child breaking an expensive tool while playing.

Why is he mad at me? A thought went through his head, I just told my dream, about the sun and the moon and the eleven stars that bowed to me, I did not mean to upset him.

The thought was accompanied by a dull emotion, a fear of losing his father’s love, the special place in his heart.

So, when he heard his father saying to him:

“Your brothers are herding the sheep in Schem, so I am sending you to them.  See how your brothers are and how the flock is, and bring me back word of it…”

He did not think twice and immediately replied: Here I am.  I’m ready.

He was happy for the opportunity to restore order, reconcile with his father, and prove he can be trusted; he always reported to his father what the brothers were doing in the field.

When he waved goodbye to his father, it never occurred to him that he would not see his face again for many years.

The first night outside the house, he dreamed that his brothers were surprised to see him, happy about the food he had brought them from home and that they reconciled with him.

He had a strong desire to be accepted by them, to be appreciated, but he always felt that there was a wall separating them. Even as he told them his dreams of the wheat sheaves in the field bowing to his standing sheaf, he hoped that if he shared with them something personal, there might be some conversation, some closeness, but he only managed to increase their anger and hatred towards him. Leah’s sons showed constant hostility towards him. Somehow it was easier for him to connect with Zilpa and Bilha’s sons.

On the second night, fears began to creep into his thoughts, and he tried hard to expel them:

Maybe Dad sent him out of the house, with the multicolored coat, alone in the “forest” in front of the ten “wolves” as punishment? (The sound of scolding was still fresh in his ears).

He remembered how on their return from his grandfather Laban, his father had moved him and his mother across the Jordan last of all; he then recognized his father’s fear of meeting his uncle Esau, the offerings he sent before him .. and this was confronting only one brother. In contrast, he had ten hostile brothers to meet, away from his father’s shelter, and he’s just a boy.

Maybe this is the kind of test he has to pass?

He wrapped himself tightly in the multicolored coat that covered him, trying to draw from it the smell of his mother’s dress and his father’s love, wrapped in a protective bubble.

Everything will be fine, he reassured himself.



What kind of father sends his son away from his defense to deal with ten brothers who hate him?

What kind of mother sends her daughter to cross a wolf-infested forest alone?

Little Red Riding Hood was devoured, actually not devoured, but swallowed whole by the wolf. She entered the wolf’s belly, remained there in the dark until her rescue when the hunter arrived, and she went out into the light.

And Joseph?

What will happen to Joseph?

Joseph is thrown naked, without anything to cover his naked body, by his brothers into a dark pit in with no water, doomed to death.

He will be saved at the last minute and sold to a convoy of Ishmaelites passing by who will in turn sell him as a slave in Egypt.

He will experience another dark pit (prison pit) on the false charge of raping his master’s wife Potiphar.

And he will sweep his trauma under the rug of his consciousness and tell a new cover story:

“I was stolen, from the land of the Hebrews; And here also have I done nothing, after I was thrown in the pit.”

He will not try to inform his father of his whereabouts, he will conquer his trauma scar under his mask of success in Pharaoh’s palace, he will seek to forget, to leave in the darkness what happened to him.  To deny. And his eldest son will be called Menashe, whose three root letters  נ.ש.ה.   in Hebrew mean to forget.

“And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh; because the Lord forgot all that I had done and forgot my household.”



The lost son motif, which needs to be awakened to discover the great abilities within himself, is repeated in many folk tales.

In order to find the light within him, the protagonist has to go through the darkness (a motif that also recurs in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, when Pamino and Pamina, the pair of lovers, in order to enter Zarestro’s ‘Order of Light’, have to pass through the frightening Dark Tunnel).

As Joseph descends into Egypt he lives under a mask of an Egyptian man, alienated from his family and past, and his light cannot yet be fully revealed.

And if we think for a moment about ourselves, we may recognize that in each of us there is a greatness, there is a uniqueness, that wants to shine out into the light; each of us feel longing for meaning, and for purpose, for finding the light within us. That is why perhaps the story of Joseph speaks so much to us.

May we be all blessed that even in times of darkness (and we are now in the darkest year) we will remember that the light exists within us, and we must each make our voyage to discover it and illuminate all our greatness.


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