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Parashat Vayeishev begins the story of Joseph. When we first encounter him, he is a seventeen year old young man. We learn that his father, Jacob, had a special love for him above all of his eleven brothers. He was loved so much that his father had given him a special and highly recognizable garment that distinguished him from among his brothers. This disproportionate love stirred up jealousy from his brothers and fostered their resentment toward him. That resentment eventually turned to a genuine hatred of Joseph and caused his brothers to plot to do away with him.

As the story goes, one day Jacob tells Joseph to go out to the land of Shechem where his older brothers were watching over the flock. He was to check in on them and see how they were doing and then report back to his father. His father knew he would give him the scoop on what his other sons were really doing while they were away from home with the flock. His brothers probably called him the Little Snitch. And being his father’s spy didn’t earn Joseph any brownie points with his brothers. It only stirred up more hatred toward him.

When Joseph finally tracked down his brothers, his presence was not well received. As a matter of fact, when they saw him coming in the distance, they conspired on how they could kill him. Fortunately Reuben, the eldest brother, dissuaded his brothers from actually killing Joseph and instead convinced them to throw him into a pit until he could come up with a plan of what to do with him. The description of their throwing Joseph into the pit, however, is interesting. The Torah says, “And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it” (Genesis 37:24). Since the Torah tells us that the pit was empty, why does it have to follow this up by letting us know there was no water in it? Why wasn’t it sufficient to simply let us know that the pit was empty?



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