Breishit (Genesis)The Book of Genesis is concerned with beginnings: the creation of the world and the origin of humanity. It quickly shifts its focus from universal history to the history of the Jewish people beginning in chapter 12, with the introduction of Abraham, the first Jew. The remainder of the book focuses on the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel and Leah, and Joseph. The book ends with the entire family of Jacob descending into Egypt. There are fifty chapters, divided into twelve parashiyot. The parashiyot in Breishit are: Breishit, Noah, Lech Lecha, VaYera, Chaye Sarah, Toldot, VaYetze, VaYishlach, VaYeshev, Miketz, VaYigash and VaYechi.


Miketz: Do we 'wake up' from a dream or do we roll over and go back to sleep?

The Joseph saga continues. Pharaoh has had two similar dreams and demands their interpretation. None of his advisors can determine their meaning, but his wine steward remembers Joseph from prison and his gift for dream interpretation. Joseph is brought from the prison before Pharaoh. Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dream as seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine that are about to fall upon Egypt. In addition, he suggests ways to manage the plenty to survive the famine. Impressed with his wisdom, Pharaoh appoints viceroy over all of Egypt. Joseph successfully implements his plan, and is married to the daughter of Potiphar and has two sons, Menashe and Ephrayim. As the seven years of famine begin, Jacob sends his sons down to Egypt to seek food. They come before Joseph, who recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him. Joseph decides to wait before he reveals himself to them. He demands that they return and bring his youngest brother Benjamin back to Egypt, and to make sure they return, he has Shimon held as a hostage. The brothers do return home and tell their father what happened in Egypt. At first he refuses to allow the remaining child of his beloved Rachel to leave him, but as the famine drags on, he is forced to concede. This time all the brothers return to Egypt. This time Joseph devises a final plot against his brothers. He sends them all back to their home with plenty of food and riches, but he has his personal chalice planted in the Benjamin's bag. After their departure, Joseph sends his steward to accuse them of the theft and bring them back. With a classic cliff-hanger, the parasha ends with the brothers fearfully confronting the angry Egyptian viceroy, not knowing he is their brother.

Copyright: Kolel, The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning.

These summaries and introductions are used with permission of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Kolel is a dynamic, pluralistic, egalitarian institution where men and women engage in Jewish learning which values both traditional and liberal interpretations. Kolel is a gateway into a richer expression of Judaism for each individual, wherever their journey of Jewish discovery may take them.

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