Eleh toldot Ya'akov Yosef  - This is the history of Yaakov; Yosef


It would have seemed appropriate to list all of Yaakov's sons, and daughters.   According to the plain meaning of the text they are all subsumed under the name of Yosef seeing he combined all the good characteristics possessed by his brothers in his own person.  He possessed the birthright which normally should have been Re'uven's as we know from 1Divrei HaYamim 5:1, "when he desecrated the couch of his father, his birthright was given to [the tribe of] Yosef."  He possessed the prophetic qualities of Levi as mentioned by the Torah when he interpreted the dreams of the butler and the baker (Bereishit 41:13).  He also combined within himself the Royal powers of Yehudah as the Torah testifies in Bereishit 42:6 "Yosef was the one who ruled the land [earth?]." He possessed the intelligence for which Yissachar is famed, as we know from Bereishit 41:40 "there is none as wise and full of insight such as you."


According to a Midrashic approach as found both in Tanchuma and Bereishit Rabbah, Yosef was selected as Yaakov's prime issue as he was so like his father, his features resembled those of his father.  He also resembled his father in that many experiences which Yaakov endured were more or less duplicated in the life of Yosef.  Whereas Yaakov had been pursued by his brother Esav, Yosef was persecuted by his brothers.  Just as Yaakov's mother had been barren from any years, so Yosef's mother had been barren for many years.  Just as Yaakov was born without a foreskin, so Yosef was born without a foreskin.  We derive this from the fact that Yaakov was described by the Torah as ish tam - a perfectly formed human being (Bereishit 25:27), i.e. one that did not need to be circumcised in order to make him  whole.  The term tam is only used in connection with circumcised people as G-d told Avraham that in order to become tamim, perfect, whole, he had to circumcise himself (Bereishit 17:1).  The reason the Sages believe that Yosef too was born without a foreskin is because the Torah equates Yaakov and Yosef in writing Yaakov Yosef as if to say that what applied to Yaakov applied to Yosef also.  These similarities also  showed up in that just as Yaakov's mother experienced a difficult pregnancy and birth, so did Yosef's mother experience difficulty when giving birth to Binyamin.  Just as Yaakov's mother gave birth to only two sons so did Yosef's mother give birth to only two sons.  Yaakov and Yosef both married while outside the land of Kenaan.  The children of both Yaakov and Yosef experienced the company of angels protecting them.  Just as Yaakov emerged from a dream containing a vision spiritually uplifted, so Yosef emerged similarly uplifted after having certain dreams.  Just as the environment of Yaakov (the house of Lavan, and according to some the entire region) experienced G-d's blessing, as well as the famine coming to an end when he descended to Egypt, so Yosef's presence both in the house of Potifar and in Egypt generally proved a blessing for all those around him.  Just as Yaakov died in Egypt and his remains were embalmed there only to be buried in the land of Yisrael eventually was reburied in Eretz Yisrael.


A Kabbalistic approach to the sequence Yaakov Yosef in our verse adds that Yaakov was the "keruv" (cherub - part of G-d's entourage on earth) and so was Yosef.  This is the mystical meaning of Sukkah 5, that Yaakov was "the wing of a larger bird and Yosef the wing of a smaller bird, respectively."  Both Yaakov and Yosef have been referred to as na'ar (lad) on different occasions.  We read of Yisrael, "for Yisrael was a 'lad', and He [G-d] loved him" (Hoshea 11:1).  Of Yosef we read in our verse he was a na'ar.