Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. — Genesis 37:3
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeishev, which means “and he lived,” is from Genesis 37:1—40:23, and the Haftorah is from Amos 2:6—3:8.
This week, we read about the famous coat that Jacob made for his son Joseph. In Hebrew, the word that describes Joseph’s coat is passim. This word has been interpreted to mean many different things, including striped, many colored, long, fine silk, heavy wool, and ornate. However you interpret the nature of Joseph’s coat, all seem to agree that this was a specially made garment commissioned for an especially beloved son.
This is why one particular Jewish interpretation of Joseph’s coat seems extremely puzzling at first. According to this suggestion, passim is an acronym — Potiphar, Sale, Ishmaelites, and Midianites — for the troubles that Joseph would face. These four terms allude to Joseph being sold by his brothers to Ishmaelites, Midianites, and eventually to Potiphar, who ultimately would throw Joseph in jail.
What a seemingly strange interpretation! Why would we equate this coat of love with the horrible trials that Joseph would face? When a father makes a garment for his child, his intention is to protect, adorn, and bestow love upon his child. What could it possibly have to do with challenges that lay ahead?
The rabbis explain that God, our Father, makes a specially tailored garment for each of His beloved children. When He sends trouble our way, it’s like a garment, something that we have to wear for a while – and it is tailor-made to our exact measurements.
Sometimes God sends us challenges, and we feel like it’s too much to bear. We get overwhelmed and feel like we can’t handle it. We wonder, “Why me?” But God sends us exactly what we can handle and precisely the challenges that we need to move forward in our lives. We shouldn’t say, “It’s choking me! It’s too constricting! It doesn’t suit me!” God knows what He is giving us and knows that it fits us to a T.
We also need to know that the tailor-made troubles that God sends our way are not forever. They are a garment – something we may wear for while – but they are not us and they will not be with us forever. Every trial has a specified beginning and a determined end. At the designated time, we will don a new garment.
Friends, we must never forget that the troubles that come our way are sent to us from our heavenly Father, and they are given to us out of love. Our challenges are given to us to make us stronger, better, and greater. Knowing that should help us to bear them with grace and wear them with love.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President