2 Minutes of Torah Study – Vayeishev

“V’Yisrael ahav et Yosef Mikol banav…v’asah lo k’tonet pasim.”

Israel loved Joseph more than all of his sons…and made him a k’tonet pasim. A what? We are not really sure. Ask the Septuagint or the Vulgate or Tim Rice and k’tonet passim means “coat of many colors.” Ask Rashi and it was simply made of a more refined wool. Nachmanides thinks it was striped. Targum Yonatan suggests it was more form-fitting than those cloaks of his brothers. 

No matter who you ask, they all agree it was notable. Colorful or striped or made of fine material or form-fitting, it must have been something to look at…and it made Joseph different. Or at least signified that he WAS different. Rashi suggests he spent more time fixing his hair and touching up his eyes than the other boys. Midrash, Genesis Rabbah describes a particular way of lifting up his heels while walking. The Zohar suggests he was every bit as beautiful as his mother Rachel, for whom Jacob labored the extra years. 

And when you add in his resistance to Potiphar’s Wife’s many sexual advances, you begin to build either indirect, vague evidence…or at least reasonable suspicion…about Joseph’s sexuality. Yes, I am absolutely reading the stereotypes and concerns of the modern day onto this text. But I’ll take a hero for a community that has been too-often marginalized wherever I can find it, particularly when it is a man chosen by his father and by God for great things.

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