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Vayeshev. When Communication Fails

In the house of Jacob, tensions are running high. We meet a precocious, immature Joseph, his father’s favourite, who is tattle-tale-ing against his brothers, parading himself in a special coat, and endlessly harping on about his dreams.

"His brothers … hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him." (37:4)

This latter clause of this verse reads in Hebrew: – “ולא יכלו דברו לשלום”. How should it be translated?

One reading is simply: “they could not speak to him peaceably.”

A second reading sees the person “speaking peace” as Joseph himself. In this understanding, the brothers “couldn’t tolerate it when Joseph addressed them peaceably.”

“Even when he spoke to them in a conciliatory manner, they could not abide him.”(Shadal)

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch explains: