Why does the Pasuk begin with "the generations of Yakov", and carry on with the story of Yosef?
Rashi #1: "v'Eileh Toldos Yakov" means (not ' And these are the generations (offspring) of Yakov', rather,) "These are the events concerning the generations of Yakov". 1
Rashi #2: The Torah deliberately confines the generations of Yakov to Yosef for a number of reasons: (a) Because Yakov worked for Lavan for Rachel exclusively; 2 (b) Because Yosef was the split image of Yakov; (c) Because whatever happened to Yakov, happened to Yosef: They were both hated, and both of their brothers wanted to kill them. 3
Ramban #1, Rashbam and Seforno: "Toldos" means chronicles. 4
Ramban #2: The Pasuk is referring literally to Yakov's children - to Yosef and his brothers, whom the Torah mentions in this Pasuk. It does not specify their names, since it already did so in Vayeitzei.
Rashbam: Having described the birth of Yakov's sons, where they were born, and how, together with them, he arrived by his father in Eretz Kena'an, it now proceeds to describe how they developed into a nation, via the events that the Torah now presents, starting with the current episode, which led to the brothers' hatred of Yosef, as a result of which (a) Yehudah separated from his brothers, and bore Shelah, Peretz and Zerach and (b) Yosef was sold to Egypt and bore Efrayim and Menasheh. Then it explains how Yosef invited his father and his household, until "seventy souls went down to Egypt". 5
Oznayim la'Torah: Refer to 37:1:1:6*.
Ohr ha'Chayim #1: This teaches that Yakov's desire to settle down tranquilly caused his grief through the episode with Yosef (refer to 37:1:2:1). A person causes all harm to himself!
Ohr ha'Chayim #2: All Yakov's sons are attributed to Yosef, for he fed all of them.
Ohr ha'Chayim #3: It is as if it said Yakov v'Yosef, i.e. what happened to both of them. Sometimes a verse omits the Vav
Incorporating the entire Torah, until they settled down in their land and beginning with the episode of Yosef and his brothers (Rashi).
Sifsei Chachamim: Even though also Binyamin was from Rachel, he worked primarily for Yosef. When Yosef was born, he asked to return home (30:25)!
Seforno: What he went through from the time that he left his father's house were similar to what his children were destined to experience in the first Galus (of Bavel; whereas what he went through from the time that he returned to Eretz Kena'an, to what they would experience in the time of the second Beis ha'Mikdash, its destruction and the Galus that followed and the ultimate redemption.
Rashbam: This is the same format that the Torah used when describing No'ach and Esav and their respective descendents.
What are the implications of "Eleh Toldos Yakov Yosef"?
Ohr ha'Chayim, from Sotah, 36b: In fact, Yosef ought to have fathered twelve tribes, like his father Yakov, only (when confronted by his mistress, the wife of Potifera) the seed emerged from his ten fingers.
Bava Basra, 23a: In fact, the firstborn ought to have come from Rachel (Yosef should have been the firstborn of Yakov), only Leah earned it through Tefilah.
Avos d'R. Nasan Perek 3: It teaches us that, like Yakov, Yosef was born circumcised. 1 '
Ohr ha'Chayim: "Eleh" excludes what came before. His previous difficulties, including Esav and Lavan pursuing him, were like nothing compared to the episode with Yosef.
Avos d'R. Nasan (ibid.): Which explains why the Torah writes "Eileh Toldos Yakov Yosef", and not 'Reuven'.
Why does the Torah see fit to tell us that Yosef was 17?
Rashbam: To teach us that he was away from his father for 22 years. 1
Ohr ha'Chayim: This is the age at which the Yetzer ha'Ra overpowers. This is why he contended with his brothers and spoke Leshon ha'Ra about them.
Rashbam: He was 30 when he stood before Pharaoh, and Yakov descended after seven years of plenty and two years of famine. Yakov was punished corresponding to the 22 years that he stayed away from his parents, but not for the 14 years thathe learned in the Yeshivah of Ever (Moshav Zekenim, from Megilah 17a). Ohr ha'Chayim, citing Berachos, 55b - we learn from here that one should wait up to 22 years for a dream to come true.
Why does the Torah write "Lir'os Es Echav ba'Tzon'?
Rashbam, Targum Onkelos: "Es" in this context means 'Im' (with). He looked after the sheep together with his brothers.
Seforno: He supervised his brothers and taught them the art of shepherding. 1
Ohr ha'Chayim: He supervised how his brothers eat the flock, and said that they were suspected about Ever Min ha'Chai.
Malbim: He supervised his brothers and rebuked them with Yir'as Hashem.
Why does the Torah need to mention that he was a Na'ar (youth)?
Rashi #1: Because he tended to do boyish things, such as combing his hair and painting his eyes, in order to enhance his appearance.
Rashi #2 (in Mishlei) and Seforno: It was only on account of his youth that he brought his father bad reports about his brothers. Had he been 30, he wouldn't have done that. 1
Rashbam: It was only on account of his youth that he opted to socialize with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. 2
Ramban: Because he was younger than the others and therefore shepherded together with his older brothers, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, who looked after him. 3
Ramban (citing Targum Onkelos): "... he was brought up by the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah". From childhood onwards, he was with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, who brought him up like a father and saw to his every need. 4
Oznayim la'Torah: To teach us that, in spite of his young age and the fact that he was younger than his brothers, he taught them shepherding. 5
Ha'Emek Davar: Na'ar can mean one who serves. "Ha'Na'ar Na'ar ha'Navi" (Melachos 2:9:4) the first means youth, and the latter means the servant [of the Navi]. Also Yehoshua was called "Na'ar" (Shemos 33:11) because he served Moshe. Here, Yosef served Bnei Bilhah and Zilpah, and they served him.
In spite of his deep wisdom, due to his young age, he was inexperienced and immature. That is why once he matured, he was able to instruct the elders of the generation (Seforno).
Refer to 37:2:5:2*. Because he was also with them, people thought that he was a Ben Shifchah! (Hadar Zekenim) (He was closer in age to Yisachar and Zevulun than to Bnei Bilhah and Zilpah! - PF)
Ramban: In any event, it is not uncommon for the Torah to call people who are even older than Yosef was then "Na'ar", as we find by Rechavam, the son of Shlomo, Avshalom and Binyamin.
Ramban: At the behest of their father, who placed him in their charge.
Why did he opt to befriend specifically the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah?
Rashi: Because his brothers (the sons of Leah) used to treat them with disdain. 1
Rashbam: Even though he shepherded the sheep together with the sons of Leah, he preferred to socialize with the sons of maidservants. 2
Refer to 37:2:7:1. Oznayim la'Torah: Because they considered their mothers, Bilhah and Zilpah, Shefachos - See Vayishlach, 35:22 - whereas Yosef considered them his father's wives - See Oznayim la'Torah, DH 'Vayavei Yosef'.
This was an additional reason why the sons of Leah hated him.
Malbim: One who follows his 'nature', e.g. to be merciful, generous, humble... is not a Tzadik. A Tzadik uses his intellect, and decides 'here I should be merciful, and here (e.g. against Resha'im) cruel', and so with each Midah. His brothers judged him unfavorably. They thought that he rebuked them due to pride, he served Bnei Bilhah and Zilpah due to lowliness (the lowly cling to the lowly), and he reported to his father to lower them (really, it was for the sake of Shalom)!
Why does the Torah refer to the maidservants here as "the wives of his father" - bearing in mind that, until now, it always referred to them as 'Shefachos' or as 'Pilagshim' (See Oznayim la'Torah DH 'Es B'nei Bilhah... ')?
Ramban #1: Because that is what they were; it only refers to them as maidservants when it mentions them together with Rachel and Leah, who were superior to them, or when for some reason, they are depicted in an inferior role. 1
Ramban #2: It is also possible that the Torah calls them maidservants and concubines as long as Rachel and Leah 2 lived, and now that they had both died, Yakov (freed the maidservants - Moshav Zekenim, and) took them as wives.
Oznayim la'Torah: Because Leah died about this time, 3 and now that Yakov's two main wives were no longer alive, it was appropriate to refer to Bilhah and Zilpah as 'Yakov's wives'.
Ohr ha'Chayim: This hints that he spoke about [Bnei Leah] that they do not consider them wives, and belittle their sons. Also they are suspected of Arayos, for they think that they were not married to Yakov (like the Rambam (Hilchos Avadim 9:1), who does not assume that one who marries his Shifchah, he freed her. If so, they could have Bi'ah with the Shefachos 4 ! Only Yosef considered them his wives, like the Rif (Yevamos 5a), who assumes that the master freed her. He should not have suspected them. Even the Ramban agrees that presumably, a Tzadik freed her and married her! Also, Rachel and Leah freed their Shefachos when they gave them to Yakov (Targum Yonason 30:4,9); presumably, the Shevatim knew this.
See, for example, above 33:2, 35:22, where the Torah is hinting that, Reuven would not have done what he did, had Bilhah been a main wife.
Moshav Zekenim: Once Rachel died, he treated them honorably, for he hated Leah.
See Oznayim la'Torah DH 'es B'nei Bilhah... ' citing the chronologists.
What was the gist of the evil report that he conveyed to his father about his brothers?
Rashi and Targum Yonasan, from Bereishis Rabah 84:7: The three things that he would report concerning them were that (a) They ate Eiver min ha'Chai; 1 (b) They treated the sons of the maidservants with disdain (by calling them slaves) and (c) They were suspected of Arayos 2 (They would gaze at the maidens of the land. Rashi (Mishlei 19:7) implies that Yosef deliberately misled his father about this. 3
Seforno: He accused them of causing their father losses, due to their inadvertent bad handing of the sheep, which was their main occupation.
Rashbam: He told his father that the sons of Leah despised the sons of the maidservants and that he befriended them.
Hadar Zekenim: He said that they are suspected of Ever Min ha'Chai, murder and Arayos. Therefore he was taken to Egypt and suspected. They gave him to eat separately (Bereishis 43:32), because they suspected him. 4
The ears and the tail (Targum Yonasan - See Peirush Yonasan). Riva - e.g. they would eat from a slaughtered animal that was still quivering. Yosef erred, and thought that it is Ever Min ha'Chai. Moshav Zekenim - the brothers conducted like Dinei Yisrael, so this is permitted. Yosef maintained however, that before Matan Torah, they were Bnei Noach.
See Torah Temimah (citing Yerushalmi, Pe'ah, 1:1). Gur Aryeh - Yosef ha'Tzadik made great fences against Isur. He considered his brothers to be suspected, for they did not make such fences.
Bereishis Rabah: In fact, he erred in all three points, which is why he was punished Midah k'Neged Midah: (a) They slaughtered a goat after they sold him (they were careful about Shechitah even at the time of their wrongdoing); (b) He was sold as a slave, and (c) His mistress set her eyes upon him.
That Pasuk says that he ate separately because Egyptians cannot eat with Ivrim! This requires investigation (PF).
On whom was he reporting?
Rashi: He was reporting on the sons of Leah. 1
Ramban: On the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. 2
Ramban, citing the Midrash: On all the brothers.
Refer to 37:2:152:3.
Malbim: He told his father what Bnei Leah said about Bnei Bilhah and Zilpah, and vice-versa, so his father would rebuke them and make Shalom between them. 3
Which is why they hated him. The sons of Leah hated him because they were jealous of him.
There is a Heter to speak Leshon ha'Ra in such a case. Why was Yosef punished? We must say that one of the conditions was not fulfilled - he said things that he did not see himself, or he could have told his brothers that they themselves should ask Yakov to make Shalom...
Did Yakov accept the Leshon ha'Ra?
Moshav Zekenim: Yes. This is why it says that he loved Yosef. 1 Even though the Leshon ha'Ra was true, a lone witness who testifies about an Aveirah is punished.
I.e. this caused Yakov to err. Why must we say that Yakov accepted it - perhaps he was only concerned lest it is true! We do not find that he rebuked Yosef. Perhaps he thought that Yosef may tell him, for only Yakov's rebuke would be heeded; he did not realize that a condition for this Heter was lacking (refer to 37:2:8:5 and the note there). Perhaps Yosef's sin was judging them unfavorably (PF). There are two kinds of Leshon ha'Ra; one is judging another unfavorably, and revealing this to others (Pachad Yitzchak, Shavu'os 3).
QUESTIONS ON RASHI
Rashi writes that Yosef reported [only] on Bnei Leah. If so, Bnei Bilhah and Zilpah, Reuven and Yosef outnumbered those who hated him. They should have saved him!
Mizrachi, Gur Aryeh: They wanted to kill him due to the dreams ("Ba'al ha'Chalomos ha'Zeh Ba" - verse 19), and not due to the Leshon ha'Ra.
Ohr ha'Chayim: Bnei Bilhah and Zilpah did not want to oppose the six 1 sons of an esteemed wife of Yakov.
Toras Moshe: Bnei Leah disgraced Bnei Bilhah and Zilpah; the latter complained in their tents about Bnei Leah. Yosef was close to them, and heard. He was upset with both of them. He did not tell Bnei Leah, lest they brawl with Bnei Bilhah and Zilpah. He told his father, and all of them hated him.
They did not know that Reuven wanted to save him. They thought that he merely did not want to kill him overtly, and even he would consent to sell him. (PF)