# vayeishev

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## On Freedom of Choice, Divine Providence, and the Hard Problem of Philosophy

The story of Joseph and his brothers, described in the Torah portion of Vayeshev, presents many problems. Classical biblical commentators interpret the conflict between Joseph and his brothers in diametrically opposite ways. Some commentators interpret it literally—the brothers were guilty of conspiring to kill Joseph and, ultimately, selling him into slavery, for which they were held accountable.[1] In fact, the brothers admit their guilt: And they said one to another: ‘We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear. . . . Genesis 42:21 Others take the view that these events were predetermined by G‑d. Indeed, in the Covenant Between the Parts, G‑d reveals to Abraham that his descendants will be strangers in a foreign land. Furthermore, [...]

## Joseph and His Brothers

I grew up in Russia and was raised on the metric system based on decimal arithmetic. When we immigrated to the U.S., I had to learn a new for me (but, actually, very old) Imperial system of measurements. I still struggle with it (decimal system, apparently, was hardwired in my brain). There are many number-systems or positional notation systems. Ancient Babylonians used the base-60 system; the Hindu-Arabic system uses the familiar decimal base-10 system; the Mayans used the base-20 system. There are base-2 binary, base-12 duodecimal, and base-16 hexadecimal systems, to name a few. Aside from the binary system used by computers, we humans mostly use decimal and, sometimes, duodecimal systems. The all-familiar decimal system is used in the metric system of measurements. In base-10 positional notation, there are 10 decimal digits—0, 1, [...]

## Interpreting Dreams

In the Torah portion Vayeishev (Gen. 37:1–40:23), we read about Joseph interpreting dreams of the Pharaoh’s chief butler and the chief baker: And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him: “In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; and in the vine were three tendrils...” And Joseph said unto him: “This is the interpretation of it: the three tendrils are three days.”  (Gen. 40:9-12) How did Joseph know that three tendrils are three days?  The story repeats itself with the chief baker: When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph: “I also saw in my dream, and, behold, three baskets of white bread were on my head…” “This is the interpretation thereof: the three baskets are three days.”  (Gen. 40:16-18) Joseph interpreting [...]

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