Vayeshev: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Stew

Vayeshev: Technicolor Stew

Vayeshev: Technicolor Stew

In Vayeshev, Jacob returns to his home to “settle.” But, there is not any internal or external settling for him. Jacob’s sons are upset by the arrogance of his favorite son, Joseph. The brothers strip Joseph of the elaborate tunic Jacob had given him and throw him into a pit. Rather than letting him die, though, Reuben convinces the other brothers instead to sell him into slavery. But, the brothers lie to their father that his beloved Joseph was killed by presenting his bloody tunic.

Why is Jacob unable to have tranquility in his life after everything he’s been through? Yanki Tauber writes, “many are content to live this lie: to forget what happened yesterday, avoid thinking about what will happen tomorrow, ignore the sadness in a neighbor’s eye, the poverty on the other side of town and the bombs in the other time zone.

While one may look at a farm and see a tranquil, lush landscape, agriculture is anything but calm. Rather, it is the epicenter of global fights for human rights, land sovereignty and the survival of family farmers. This Wednesday, December 10, is Slow Food’s Terra Madre Day–a global celebration of local foods. The Terra Madre network in 160 countries supports food sovereignty–local communities control over the growing, production and eating of food. It is also about preserving indigenous food cultures and traditions in the face of threats from international agriculture and food homogenization that eliminates food diversity, hurts

Purple Yams. Pureland Farms. La Cienega Farmers Market, Los Angeles

Purple Yams. Pureland Farms. La Cienega Farmers Market, Los Angeles

small farmers and devastates communities. Part of Terra Madre’s commitment to preserving food diversity is through it’s Ark of Taste which has already 2,000 foods from around the globe that are at risk of disappearing.

It’s also Human Rights Day on December 10. While the family farmers of Terra Madre fight off threats from industrial agriculture, tens of thousands of industrial farmworkers are fighting for their human rights.  The Los Angeles Times has an incredible story about farmworkers in Mexico picking tomatoes at “mega-farms” for the US market. They live in “squalid conditions, trapped for months at a time  [and] camp bosses illegal withhold [of] wages.” 

One worker said, The real truth is that we’re work animals for the fields.

Joseph's tunic

Joseph’s tunic

Terra Madre Day and Human Rights Day are both about rights in the face of industrial agriculture. And, this issue affects all of us. As Yael Shy notes about Jacob in Vayeshev, “[he] is trying to create an artificial separation between his own well-being and the well-being of the world.” We are not separate from who or how our food is grown.

We cannot continue with a food system that enslaves workers. We also need family farmers who provide food for 70% of humanity. The range of crops grown by family farmers is critical to protecting food diversity, especially with environmental threats of climate change that can easily wipe out a single crop.

Yanki Tauber continues, “there are the righteous: men and women who cannot relish their meal as long as someone, somewhere, remains hungry; who, if there is ignorance in the world, know their own wisdom to be deficient; who, if there is discord anywhere in G‑d’s creation, cannot be at peace with themselves.”

The haughty and arrogant Joseph is transformed when he is a slave in Egypt. Rabbi Brad Artson writes in The Bedside Torah that “only in prison does Joseph learn to accept a fundamental principal of Jewish living: kol Yisrael areivim, zeh ba’zeh. We are all responsible for one another.”

Yellow zucchini. La Cienega Farmers Market, Los Angeles

Yellow zucchini. La Cienega Farmers Market, Los Angeles

When you buy the ingredients for this week’s dish, try to learn about where it was grown. Is the food from a small family farmer or industrial farm? Where is it located? How was it grown? When you  know your food sources, you can have a relationship–and responsibility–to your farmers and community.

The dish for Vayeshev is made with a rainbow of colors, reflective of Joseph’s ornate tunic. The tomatoes symbolize the blood smeared on the tunic by Joseph’s brothers and a reminder of the inhumane work environment for so many farmworkers. Also, in honor of Human Rights Day, the diversity of colors in the dish are for the myriad of people who grow and pick our food–whether it’s a family farmer harvesting apples in upstate New York, a farmworker planting lettuce at an industrial farm in California’s Central Valley or a child picking tomatoes in Mexico. The variety of ingredients in the stew is also a celebration of Terra Madre and a reminder of our need to protect the global diversity of colors and tastes of foods.

Technicolor Stew

Technicolor Stew ingredients

Technicolor Stew ingredients

1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped, finely chopped
2 yellow zucchini, chopped into small chunks
1-2 green zucchini, chopped into small chunks
1 basket cherry tomatoes
1 purple yam (if not available, substitute an eggplant), sliced
1 handful torn or chopped basil
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


1. Wash and chop vegetables.
2. Over medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil to pan and add onion and garlic. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Add zucchinis and yam. Simmer with lid for about 15-20 minutes until soft. You might need to add some water to ensure it doesn’t stick.
4. Add tomatoes and pepper. Cook for another 10-15 minutes until soft.
5. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste, a few drops of olive oil and freshly chopped basil.


Vayshev: Technicolor Stew

Vayshev: Technicolor Stew


8 thoughts on “Vayeshev: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Stew

  1. Dearest Sara,
    Again and again I am amazed with your originality,creativity but most of all with your dedication to Tikkun Olam and the beautiful way you do it.
    Your sensibility and your expression of love are price less, using them you prepare for us every week a dish of midrash.
    And they both tast like hope, love and true peace-שלום אמת
    Thank you
    ישר כח
    Much love

    Liked by 1 person

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