How I Love that Coat of Many Colors?
In Parshat Vayeshev Breisheet 37:3 we read that “Yisrael (Yaakov) loved Yosef more than any of his sons, since he was his son born to him when he was already elderly, and he made him a ‘ktonet pasim’.”
What did this ‘ktonet pasim’ look like?
In Breisheet Raba we learn that it was a large coat with sleeves that reached up to the palms of his hands (pas yad). This could only be worn by someone who wasn’t working (or royalty) because otherwise it would get in his way.
Lekach Tov adds that it was so long that it even covered his feet.
Breisheet Raba continues that it was made out of ‘shesh’, linen which is delicate and expensive which is described in Gitin 59 as so thin that you could fold the whole coat into the palm of your hand (pas yad).
Eben Ezra’s opinion is that it is a cloak embroidered with stripes.
According to Targum Yerushalmi it was a silk coat which was nicely made and decorated (drawn on).
Chizkuni comments that it was a nice coat which Yaakov gave Yosef in order to appease him (lifayes is from the same root as passim).
Radak’s view (which Andrew Lloyd Weber adopted for the Broadway show) was that the coat was striped and that each stripe was a different color which made it look really nice and that is why the brothers hated Yosef so much.
Whatever the exact style of the ‘ktonet pasim’ was, the problem here was that Yaakov only made one ‘ktonet pasim’ which he gave to Yosef. This made Yosef’s brothers feel left out and jealous and ultimately caused B’nai Yisrael to be enslaved in Egypt for 210 years.
Reish Lakish teaches in the name of Rabbi Eliezer ben Azaria: A person should not give a greater gift to one of their children in order to not stir up jealousy.
As the Chanukah gift giving season is upon us, let us remember Reish Lakish’s words and do our best to treat each of our children equally.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah from Yerushalayim!
Sharona Margolin Halickman
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