When you think about reasons to be jealous today, it might be because your friend has an iPhone 5 while you only have the iPhone 3. Nowadays, when much of the world enjoys plenty and items are mass produced, this could be a reason to be jealous.
Back in Biblical times, if someone had something unique, it’s likely that it was his and his alone. Joseph, who was Jacob’s favorite son, had a special garment -כְּתֹנֶת פַּסִּים – which will be our subject today. By the way, it’s noteworthy that another important Joseph in history was Jacob’s son – this is Joseph, the father of Jesus.
Joseph’s special attention and gift from Jacob filled his brothers with hatred and jealousy, as written in Genesis 37:3-4
|“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.”||
“וְיִשְׂרָאֵל אָהַב אֶת-יוֹסֵף מִכָּל-בָּנָיו כִּי-בֶן-זְקֻנִים הוּא לוֹ; וְעָשָׂה לוֹ כְּתֹנֶת פַּסִּים. וַיִּרְאוּ אֶחָיו כִּי-אֹתוֹ אָהַב אֲבִיהֶם מִכָּל-אֶחָיו וַיִּשְׂנְאוּ אֹתוֹ; וְלֹא יָכְלוּ דַּבְּרוֹ לְשָׁלֹם.”
This garment was probably colorful since we are seeing the plural form of the Hebrew word “פַּס”- stripe. We know from another occurrence in the Bible that such a garment was usually reserved only for members of the upper class (see 2 Samuel 13:18). The Sages of Israel tried to explain that perhaps this long garment was representative of the different stages of Joseph’s life, as the Hebrew word פַּסִּים is actually initials of four characters that are involved in Joseph’s story- Potiphar, merchants (in Hebrew its “sochraim” with the letter samech ), Ishmaelites and the Middianites.
One thing that has not changed, from Biblical times until today, is the tricky nature of sibling rivalry and the danger of parents playing “favorites.” That caused as many problems then as it does today!
He loved- ‘āhav – אָהַב
Joseph- yôsēf – יוֹסֵף