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    The coloured coat – Vayyeshev

    Jacob gives Joseph the coat, Owen Jones, 1869

    As the sidra tells us this week, Joseph wore a coat of many colours.

    However, not all commentators accept this as the correct translation of ketonet passim; Ibn Ezra thinks that passim is a matter of style, not colour, and it means “embroidered”, which tells us that people were envious of Joseph.

    In the same vein, others suggest that the word passim means that the coat had sleeves.

    It is still possible to use passim as an indication of colour, and to link specific colours with styles of ethical conduct, “green with envy, red with rage, yellow with cowardice” (Emanuel Levy).

    In a broader metaphorical sense, a person can (but should not!) be clothed in callousness, corruption and cruelty, becoming so identified with depravity that people might say, “Here comes the villain!”

    The best way is described in the Bible, which says that God is clothed in strength and majesty (Psalm 93) and an eshet chayil is clothed in dignity and elegance (Prov. 31).

    The ideal is summed up by the prayer which is recited when putting on the tallit in the morning, “May my soul merit to be clothed in a spiritual robe in the World to Come”.

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