There seems to be a theme in Parshas Vayeshev around a coat or more generally an (upper) body garment:

  1. Yosef's coat of many colors
  2. Yosef's shirt soaked in blood of a wild animal
  3. Yehuda's cloak as a collateral to Tamar
  4. Yosef's garment that the wife of Potifar grabbed

Each time the article of clothing is a significant element to the story. Is there some deeper meaning behind this, that is explored in Rabbinic literature?

  • Consider also in Vayigash, where Yosef gives his brothers special clothing.
    – DonielF
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 0:27
  • In a plain sense, only Onkelos suggests that Yehudah gave his cloak, others translate it simply as cord. Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


The garment mentioned in each case was actually a sign as to who it belonged to. Rav Hirsch points out in Vayeishev 37:3

And Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was a son of his old age; and he made him a fine woolen coat.

Rav Hirsch points out the special garment was made to show that Yaakov recognized the special character of Yosef.

פסים, from פסס, to cease to end, seems to be the trimming of the edges of a garment, which used to be made on all cloaks to mark the importance of the wearer.

Thus each cloak was identified as the property of the individual and showed who he was and what his position was. Since the cloak was identifiable as belonging to Yosef, then the brothers had to use it to make it appear that a wild animal had torn it from him and gotten his blood on it.

Since the cloak being worn by Yehuda was in a similar manner identified as his, he used it as security so that Tamar could give it back when she was paid. This would be like someone using a check or credit card in modern times.

Again, the cloak that the wife of Potiphar grabbed was also identifiable as Yosef's since he was the chief servant in the household and it showed who he was and what his position within the household was.

There does not have to be a deeper meaning in this respect.

It would be like a modern name tag on the garment in order to identify the owner.

  • That’s a nice answer, thank you. I feel, however, that if there wasn’t a deeper a meaning then the Torah would not mention that detail (just like, to use your analogy, we wouldn’t mention ‘and he gave his credit card as payment’ when telling a story. It’s a minor detail.), in addition to concentrating these mentions relatively close together.
    – user9806
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 2:35
  • @user9806 Since Yehuda gave the cloak and staff to her to hold, and they were identifiable as his, it is not quite like a check in modern times which would be cashed in the bank. It would be more like turning over the drivers license or the official ID badge that would have to be returned to the originsl owner when he gave her the cash that he owed her. This is more significant than just a check. Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 0:15

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