These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Yosef and the Color of the Year

Posted on December 5, 2015 by Tamar Benus


Miranda Priestly, Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada said:

“…that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean.”

Last week’s parsha, Parshat Vayeshev, tells the story of Yosef. Famously, Yaakov gives his son Yosef a ketonet pasim (Bereshit 37:3):

וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אָהַ֤ב אֶת־יוֹסֵף֙ מִכָּל־בָּנָ֔יו כִּֽי־בֶן־זְקֻנִ֥ים ה֖וּא ל֑וֹ וְעָ֥שָׂה ל֖וֹ כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים

What exactly was this כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים?

According to Radak, “passim” can be translated as “colorful.” Rashi states that “passim” refers to “fine wool,” which he extrapolates this from Megilat Esther (1:6) “green wool (כַּרְפַּס) and blue wool.” Ibn Ezra claims that the word “passim” connotes that the garment was embroidered. The Targum Yonatan tells us that this garment was illustrated. Hence, “ketonet passim,” may be translated as “a coat of many colors,” “an ornamented tunic,” or “a fine woolen cloak.” (The Living Torah).

The כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים is important because from one piece of clothing we have insight to emotions and relationships. Yaakov gave the כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים as a symbol of love. Yosef wears the כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים with pride and boastfulness. The brothers attach their feelings of hate for Yosef to the fact that he owns and wears the כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים. One garment gives us so much insight into a person and a family.

Clothing has the power to do just that. Clothing represents how we want to present ourselves to our peers and to the world. There are different shades, different mixes, different hues of color that allow every person to represent themselves as the best YOU possible. Just like Miranda Priestly said, “that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean.” As the biblical commentators above provided there are many fashionable options to help us imagine the כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים.

Not only is the parsha relevant because outerwear is always in style, but his happens to fall the same week that Pantone, “the world-renowned authority on color and provider of color systems and leading technology for the selection and accurate communication of color across a variety of industries,” made their annual “Color of the Year” announcement. For the first time ever, Pantone announced that there are two colors. The colors for the 2016 are Rose Quartz and Serenity (a light pink and light blue). According to the Pantone announcement, “joined together, Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.”

I think that Pantone’s colors of the year announcement and the כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים is a lucky coincidence. The כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים, regardless of the material, design, or colors reflects a connection and relationship. The choice of Pantone to have two colors this year is because they recognize that in today’s world people seek to build connection and relationships.

It is also an opportunity for us to consider our relationships with each other. It is a chance for us to color a dark grey world with colors of hope and happiness. It is a blatant message to connect our world of Torah with the world outside our Beit Midrash.

Shavuah tov!