Miketz 5759 – Gilayon #61


Shabbat Shalom The weekly parsha commentary – parshat Miketz


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Parshat Miketz


Dreams that put in danger and dreams that Heal

Joseph was only sold because of his dreams, as it says 'Behold, this dreamer comes. Come now therefore, and let us slay him.'(Gen 37:20), yet also he was healed by a dream:' And it happened at the end of two years that Pharaoh dreamed'. It is written 'For I will restore health to thee and I will heal thee of thy wounds,' (Jeremiah 30:17)

Midrash Hagadat Bereshit (Chap 67)

Rabbi Hanina said: If one sees a well in a dream, he will behold peace, since it says: And Isaac's servants dug in the valley, and found there a well of living water.'

Talmud Brachot 56b.

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi" If one sees a river in his dreams, he should rise early and say: Behold I will extend peace to her like a river, before another verse occurs to him, for distress will come in like a river.

Talmud Brachot 56b.


Between Joseph's Pharoah and Antiyochos


by Ariel Rathaus

Parshat Miketz presents the relationship between the Children of Israel and the other nations in a very optimistic light which diminishes the dramatic tension that characterises the description of this relationship in most of the Bible.

The world of idolatry into which Joseph was thrown, seems extremely open to the religious message and values of the family of Abraham. Pharaoh knew Joseph's background ('And there was with us, a young man, a Hebrew, servant to the Officer of the Guard Gen 41:12), and is even willing to acknowledge that his wisdom comes from God. There is no reference anywhere to any discrimination due to Joseph's 'Hebrew' origins, (discrimination that we would define today as 'anti-Semitism'). In addition, commentators that read between the lines and claim that there was indeed discrimination, admit that there was no blind hatred because the Egyptians were unwilling to forego Joseph's wisdom, on account of his foreign origins. For example, on the verse 'And Pharaoh said to his servants, 'Can we find a one such as this is, a man in whom is the spirit of God? (Gen 41:38). Nachmanides adds that 'because he was a Jew, a people loathed by the Egyptians, he did not come into contact with him, and did not connect with him, because they (Jews) are impure to them (Egyptians). Therefore Pharaoh did not want to appoint him deputy to the King without their permission; and it is for that reason that he said to them that he had not found an Egyptian like him, and that the spirit of God was with him.' And the Ramban explains that the Egyptians 'sanctioned his appointment, and only then did Pharaoh turn to Joseph and appoint him as Deputy Ruler. In other words, there were feelings of hatred among the Egyptians but in addition to those feelings there also existed flexibility and understanding. As soon as they understood that it was in their best interests, the Egyptians accepted Joseph the Hebrew as their Ruler. And the result is contained in the simple reading of the text: the ex-slave merits clothes of fine linen, a chariot, the epithet 'the one to be bowed to' (lit. Bow the Knee), a wife of illustrious lineage, as well as power and status.

This, as has been stated, is almost an ideal state in the relations between the Children of Israel and the Nations. Indeed, it is possible to say that it stands in direct contradiction with other historical situations which we sometimes remember on Shabbat Mikets.

Our Parsha is often read, as it is this year, on Shabbat Chanukah, when in the Shacharit and Musaph prayers before and after the reading of the torah, we add into the blessing of thanksgiving, the section 'Al hanisim – On account of the Miracles'. In that section we remember the hard fight against the evil Greek King. The festival of Chanukah expresses, it would appear, an extremely pessimistic view of the relationship between Israel and the Nations of the World; after all, we are not talking about simply a cultural-religious competition but rather also about a physical conflict, a war. Sometimes, it appears as if in Jewish historical consciousness, the festival became a symbol of the relationship of hatred that existed between Israel and then Nations throughout generations. The composition, 'Maoz Tsur Yeshuati', does not refer only to the battle fought by the Hasmoneans, but rather it details the relationship of hatred that has existed between the Jews and the Nations of the world since the exodus from Egypt until the days of the Second Temple. It goes without saying that this poem does not mention the fact that the Egyptians recognised that Joseph had the spirit of God. Rather it refers to the Egyptians ' who did not know Joseph', who were punished by being drowned in the Red Sea as a result of their evilness and hatred of Israel. ' The armies of Pharaoh, and all his seed, went down like a stone in the deep waters'.

The Jewish calendar, often forces us to contend with contradictory experiences. It would seem that the conclusion that we should draw from Shabbat Chanukah on which we read the sedra of Miketz is that there are contrasting tendencies in Jewish history; 'a time for war and a time for peace' if we are to use the language of Kohelet. It is also possible, that some will draw pessimistic conclusions stating that there is no meaning to peace because war is eternal and unavoidable. Others will deduce that the case of Pharaoh and Joseph is simply a false lesson, for in any case after them arose the Pharaoh of Moses and the evil Antiyochos.

But it would seem for all that that these conclusions do not fit the true spirit of the Festival of Light. The customs of the festival and its laws were not intended solely to eternalise the memory of the miracle and the memory of the war of the Hasmoneans, but rather to furnish us with hope in a better future than the past. This is proven by the fact that the Halacha was decided according to Beith Hillel and we add (and do not reduce) the number of candles each day in accordance with the edict ' we go up in holiness and not down'.

This positive attitude, is expressed, it would appear, also in the words of the Haftara that is read on the first shabbat of Chanukah, 'Sing and rejoice, daughter of Zion' from the book of Zechariah (2:14-4:7)

The clear connection between the Haftara and the topic of Chanukah is found in the verses 4-7 of Chapter 4. Here the prophet sees in his vision a golden menorah with seven lights – a sight that recalls the Holy Menorah from the Temple and also the eight branched Menorah of Chanukah. As you will remember, the prophet also sees 'two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl and the other upon the left side of it' (Zech4:4,3). He asks the angel who is revealed to him what is the meaning of the vision and receives the following answer. 'This is the word of the Lord to Zerubavel saying; 'Not by might nor by power but by my spirit says the Lord of hosts.'

In understanding this famous verse, there is unanimity between the great commentators. In spite of the fact that the verse is not explained in the Torah, Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Rabbi David Kimchi and the Metzudat David explain that the prophet saw the olives that are squeezed from above and the oil that is poured into the Menorah from God, without the interference of man. This is a sign that the redemption will come without any act of force, with the help of the spirit of God that will become anointed upon the nations and will influence them in Israel's favour. It is only natural, to bring in this connection the worlds that are engraved on David's tombstone. ' I want to say – the Kingdom of Zerubavel will not be forced by the strength of the sword; nor by the multitude of seed will we conquer them in war, but rather we will rule without needing to resort to war, but rather with their permission, because I will make the heart of the non-Jew accede to Him (God), and they will keep His discipline; it will be like the preparation of the candle of the Menorah, that took place without exertion but rather was all done by itself, for the olives took root by themselves, and were weeded, and by itself the oil flowed to the reaper'

Our rabbis appended to the reading of the Torah for Chanuka, verses that do not represent the sentiments of menace that existed between the Greeks and the Jews in the Days of Anityochos. Indeed the opposite is the case, according to the great commentators these verses express the spirit of conciliation and mutual-understanding between Israel and the nations that is the spirit of Miketz, in which it is told how the Egyptians agreed to be bound to Joseph's interpretation of events. In this way, the sages of Israel arranged it so that, specifically at Chanukah; the sentiment of tension between Jews and the Nations is not the entire representation but rather it is also possible to imagine a word redeemed not by valor or by strength but by the spirit of God.

It is fitting to remember in conclusion, a law that simply demonstrates the ability of our Rabbis to rise above the anger and the suspicion; in spite of the things that stick out concerning the wicked Greek Kingdom. It is ruled in the Talmud that only the language of Greek, out of all the languages in the world, apart from Hebrew, is permitted to be used in the writing of a Sepher Torah. (Babli Megila 9.)



Dr. Ariel Rathaus teaches literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Translated by Jonathan Klahr.