Miketz 5760 – Gilayon #112


Shabbat Shalom The weekly parsha commentary – parshat Miketz


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Parshat Miketz



Your Other Brother, In another Year, Another Place

Pinchas Leiser

In memory of the souls of my dear parents

Natan Ben Yisrael Ya'akov and Shoshanah Leiser Zal, who died on the eighth day of Hanukah 5734

Miriam Bat Pinchas and Chanah Leiser Zal, who died on the 21st of Tevet 5756.

"'And he will send away your other brother, and Binyamin': It seems that according to the p'shat, Shimon was not wanted by his father because of what happened in Sh'chem. Therefore it is not written and Shimon, my son, and Binyamin. He is not mentioned by his name. When they left Egypt for many days, and there was not a famine in their home, and he had not sent yet Binyamin, they would have left him in Egypt. Rashi wrote 'The holy spirit sparkled in him, including Yosef'. In B'reshit Raba (92:3), also he will send away your brother, this is Yosef, another, this is Shimon. The truth is that he thought that at the time that he prayed for the other perhaps he is still alive. (Ramban B'reshit 43:14)

There are many levels to "another"; The meaning that is defined as p'shat according to the commentary of Ramban relates to "another" in a negative light, which is similar to the Tanah Elisha Ben Avuyah, the Rabbi of Rebbi Meir, who went to a bad culture, and became "another". Shimon is "another", because he is not wanted by his father, and he adopted the ways of Esav ("instruments of violence are their swords."). Therefore, Ya'akov, at the end of his life, declares "my soul, come not you into their secret deliberation, unto their assembly, my glory, be not you united." By his actions, he excluded himself from the congregation of Israel and became "another". An interesting commentary to "other gods" appears in the Midrash Halacha of Sifri Ekev (chapter 43): "And why were they called other gods? That they make their worshippers different." Other gods change their worshippers to others when their being "another" is understood as strangeness. The midrashic meaning of another that Rashi chooses to explain the word relates to a hidden, unconscious level of communication between Ya'akov and his sons. The mysterious, and hidden other relates here to Yosef, who Ya'akov desired to see alive. Also Yosef was different ("And the boy was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah."). Here there is a hint to the other, hidden brother, which reminds us of Mordecai's words to Esther in the Book of Esther "Relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place". Balak also suggests to Bilam to go to "another place" in order that there perhaps he will be able to curse the people of Israel (Bamidbar 23). The "other place" is hidden and mysterious like the other hidden and mysterious brother exists in the hidden desires of Ya'akov, our father (Rashi brings the Midrashic article in his words to Breshit 37:35 "But he refused to comfort himself": A person does not accept consolation for one living whom he believes to be dead.).

The Holy One, Blessed be He, announced to Avraham that "in another year" Sarah will give birth to Yitzhak. When the first man (Bavli Avodah Zara 8: page 1) understood that the world continues in its way, and that there exist cycles in the world of nature, he set "for another year" good days. Also the holiday of Hannukah was set as a holiday of thanksgiving "in another year" (Bavli Shabbat 21: page 2). The "other" year is a year of maturing, of perspective, of fulfilling the potential in which there is a place for faith. The potential of the "other" can be missed. The other year allows us to test the meaning of processes for a long period of time, along side the faith in "another place" that recognizes the possibility of change. Shimon is "another" because his actions changed him to another, Yosef is another because he represents yearning and the hope for a different world that does not exist as of yet. His dreams changed him to another and his ability to solve the meaning of dreams, to listen to the dreams of others brought him to the high positions that he reached in Egypt, for the good of Egypt, for the good of his family, and for the entire area.

The holiday of Hannukah is worthy of great popularity in the Zionist myth because the "modern Hebrew" saw himself as continuing the way of the Maccabim. The strong and fighting Israeli as opposed to the Galut Jew identifies with the Maccabim, and many generations were educated on the idea of "few against many". It is possible that this extreme glorifying of military power acted in the first years of the nation as a necessary motivating and functional factor. On the other hand, the stressing of force and military aspects of the holiday of Hannukah turns the holiday into a holiday that glorifies Shimon, the other, instead of giving ones opinion about the other great meaning, the returning to Zion.

The extreme opponents of Zionism in the Haredi world, from the school of the Rebbi of Satmar, saw in Zionism a rebellion against the nations of the world and could not contain the forceful elements in the Jewish society, because this direction contradicts the four oaths that the Holy One Blessed be He swore to Israel. The Zionist movement wanted to return the Jewish nation to the heart of history and was willing to play according to the accepted rules of every movement for national freedom. The danger of glorifying "Shimon", the "other" brother, and turning the Zionist dream into other gods, who make their worshippers other, by ruining the future (for example "another" who boasts to understand the ways of peace) is a real danger and should not be disregarded.

The desired "other" is an "other" who leaves place for the realistic faith that accompanies hope with doubt and fear. But, the halacha was ruled according to Beit Hillel and we are commanded to add light and hope. But we should not forget why the halacha was ruled like Beit Hillel, as written in the G'mara (Bavli Eruvin 13: page 2). "Why was Beit Hillel worthy of having the halacha set according to them? Because they are easy to get along with and modest and learn their words along with the words of Beit Shammai, and even give more honor to the words of Beit Shammai". In a Beit Midrah according to Beit Hillel, there is a place for Beit Shammai who says that the candles "are less and less".

The realistic outlook of the vision allows Yosef (the "other" brother according the commentary of the Midrash) to dream, to listen to the dreams of others, to understand them but also to translate them to action ("and now Paroah feared a smart and wise man").

According to my feeling, we are still in "the other year" in which we can hope for a better world, in which we can overcome the dangers in the "other" which is Shimon,
if we are aware and realistic to these dangers and open to the hidden, mysterious, and grand.

Pinchas Laiser, the editor of Shabbat Shalom, is a psychologist.

Translated by Yonah Landau, Kibbutz Shluhot