Miketz 5765 – Gilayon #372
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SO PHARAOH SAID TO
JOSEPH, "SINCE GOD HAS MADE ALL THIS KNOWN TO YOU, THERE IS NONE SO DISCERNING AND WISE AS YOU. YOU SHALL BE IN CHARGE OF MY
COURT, AND ALL MY PEOPLE SHALL KISS YOUR MOUTH, ONLY WITH RESPECT TO THE THRONE
SHALL I BE SUPERIOR TO YOU. PHARAOH FURTHER SAID TO JOSEPH, "SEE, I PUT
YOU IN CHARGE OF ALL THE LAND OF EGYPT.".
Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: Moses gave us in
writing in the Torah two sections whose meaning we can infer from the section
concerning the wicked Pharaoh. One verse says, You
shall only [rak] be above (Devarim 28:13). This might be taken
to imply that you will be like Me, and so Scripture
purposely states only, a
limiting term, signifying: My greatness is higher than yours. We can infer this
from the wicked Pharaoh. It says You shall
be in charge of my court.
This might be taken to imply: you shall be like me; and so Scripture plainly
states, only with respect to the throne shall I be superior to you, as
much as to say, my rank will be greater than yours. The present passage too, You
shall be holy (Vayikra
19:2), might be taken to imply that your holiness is to be equal to
Mine; and so Scripture plainly states, For I the Lord your God am holy;
that is to say, My holiness is superior to yours. And this also we can learn
from wicked Pharaoh; for it says, And Pharaoh said to Joseph: "I am
46:44): Lest you should think that you will be like me, Scripture
plainly states, I am Pharaoh, as much as to say, my rank shall be higher
Rabbi Joshua observed in
the name of Rabbi Levi: From the I used by a
mortal you may draw an inference regarding the I used by the Holy One,
blessed be He. If in the case of the I used by a mortal – Pharaoh having
said to Joseph, I am Pharaoh – Joseph attained to all that glory, how
much more glory will there be when the I used by the Holy One, blessed
be He, will come to be fulfilled, namely, that referred to in, Even in old
age I am the same (Isaiah 46:4), and
in the text, Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the
Lord of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last, and beside Me there is no God
24:9, based on Soncino translation)
the Nations of the World:
Separated, in Conflict or (Perhaps) in Cooperation?
Dedicated to the memory of Amram-Emanuel
a man of many deeds who served the Jewish People until
his dying day,
while maintaining a sincere connection with the larger
as ever, we are being asked, as the Jewish People in general, and as citizens
of the State of Israel in particular, to define our cultural, religious and
national position vis-à-vis the other nations of the world. I would like
to reveal those elements of parashat Mikeitz that offer a partial answer to this eternal
first comment – it is not accidental that Joseph's story extends through three parashiyot, namely, Vayeishev, Mikeitz, and Vayigash. True,
Joseph's character does parallel that of King David and both of them prefigure
the future of the Jewish People and the manner in which its history will be
realized. It would seem obvious that all three parshiyot
must be taken into account for their message to be understood. Nevertheless,
our parasha's name reflects its uniqueness.
two year's time – following Rashi's remark
that "the expression ketz always refers
to an end," we understand that the previous era had ended. It is not
merely the end of Joseph's stay in prison, but also something much more
serious: Joseph has been forgotten by his brothers, it is as if he no longer
existed, and in relation to the great competition between the brothers, Joseph's
bid for power has completely failed. The situation, however, undergoes a radical
reversal, ushering in a new period which is more than just a new beginning:
Joseph is transformed from a forgotten prisoner into the powerful viceroy – only
with respect to the throne shall I be superior to you (41:40). According to Breishit
Rabbah, the period of incarceration served as a necessary
preparation for Joseph's new status. It is impossible to switch from one
episode to the next without an interlude, no matter whether you call it a
preparation or punishment. The Talmud (Avoda Zarah 8a) points in
a different direction: The end of the period in which the days grow shorter. When
Adam saw the days grow short he wondered whether darkness would engulf the
world, but on one particular day, the trend changed and Adam understood that
darkness also has its limits, and so he lit the Hanukkah candles.
are two options: Joseph's story (and with it, all the rest of the Torah's
stories) can be read as a story,
albeit a fascinating story with all kinds of psychological, historical,
economic, and national implications.
stories of the Torah may also be read as offering a unified message which
reappears from story to story throughout the book of Bereishit.
The details of the various stories, and the aggadot,
serve to help us discover their universal message, which is appropriate for all
generations and peoples.
of these methods – as well as additional methods – is supported by Jewish
tradition. Here I will leave aside the plain meaning of the text and read the
verses of parashat Mikeitz
in the midrashic manner.
then, is the unifying message of the stories of Bereishit?
Beginning with the very first verse of Bereishit (When
first – God created the world for the Messiah), the Torah shows us various
attempts to reach the level of the perfect human, known as "Messiah."
However, all of the attempts from Adam until Noah failed. Only the three
Patriarchs together, but not as individuals, fulfill the human ideal. The next
stage moves from the individual to the collective level, in order that those
ideals might be adopted by a large number of people.
is the role of Jacob's family. The story of his family teaches us the process
by which the goal is realized by twelve sons who were divided into four
categories (according to their various mothers, Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah).
categories represent human diversity while remaining consistent with the unity
of we are all the sons of one man (42:11),
which, according to Rashi, includes Joseph. This
unity does not prevent competition between the brothers, and leaves the
question raised in the beginning of parashat Vayeishev unanswered: Who exemplifies the Messianic
character? In parashat Vayeishev
we read about Joseph's dreams and the failure of his competition with Judah, the
Messiah's ancestor (since King David was Tamar's descendant). But parashat Mikeitz reopens the
other option, and I suggest that we read the parasha in
the light of this.
will offer just a few examples:
1) Regarding Joseph's role: Many verses describe Joseph's greatness,
comparing his prestige to that of Pharaoh. For example, in regard to the verse and
Pharaoh removed his ring (41:42) RaMBaN emphasizes that removal of the ring is like a kind
of transmission of authority: the roles are completely identical. The midrash does not view this
transmission as diminishing Joseph's merit. On the contrary: This is how Joseph
fulfils his dreams, i.e., his world-view: to be great among the gentiles
without abandoning his personality. This connection to the entire world is
expressed in a different verse. When Joseph takes on the job of
grain-distributor, all the land came to Egypt (41:57) and the gemara
in Pesahim 119a explains: "Which land? Egypt? Canaan? No, they came from all the
world to Joseph." Rashi on the verse mentions
Joseph's great power.
2) The return to conflict between the brothers:
A question may be asked about verses 1-2 of chapter 42, When Jacob saw that there were food rations in Egypt… and he said,
"Now I hear that there are rations to be had in Egypt: Did Jacob
see or hear? And exactly what did he see or hear? Rashi's
answer leaves the realm of normal experience: Jacob saw in a prophecy, in the
glass of holiness, and understood (heard) that something new was happening in
Egypt, and that the time had arrived for the fulfillment of the command that
was given to Abraham, Your offspring
shall be strangers in a land which is not theirs (Bereishit 15:13) and
he must prepare for the descent to Egypt (the rations hint at the sparks
of holiness spread throughout the world, whose collection is one of the reasons
for the exile). However, Rashi adds, "There was
no explicit prophecy saying that he [the food distributor] was Joseph."
any event, he turns to his sons as if he knew in some vague way that the time
had come for the quarrel to start up again. He asks them: Why do you keep
looking at one another? (42:1). Rashi offers an explanation: Do not make pretensions before
Ishmael and Esau as if you do not need to go down to Egypt. RaMBaN
emphasizes: Why before Ishmael and Esau, but not Canaan? (Because Ishmael and
Esau are Abraham's descendants and can demand to make
an accounting with Jacob.) In another direction, Rashi
explains: Do not despair because of the famine (the descent to Egypt was
expected) and in accordance with our line of interpretation: Do not hesitate,
the conflict with Joseph has not ended, go down to Egypt and we will find out
who the true victor is.
The parasha ends with what seems to be a complete victory for
Joseph – he has obtained Benjamin. The youngest of the brothers is not only a
member of Joseph's group, he also serves as insurance that Joseph's
understanding is correct. Of all his brothers, Benjamin is the only one who did
not prostrate himself before Esau (he had not yet been born), meaning that he
symbolizes victory for the group that obtains him.
this ending suggest that the Jews must serve an important and well-known role
among the nations of the world, while taking care to preserve their identity? Jewish
and world history show us that this formula did not
succeed, but we must learn the lessons of the third part of Joseph's story in
order to complete the picture.
Dr. Yosef-Haim Bengio
is a sociologist and educator.
Memory of Sin – the Internal Punishment – is the Worst Punishment
And I shall sin to
my father all of my days (Bereishit 44:32): This is a very precious phrase,
since it clearly points to a notion which is not explicitly mentioned in the
Torah, which is: There is no punishment but sin; from the perspective of Divine
justice, only the sin itself serves as a punishment, which is why Judah said, and
I shall sin to my father all of my days.
(R. Eliyahu ben Amozeg, Eym
World, Light, Eyes.
v'avoy! The world is full of lights and wonderful
and awful secrets, but man's small hand covers his eyes, keeping him from
seeing great lights.
Peace is the Essence.
"The Holy One
blessed be He found no vessel that could contain a
blessing, besides peace" (Mishnah Uktzin 3:12):
Peace is the vessel, and the blessing is its content. If a home's windows are
not closed, what good is wealth? Thieves will come and take everything. Therefore,
the vessel must be intact.
(From the Wisdom of Rabbi Israel Ba'al
The Dream which Endangers and the Dream which Restores
It was only because of
his dreams that Joseph was sold, as it is said: Here comes that dreamer… now
let us go and kill him… (Bereishit 37:19-20). And he was restored by a dream: After
two years' time, Pharaoh dreamed… (41:1).
As it is written: But I will bring healing to you,
and cure you of your wounds [literally: cure will come from those which
strike you] (Jeremiah 30:17).
Rabbi Haninah said: He who sees a well in a dream shall see
peace, for it is said: And Isaac's servants dug in the wadi,
and found a well of water there (Bereishit 26:19).
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: He who
sees a river in a dream should say upon awakening, I will extend to her
peace like a river (Isaiah
66:12) before he says any other verse [such as] when the oppressor
comes as a river (59:19).
Who Gives Light to Whom?
Thus Scripture says, for
you light my lamp (Proverbs 18:29). Israel
said to the Holy One, blessed be He: "Sovereign
of the Universe! Do you ask us that we should give light before You? You, surely, are the Light of the universe, and
brightness abides with you, as is written, The
light dwells with Him (Daniel 2:22)! Yet
You say, The lamp shall give light in front of the
8:2)!" This explains, For You light my
lamp. The Holy One, blessed be He said to them, "It
is not because I require your service, but in order that you may give Me light
even as I have given you light. For what purpose? That
you may rise in the estimation of the nations, who will say: 'See how Israel
give light to Him who gives light to the whole world!'" This may be
illustrated by a parable. To what may it be compared? To the
case of a man who could see and a blind man who were walking on the way.
Said the man who could see to the blind: "When we enter
the house, go and kindle this lamp for me and give me light." The
blind man replied: "Will you be good enough to explain? When I was on the
road you supported me. Until we entered the house you accompanied me. Now,
however, you tell me: 'Kindle this lamp for me and give me light!'" The
man who could see answered him: "The reason why I asked you to give me light
is in order that you might not be under an obligation to me for having
accompanied you on the road." Thus, the man who could see represents the
Holy One blessed be He, as it says, The eyes of the Lord, that run to and
fro through the whole earth (Zechariah 4:10);
and the blind man is Israel; as it says, We grope for the wall like the
blind (Isaiah 54:10). The Holy One,
blessed be He led them and gave them light; as it says, And the Lord went
before them by day in a pillar of cloud… and by night in a pillar of fire, to
give them light (Shemot
13:21). When the Tabernacle was erected, the Holy One, blessed be He, called to Moses and said to him: "Now give you
light to Me," as it says, When you raise the lamps; implying; in
order that you may be elevated.
(Bamidbar Rabbah 15:5, after the Soncino
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