Miketz 5765 – Gilayon #372


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Parshat Miketz

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.".

 (Bereishit 41:39-41)

 

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

Pharaoh" (Bereishit

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

than yours.

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

(46:6).

(Vayikra Rabbah

24:9, based on Soncino translation)

 

 

Israel and

the Nations of the World:

Included,

Separated, in Conflict or (Perhaps) in Cooperation?

Yosef-Haim Bengio

Dedicated to the memory of Amram-Emanuel

Avitbul, z"l,

a man of many deeds who served the Jewish People until

his dying day,

while maintaining a sincere connection with the larger

world.

Today,

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

question.

A

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.

After [miketz]

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.

There

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.

The

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.

Each

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.

What,

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.

Such

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).

These

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.

I

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."

In

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.

Does

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

Lamikra)

 

World, Light, Eyes.

Oy

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

Shem Tov)

 

 

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).

(Midrash Aggadat

Bereishit)

 

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).

(Berakhot 56b)

 

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).

(Berakhot 56b)

 

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

candlestick (Bamidbar

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

translation)

 

 

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