Miketz 5769 – Gilayon #582
(link to original page)
Click here to
receive the weekly parsha by email each week.
fell asleep and dreamed again, and behold,
ears of grain were growing on one stalk,
on one stalk – A sign of
sufficient plenty. It is more explicit than the earlier [dream], since they [the
ears of grain] were healthy and good even though they competed with each other
for sustenance [from the single stalk to which they were all connected].
(Hizkuni Bereishit 41:5)
I saw in my dream and there were seven ears of grain growing together on one
stalk – This alludes to the idea that
one's livelihood and business transactions must be on one stalk, that
is, in unity, and one must take great pains not to falter, God forbid, as
mentioned above. Therefore one must be very careful in all of one's deeds not
to cease from holiness.
(R. Elimelekh M'Lezinsk's Noam Elimelekh on parashat
behold seven thin ears: when the
years are bad, people's bodies become spotted.
(Bereishit Rabbah 89)
From a Deep Pit to a High Rooftop
parashat Vayeshev we read: …they stripped Joseph of his shirt, of the fine
and cast him into the pit; now the pit was empty there was no water in it. This
is a description of one of the most terrifying events in Bereishit. Jacob's
sons were openly violent towards their younger brother, who found himself naked
and alone in a deep and inescapable pit. What effect did his brothers' harsh
blow have upon Joseph? Was he pulled from the pit broken, depressed, and
detached from the world, or was his ordeal in the pit one of the factors that
allowed for Joseph's later ascent to high office?
poisonous reptiles living in the pit did not pose the greatest challenge to
Joseph, but rather his humiliation and his sudden and dramatic loss of status. His
brothers stripped him of the coat which symbolized his superior status and
threw him into the pit. He was completely alone there. He was angry, he cried
out to his brothers and tried to escape the cramped and humiliating space until
foreign merchants came and pulled him up from the pit. They enslaved him, sure
that he would bring a handsome price in Egypt. Indeed, he became a slave to
Potiphar, the chief steward. This was all a traumatic experience for Joseph
because of his drastic change of status: the spoiled and haughty youth became a
Hebrew slave in an Egyptian house. Joseph found himself completely alone and
needing to cope with an alien world.
of Joseph's behavior in Potiphar's house reveals that he had not undergone any
essential transformation. He learned nothing from having been thrown into the
pit. In Potiphar's house Joseph continued to rely on his talents and on his
charisma, which was based on physical attractiveness: and Joseph had
handsome features and a beautiful complexion, words that echo the
description of his mother's beauty. He did not know how to set boundaries for
himself, he remained focused on himself; he became close to his master's wife
and found himself sent to the pit once again. It was only after Joseph was sent
a second time to the pit that he began to change in ways that would allow him
to serve as a senior Egyptian official who would influence the history of the
entire region while simultaneously acting as a central factor in the history of
the founders of the Israelite nation.
claims that the experiences of being thrown into the pit and of enslavement
prepared Joseph to be a multi-faceted politician. In his treatise On Joseph,
[For the politician] there is a multitude of masters,
one succeeding another in a certain succession and regular order. But those who
have been sold three times change their masters like bad slaves, not remaining
with their original ones, by reason of the speedily satisfied irregularity of
their dispositions, always thirsting after novelty. (Yonge translation)
words can easily be adapted to describe our own contemporary politicians.
being twice thrown into the pit, there is a change in Joseph's attitude towards
others. He begins to treat those around him with respect. He begins to listen
to other people's problems: And he asked Pharaoh's chamberlains who were
with him in the prison of his master's house, saying, "Why are your faces
sad today?" The dreams he will interpret later in the parasha are not
his, but those of Egyptians. Now from his place in the pit he listens
attentively to the dreams of the deposed chamberlains, telling them: God
has the interpretations. He knew that God chose to send the
interpretations to him in particular. Ironically, it was in the pit that Joseph
began his role as an agent sent to realize the messages hidden in dreams,
including dreams that were not his own. The experience of falling into pits rid
Joseph of his haughty attitude towards the world. Now he would deal with dreams
that had nothing to do with his own status. Now he would receive messages that
would shape the world around him. Joseph could see beyond himself and his
family and become concerned with the much broader needs of the world around
time he has to deal with Pharaoh's dreams, Joseph will understand that his true
powers can only be exercised when he connects with the dreams' messages. He
will understand that his mission is much broader than he had imagined. As long
as he was focused on himself he could not receive the truly important messages
that God wanted to send him, as a result he could not give his powers full
expression in the world. The fall into the pits allowed Joseph to become
attentive to the big world and prepared him for the next stage of his life,
which began with Pharaoh's dreams. Those dreams made it clear to him that he
was meant to play in the world arena, far from the starting point that was
linked only to his own family. He understood that the fall into the pits
granted him the ability to listen to great dreams concerning the wider world,
and to grasp how his new powers would allow him to grapple with the realization
of the dreams' message.
significant change also occurs in the way Joseph interprets his earlier dreams.
He understands that he must also actively pursue the fulfillment of his earlier
dreams in terms of his new broad perspective on the wider context of his action
in the world. The interpretation of his earlier dreams must mesh with his
interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams, the dreams whose interpretation was sent to
him by God (God will give an answer [that will bring] peace to Pharaoh)
and whose fulfillment became Joseph's life's work.
are periods in the lives of individuals and of nations when they are thrown
into pits. Sometimes the pits are real and sometimes they are imaginary. In his
book, Joseph and His Brothers, Thomas Mann points to how Joseph's story
is an example of the ability to hope even in the most difficult of times. Mann
read Joseph's story as a source of encouragement in troubled times. He thought
that Joseph displays the possibility of escaping the deepest pits and of
drawing strength from the process of that escape. Joseph manages to get out of
the pits and that is what prepares him to gain the tools necessary for leading
the ancient world through a difficult period. According to Mann, Joseph
understands that his being cast into the pit was necessary in terms of God's
game-plan for the world; it served as an important means to prepare him to face
his life's important missions.
this description offer a message for us? We all have personal dreams. Sometimes
it is precisely the experience of falling into deep and difficult pits that
allows us to link our personal dreams to broader, more general dreams. It is
exactly then that we can discover that the deep pits and feelings of falling
were opportunities to change ourselves and to influence the reality around us.
Prof. Yaron Shor teaches in the Hebrew University and in the
was standing on the Nile
Yohanan said: The wicked exist on their gods, Pharaoh dreamt: here, he was standing
on the Nile, but the righteous – their gods exist on them, as is
written, Behold, God is standing upon him and He said: I am God, Lord
(Bereishit Rabba 69)
At first it would seem
that both Pharaoh and Jacob, who represent in the midrash the wicked and the
righteous, are both cognizant of man's standing before God, and both even
worship Him. But there is a deep difference between the religiosity of the
sinner and that of the righteous person. In wicked Pharaoh's view, God is an
instrument, a means for advancement of his interest, his standing and
existence. The meaning of his faith is that his gods provide for his existence,
that is to say, God
exists for Man. The mythological concept "gods of Egypt', refers to
the Nile which supports Egypt, and therefore Pharaoh sees himself as standing
on the Nile. And why does he bow to the Nile as a god? Because this god
supplies all his needs, serving him, the sovereign over the mighty Egyptian
empire, making their existence possible. Pharaoh serves his gods because his
gods serve him. His religious belief is expressed by his rising in the morning,
thanking his god for what he did on his behalf, and hoping that his god will
continue to act on his behalf.
The righteous person is the opposite, he does not ask that
his god support him and provide his needs. He accepts upon himself to serve his
god. In this sense it can be said that the righteous man carries his god… his
god exists on him.
(Prof. Y. Leibowitz z"l, Sheva Shanim shel Sihot al
The one opened his sack to give fodder to his donkey at the lodging place, and
he saw his money, there it was in the mouth of the sack.
Simon and Levi
are brothers – But are they not all brothers? Rather:
"brothers in scheming" – they devised a scheme against Shekhem and
destroyed it, for it says: And two sons of Jacob, Simon and Levi took.
And they schemed against Joseph to kill him, for it is said: So they said one
to his brother, "Behold, that dreamer is coming. So now, let us kill
him." Who were these [who plotted against Joseph]? If you say it was
Reuben – but Reuben wanted to save him, for it is said: Reuben heard and
saved him from their hand. If you say Judah – but Judah said: "What
is the gain if we slay our brother? If you say it was the sons of the woman
servants, it has already been said, and he was a lad, [and was] with the
sons of Bilhah [and with the sons of Zilpah]. Who, then, were they?
They were Simon and Levi, for of them it is written: Simon and Levi are
brothers. And so, when they arrived in Egypt Joseph said: If I leave
Simon and Levi together in one place, they will scheme and destroy a great city
of Egypt. Therefore, he separated Simon from Levi, for it is said, and he
took Simon from them. Since he had separated them, Levi became an
individual, for it is said: The one opened his sack – but was
he alone? Rather, it was Levi who was left alone, separated from his partner.
That moment Levi's strength was weakened; that is why it is said, Simon and
Levi are brothers.
(Yalkut Shimoni VaYehi 158)
The one opened
his sack – this might have been Levi, who had remained alone, separated
from his partner, Simon. It happened that he alone – and not the others – had
to open the sack because he may have had two donkeys, his own and that leftover
from Simon. He had brought the same quantity of fodder as the other brothers
had, but it was not sufficient for him [to feed Simon's donkey as well as his
own] and he had to take some barley or other grain from the grain sack. The
others did not have to open the grain sack because each had brought enough
fodder for his own donkey.
(Rabbi Yitzhak Shmuel Reggio, Bereishit 42:27)
"Steadily decreasing" or "Steadily increasing"?
The Rabbis taught: The commandment is for each
man and his household to light a Chanukah candle. Those who adorn the
commandment with additional beauty have each person light his own candle. As
for those who excel in adornment of the commandment; the House of Shamai says:
They light eight candles on the first night and from thence steadily decrease
the number of candles [each night]. The House of Hillel says: They light one
candle the first night, and steadily increase [the number of candles through
the subsequent nights].
The House of Shamai is strict; they want to
completely consume evil, even the "barely evil," even the evil that
is hardly uncovered and recognized. That is also the secret of their
disagreement over whether the heavens were created first, as the House of
Shamai thought, or the earth was created first, as the House of Hillel claimed (J.
Hagiga 10a). Heaven and earth relate to thought and action, respectively. The House
of Shamai was not satisfied when a person's actions were proper; they also
wanted his thoughts to be free of any hint of evil. The House of Hillel found
actions sufficient, if a person's deeds are straight and pure.
Shmuel Yosef Zevin, z"l, Or HaHalakhah)
A Little Light can Dispel Much Darkness
The Miracle (Nes) or Test (Nisayon) of the Oil Flask circa
In recent weeks we have witnessed especially
harsh expressions of violence, hatred, and racism against Palestinians and Arab
citizens of Israel on the part of Jews who consider themselves to be
Torah-observant. As Rabbi Lichtenstein points out in his letter that was
publicized in the media, the perpetrators' image as observant Jews and the
silence of the majority of Israel's rabbis in the face of these phenomena add a
dimension of hillul hashem – desecration of the Divine Name – to acts of
incitement, desecration of graves, house-burnings, uprooting of trees, and
I think that the fact that although these
deeds were carried out by Jews who see themselves as "religious" they
did not elicit profound protest requires a serious accounting of the roots from
which they grew.
It should be mentioned that alongside those
criminal acts we were also witness to expressions of support for their victims and
of modest yet unambiguous public protest against the pogrom that followed the forced
eviction from the House of Centention.
About a week after the violent events in
Hebron, groups of Jews, including some observant Jews, traveled to express
their identification with the victims of the abuse inflicted by the thugs in
Kehilat Yedidya in Jerusalem held a rally from
which a clear voice arose from the various speakers protesting the violence in
Hebron and all other locales. Pictures were exhibited which had been taken by
Rabbi Yehiel Greniman while participating in the visit to Hebron.
A group of Kahanists planned a provocative
march in Um El Fahm, but as of the time of this writing, the police postponed
the march, citing "concern for public order." The fact that there was
a considerable amount of public protest against the march together with various
initiatives to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Um El Fahm offer some
testimony to there being "a little light."
The existence of a sovereign state allowed the
Jewish People to reenter history. I believe that this situation is both a
challenge and a test. Just as the flask of oil could illuminate the Temple but could
also burn it down, political independence and the reality of power also
involves the danger of destructive conflagration if we do not stop the
zealotry, racism, and the religiously-framed and unrestrained national
chauvinism that exists alongside a tremendous potential for great light. Let us
hope and pray that indeed, "A little light can dispel much darkness."
Pinchas Leiser, Editor
If you enjoy Shabbat Shalom, please consider contributing towards
its publication and distribution.
- Hebrew edition distributed in Israel
- English edition distributed via email $
Issues may be dedicated in honor of an event, person, simcha, etc.
Requests must be made 3-4 weeks in advance to appear in the Hebrew, 10 days in
advance to appear in the English email.
In Israel, checks payable to Oz VeShalom may be sent to Oz
VeShalom-P.O.B. 4433, Jerusalem 91043.
US and British tax-exempt contributions to Oz VeShalom may be made
New Israel Fund, POB 91588, Washington, DC 20090-1588, USA
New Israel Fund of Great Britain, 26 Enford Street, London W1H 2DD,
Please note that the NIF is no longer accepting donations under $100
PEF will also channel donations and provide a tax-exemption. Donations
should be sent to P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, Inc., 317 Madison Ave., Suite
607, New York, New York 10017 USA
All contributions to either the NIF or PEF should be marked as
donor-advised to Oz ve'Shalom, the Shabbat Shalom project. For Donations
to NIF, please mention that Oz veShalom is registered as no. 5708.
Oz Veshalom-Netivot Shalom is a movement dedicated to the advancement of
a civil society in Israel. It is committed to promoting the ideals of
tolerance, pluralism, and justice, concepts that have always been central to
Jewish tradition and law.
Oz Veshalom-Netivot Shalom shares a deep attachment to the land of
Israel and it no less views peace as a central religious value. It believes
that Jews have both the religious and the national obligation to support the
pursuit of peace. It maintains that Jewish law clearly requires us to create a
fair and just society, and that co-existence between Jews and Arabs is not an
option but an imperative.
copies of a 4-page peace oriented commentary on the weekly Torah reading are
written and published by Oz VeShalom/Netivot Shalom and they are distributed to
over 350 synagogues in Israel and are sent overseas via email. Our web site is