Miketz 5769 – Gilayon #582


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Parshat Miketz

And he

fell asleep and dreamed again, and behold,

seven

ears of grain were growing on one stalk,

healthy

and good.

(Bereishit 41:5)

 

Growing

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)

 

and

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

Miketz)

 

And

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

Yaron Shor

In

parashat Vayeshev we read: …they stripped Joseph of his shirt, of the fine

woolen coat which was upon him. And they took him

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?

The

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.

Analysis

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.

Philo

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,

Philo writes:

[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)

These

words can easily be adapted to describe our own contemporary politicians.

After

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

him.

By the

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.

A

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.

There

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.

Does

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

Lander Institute.

 

He

was standing on the Nile

Rabbi

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

of Abraham.

 (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

Parashat haShavua, p.156)

 

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.

(Bereishit 42:27)

 

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)

 

Chanukah Candles:

"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].

(Shabbat

21b)

 

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.

(R.

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

5769

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

more.

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

Hebron.

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

 

 

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