Dedicated In Honor of My Wife Rachel Wygoda
Salvation in the Blink of an Eye
The parasha begins: “vayehi miketz shnatayim yamim u’paraoh holem — It happened at the end of two years to the day: Pharaoh was dreaming.” As this occurred, Yosef was completing his twelve year jail sentence.
While in jail, Yosef interpreted the dreams of the wine butler and the baker. The wine butler received a positive interpretation of his dream, but the baker was hanged as Yosef had predicted. Yosef made a request from the wine butler as he was released from jail: “Remember me and don’t forget me.” Our Rabbis explain that at Yosef’s level the double lashon showed a slight lack of Emunah, because he was placing his hope in the hands of the wine butler rather than putting all his faith in Hashem. The midrash tells us that that Yosef was punished with ten years in jail for speaking lashon hara about his ten brothers (not including Benyamin, who was not involved). Now his jail term was extended for two more years — one additional year for each statement.
According to Ohr HaHayyim Hakadosh, Pharaoh had recurring dreams for two years. Pharaoh was very bothered by them, and when none of Pharaoh’s advisors were able to come up with an interpretation that satisfied him, the wine butler let Pharaoh know of Yosef’s unique ability to interpret dreams.
Yosef was quickly brought out of jail, washed and groomed, and brought before Pharaoh. When Pharaoh said “I heard that you can comprehend dreams and interpret them,” Yosef responds: “That is beyond me; it is Hashem who will respond with the correct interpretation.”
So Yosef listened to Pharaoh’s account of his dreams, and also corrected Pharaoh regarding his own dream. He then interpreted the dreams: “There would be seven good and robust years in Egypt, followed by seven disastrous years of famine and harm to Egypt’s economy”. Pharaoh immediately appointed Yosef as his second-in-command and viceroy over all of Egypt. He was in charge of the grain, and ultimately of their entire economy.
The question is asked by our Rabbis: How could Pharaoh put Yosef in charge before he was able to prove that his vision of the future was accurate? The answer is that Pharaoh changed his dream, and knew the correct interpretation but forgot it. So when Yosef repeated back the correct version of Pharaoh’s dreams, he realized that Yosef’s interpretation was reliable.
Another question that arises is why later (in parashat Bo) Pharaoh failed to believe Moshe even after he had correctly predicted seven plagues in a row. The answer is that in the case of the plagues, Pharaoh did not want to free the slaves, as he would be losing the free labor that augmented his wealth. In the case of Yosef, Pharaoh would actually benefit economically from the prediction.
We also learn from this that Hashem can take any one of us from a very low point in our lives, as Yosef was when he was in prison, to a very high position, such as running a big and profitable company. Hashem can make this happen k’heref ayin – in the blink of an eye!
The Real Cause and Affect
Rabbi Mansour brings the Zohar on this parasha: “ketz sam la’hoshech — He (Hashem) brought an end to the darkness.” Clearly, the Zohar refers to the “darkness” of Yosef’s imprisonment. Yosef languished for many long years in a dark, dreary dungeon, until finally this period of darkness ended and gave way to the light of redemption. The question arises: What message does the Zohar seek to convey by citing this verse in reference to the story of Yosef? What does this passuk add to our understanding of the story?
The Zohar here is teaching us the proper perspective on “cause-and-effect” in our lives. We generally tend to assume that our success or failure is the result of circumstances that unfold. A businessman may come across a windfall of merchandise, sell it for a handsome profit, and become wealthy. If we analyze this series of events, we might instinctively say that the man prospered because he was fortunate enough to find the merchandise. But from a Torah perspective, the exact opposite is true. Hashem decreed that the man should prosper, and therefore Hashem orchestrated events in a way that led to that outcome. The man did not become wealthy because of luck but because it was ordained from Hashem that the time had come for him to prosper.
This is the Zohar’s intent in citing the verse ketz sam la’hoshech. Outwardly, it appeared that Yosef was freed and rose to power because the butler and the baker who were with him in prison had dreams which he successfully interpreted, and then Pharaoh had an unusual dream that needed interpretation. The Zohar teaches us that it was just the opposite: Hashem decided it was time to bring an end to Yosef’s darkness, and so Hashem orchestrated this series of events in order to achieve that objective. Yosef’s release from the dungeon was not the result of these events; it was the cause of these events.
This is a fundamental lesson in Emunah that we must all learn and internalize. No matter what happens in our lives, there is always only a single cause – Hashem’s will that it should happen. And the circumstances that allow that to happen are only the effect triggered by the Divine Will.
Don’t Flaunt It
Later in the parasha, Yaakov told his sons to go down to Egypt to purchase food so they would not starve during the famine. Rashi explains that the famine had not reached Yaakov and his family yet, and they still had food. But since most people were heading down to Egypt to buy food, Yaakov didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that his family that they had food when others didn’t. When there’s a recession and people are out of work, we’re not supposed to flaunt what we have; rather we should just thank Hashem and act humbly because all that we have is from Hashem!
Also, when Yaakov told his sons to go to Egypt to get food in passuk 2, he used the word “redu,” which means “go down,” and whose numerical value is 210, indicating that this would be the beginning of the 210 years that B’neh Yisrael would be in Egypt until Hashem ultimately saved them from the hands of Pharoah and the Egyptians to bring them to Har Sinai to receive the Torah!
United We Stand
When the ten brothers went down to Egypt, they entered through ten separate gates to search for their long-lost brother Yosef in all the markets, thinking that he may have survived as a peasant. Yosef, now second in command to Pharaoh, recognized his brothers, but he didn’t identify himself to them. According to the Rabbis, he knew that his dreams had to be fulfilled in sequence. Since his dreams had indicated eleven brothers bowing to him, he had to engineer Benyamin’s return with them. Yosef had to accuse them of being spies in order to set them up to bring back Benyamin. Yosef also caused the brothers these troubles in order to draw them to finally admit their wrongdoing, “This is why this anguish has come upon us.” They realized that this was a punishment from Hashem for their cruelty they did to their brother Yosef.
If they had hated Yosef when he merely dreamt of being a king over them, how much more so would they hate him now that he became King and truly had the power of life and death over them? Therefore he wanted to show them, that after the long chain of events, he truly loved them and had only their good interests at heart. This, he was sure, would melt their long-standing resentment.
Yosef’s goal was always to bring his brothers back together and create unity between them, because they would become the foundation of Am Yisrael. Until today we must know that Hashem loves us when we are united! There was a time in our history when the Jewish people were undefeated. That time was when they were a very close and united nation. More than anything else, Hashem loves us when we are one nation, just as a parent loves his children when they get along and are as one!
So this is our test today, while we are living in galut here in America. We must understand that although from the outside we seem different from one another, we are really one large family spread over many communities in many countries all over the world. We must pray to Hashem every day to look after us, but it’s our job to do what we can to look after our Jewish brothers and sisters.
Hanukah: The Anti-Assimilation Holiday
We learned in last week’s parasha that both Reuven and Yehuda wanted to find a way to save Yosef. Reuven wanted to throw him in the pit with snakes, and Yehuda wanted to sell him to the Ishmaelites. The Torah praises Reuven, but Yehuda was punished. Reuven’s plan meant that Yosef may not have survived physically, whereas Yehuda’s plan would place him in the immoral Egyptian society where he might survive physically but would surely die spiritually.
This brings us to the last days of our holiday of Hanuka. The Greeks’ motivation was not to kill us physically as Haman or Hitler wanted, but rather to assimilate us into their culture, which would kill us spiritually. They made the oil in the Bet Hamikdash tameh (impure), so that we could not use it for the Menorah.The oil represents separation because it rises in water, and the Greeks wanted to break that separation and have us assimilate with them. Instead we rose to the top like oil above water and overpowered them!
There’s an amazing story about a young man named Avrumel Greenbaum who lost his entire family in the Holocaust. After the war, he came to America and wanted nothing to do with Judaism. He was no longer Avrumel Greenbaum; he decided to change his name to Aaron Green. He moved to Alabama and just happened to marry a Jewish woman there. The day his oldest son Jeffrey turned thirteen, they were not going to celebrate his bar mitzvah. Aaron decided instead to recognize the day by taking Jeffrey to the mall and let him buy anything he wanted there. They went to a big electronics store and while browsing, Jeffrey's eye caught something in an antique shop across the way. He was mesmerized by what he saw and couldn't take his eyes off of it.
He told his father, "I don't want anything from the electronics store. I want to go across to the antique shop." When they got there, the boy pointed to an old wooden menorah and said, "That's what I want for my bar-mitzvah." His father couldn't believe it. He was letting his child buy anything he wanted in the whole mall and this is what he was choosing? An old antique Menorah? Nevertheless, he couldn't talk him out of it.
Aaron asked the shop-owner the price of the menorah, but he replied "Sorry, the Menorah is not for sale." The father said, "What do you mean? This is a store." He offered a lot of money for it. The owner said, "I found out the history of this Menorah, that a man constructed it during the war and how it took him months to gather the wood for it. The Menorah survived, but he did not. It's going to be a collector's item some day, so it’s not for sale."
Jeffrey kept telling his father, "That's what I want. All I want is that Menorah." So Aaron Green kept offering more money until the owner finally agreed to sell it. The boy was so excited. He took the menorah up to his room and played with it every day. One day the parents heard a crash from Jeffrey's room. They ran upstairs and saw that the Menorah had shattered to pieces. The father yelled at his son for being so careless, as he paid so much money for it. Afterwards, he felt bad and told the boy, "Let's try to glue it back together."
While holding one of the pieces, the father noticed a piece of paper wedged inside. He pulled it out and started reading. He had tears welled up in his eyes as he was reading the piece of paper and then he fainted. His family threw water on him and revived him. "What happened?"...they asked.
He replied, "Let me read you this letter." It was written in Yiddish, and it said, "To whoever finds this Menorah, I want you to know that I constructed it not knowing if I would ever have the opportunity to light it. Who knows if I will live to the day to see it being kindled? In all probability, going through this war, I will not. But if Providence brings this Menorah to your hands, you who are reading this letter, promise me you will light it for me and for us, my family, and those who gave their lives to serve Hashem."
Aaron Green then looked up at his family with tears in his eyes and, in a choked-up voice, said, "The letter is signed by my father."
They were all speechless. That family recognized the hashgacha of Hashem and they came back to Torah and mitzvot. The hashgacha was unbelievable, taking a Menorah from Europe and bringing it back to the family to end up being purchased in a remote mall in Alabama.
Hashem wants everybody back. Hanukah means to re-dedicate. It's a time to rededicate ourselves and come closer to Hashem. We must always remember who we are and who our forefathers were, and know that we are part of a chain that goes back over 3,300 years to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov.
May we all learn to trust in Hashem, and know that whatever difficult situation or darkness we find ourselves in, Hashem can rescue us k’heref ayin – in the blink of an eye — as He did with Yosef. He “put an end to his darkness” so that in a matter of hours Yosef was elevated to become viceroy of Egypt and second-in-command to Pharaoh! May we always remember, as Yosef did, that Hashem is in charge. Despite being handsome, with all the money and power that anyone could ask for, Yosef Hatzaddik knew that all that he possessed had nothing to do with himself, but was only due to the blessings that he received from Hashem! Also, May we know that no matter how far we may think we have drifted from Judaism...Hashem always wants us and is waiting for us to come back! Amen!
· If we were one of Yosef’s brothers, would we try to save him by putting him in the pit, or by selling him into slavery in Egypt?
. If we are praised for our talents, do we accept the praise as it’s really us or do we answer as Yosef did to Pharoah giving Hashem all the credit by saying that “It is Hashem who will respond with the correct interpretation!”
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah
Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
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Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal
Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther
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Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami
Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael
Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel
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