Dedicated Le'ilui Nishmat Natan Ben Rachel by the Marcus Family
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 steward 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 server 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 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 Binyamin, 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 his 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 taken 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 precise interpretation,” thereby correcting his previous error.
Yosef listened to Pharaoh’s account of his dreams and interpreted them. “There will 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 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 had tested Yosef when he recounted his dreams by changing small details. And when Yosef repeated back the correct version of Pharaoh’s dreams, he realized that Yosef’s interpretation would be reliable.
Another question arises. Years later, in parashat Bo, Pharaoh failed to believe Moshe even after he had correctly predicted seven plagues in a row. Why is this so? 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 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 Effect
Rabbi Mansour cites the Zohar on this parasha, “Ketz sam la’hoshech — [Hashem] brought an end to the darkness.” The Zohar refers to the “darkness” of Yosef’s imprisonment. Yosef suffered many long years in a dark, dreary dungeon, until finally this period of darkness ended and gave way to the light of redemption. 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 is teaching the proper perspective on “cause-and-effect.” 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.” 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. 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.
Go Down to Egypt
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—go down.” The numerical value is 210, indicating that this would be the beginning of the 210 years that B’nei Yisrael would be in Egypt until Hashem saved them from the hands of Pharaoh 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 Binyamin’s return with them. Yosef had to accuse them of being spies in order to set them up to bring back Binyamin. 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 dreamed 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!
This is our test while we are living in galut today. We must understand that although 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.
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 Trah 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 Hanukah. The Greeks’ motivation was not to kill the Jews physically as Haman or Hitler wanted, but rather to assimilate them into their culture, which would kill the Jewish people spiritually. They made the oil in the Bet Hamikdash tameh—impure so that it couldn’t be used for the menorah. Oil represents the kedusha—separation of the Jewish people from other nations because it rises in water. Instead of assimilating as the Greeks wanted, B’nei Yisrael rose to the top and overpowered them like oil rises above water!
There’s a very famous photograph that was taken just before the holocaust in 1932. The picture depicts a tall, beautiful hanukiah standing near a window with nine candles ready to be lit for the eighth night of Hanukah. And directly behind it, the swastika flag hangs across the street at the Nazi headquarters of Kiel, Germany. The family living in the home was getting ready to light the menorah and then Shabbat candles, when the mother, Rebbetzin Rachel Posner, suddenly looked at the view outside and knew she had to capture this monumental moment. On the back of the photo she wrote a small rhyme in German, which translated means, “Hanukah 1932. Judah will die: Thus, says the flag. Judah will live forever: Thus, say the lights.”
Less than a month later, Hitler was sworn in as chancellor of Germany in January 1933. He was so determined to extinguish the flame and the light of the Jewish people. And he came so close, yemach shemo. It was a time of great darkness for Am Yisrael. But they persevered. Their faith in Hashem never ceased. Holocaust survivors tell incredible stories of the unwavering emunah in Hashem that their fellow victims had with them constantly. After years of suffering, “ketz sam la’hoshech.” Hashem ended the darkness, and the lights of B’nei Yisrael prevailed once again.
That very hanukkiah from the photo is being lit until today by Rebbetzin Posner’s grandson, Yehudah Mansbuch. Every Hanukah before he lights the candles, he gathers all his children and grandchildren and takes out the photograph to read the note his grandmother scrawled onto the back. “Judah will live forever: Thus, say the lights.” And at Brandenburg gate in Berlin, Germany, the very place Hitler made his rallies and Nazis marched declaring the end to Jews, a 30-foot tall menorah gets lit every Hanukah to remind the Jewish people that our light will never burn out.
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, and 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, wealthy and powerful, Yosef Hatzaddik knew that all that he possessed had nothing to do with himself but only due to the blessings that he received from Hashem! May we know that no matter how hard someone may try to eradicate the Jewish people, they will not only not succeed, but our spirituality and our light will always rise above, like oil and water. Happy Hanukah!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
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, saying, “It is Hashem who will respond with the precise interpretation!”
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!
“Ketz sam la’hoshech — [Hashem] brought an end to the darkness.” 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.
Yehuda was punished for suggesting selling Yosef as a slave to Egypt, an immoral place that may have corrupted his spirituality. It is similar with the story of Hanukah. The Greeks’ motivation was not to kill the Jews physically, but rather to assimilate them into their culture, which would kill the Jewish people spiritually.
Oil represents the kedusha—separation of the Jewish people from other nations because it rises in water. Instead of assimilating as the Greeks wanted, B’nei Yisrael rose to the top and overpowered them like oil rises above water!
Eliyahu Ben Rachel
Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Avraham Ben Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah
Esther Bat Sarah
Avraham Ben Mazal
Shulamit Bat Helaina
Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Rahamim Ben Mazal
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther
Rafael Ben Miriam
Ovadia Ben Esther
Rav Haim Ben Rivka
Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Yael
Yitzchak Ben Adele
Avraham Ben Mazal
Meir Ben Latifa
Chanah Bat Esther
Yaakov Ben Rachel
Malka Bat Garaz
Moshe Ben Garaz
Avraham Ben Kami
Yaakov Ben Leah
Mordechai Ben Rachel
Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal
Natan Ben Rachel
Saadia Ben Miriam
Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon
Margalit Bat Mazal
Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky
Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama
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