Dedicated for a Complete Refuah Shelemah for Viktorya Bat Rahel
Parashat Miketz 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 placed his hope in the hands of the wine butler rather than put 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 part of his request. 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 oversaw the grain and ultimately 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, so it was easier to believe him. 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 yet reached Yaakov and his family, 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! 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 for redu 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 reveal 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 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. 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. Hanukah Hashgacha We are now at the end of the holiday of Hanukah. There’s an amazing Hanukah story about a young man named Avraham 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 Avraham 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 letting him buy anything he wanted there. They went to a big electronics store, and while browsing, something caught Jeffrey’s eye in an antique shop across the way. When they got to the antique store, the boy pointed to an old wooden menorah and said, “That's what I want for my birthday.” His father couldn't believe it. He was letting his son buy anything he wanted from the mall and this is what he chose? An old antique menorah? He tried to talk the boy out of it but couldn’t. Aaron asked the store owner for the price of the menorah, but he replied “Sorry, the menorah is not for sale.” Aaron offered a lot of money to get it for his son. The owner refused it and said, “The history of this menorah is incredible, and I can’t sell it. A man constructed it during the war, and it took him months to gather the wood for it. The menorah survived, but the artist did not. It's going to be a collector's item someday.” Jeffrey kept telling his father, “That's what I want. All I want is that menorah.” 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 broke. 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, Aaron noticed a piece of paper wedged inside. He pulled it out and started reading. Tears welled up in his eyes as he was reading the piece of paper. “What happened?” his family asked. Aaron, remembering Yiddish from his childhood, translated the letter out loud, “I want whoever finds this menorah to know that I constructed it not knowing if I would ever have the opportunity to light it. In all probability, going through this war, I will not live to see it being kindled. But if Providence brings this menorah to your hands, you who are reading this letter, please promise me you will light it for me and for my family, and for those who gave their lives to serve Hashem.” Aaron Green looked up at his family with tears in his eyes and, in a choked-up voice, said, “The letter is signed by my father.” The family recognized the hashgacha peratit and they came back to Torah and mitzvot. Hashem took a menorah from a war-torn Europe and brought it back to its rightful owner through a mall in Alabama. Hashem wants everybody back. Hanukah is a time to rededicate ourselves 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, Yitzchak 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, 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 continue to be blessed by Hashem with health, happiness, and success! Shabbat Shalom! Happy Hanukah! Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey Discussion Points:
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 Pharaoh, 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.
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