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Parashat Miketz / Hanukah

Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Nathan Marcus,

Natan ben Rachel, A’H,

by The Marcus Family.

Parashat Miketz / Hanukah

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 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 Or HaChaim, 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 could comprehend dreams and interpret them,” Yosef responded, “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 in Bergen Belsen

It was the first night of Hanukah. The single light of the menorah gleamed with a strange radiance. Its light came from neither wax nor oil. For this was a very special menorah; a very special Hanukah. This menorah was an old wooden shoe. This candle was made from boot polish. This was Hanukah in Bergen-Belsen.

The Bluzhever Rebbe sang the first two berachot, but the sound of his voice was dulled with pain. He was about to make the third blessing but then he paused, and for what seemed like a long moment he looked around the room at each of the twenty faces looking back at him. And then he made the beracha of shehecheyanu, his voice filled with strength: “Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, who has kept us alive, preserved us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.”

Later, one of the men came over to the Rebbe and asked, “How can you possibly make a blessing thanking G-d for enabling us to reach this moment in time? Should we thank Him for bringing us to Bergen-Belsen? For bringing us to a time like this, so close to death, our own personal hell?”

Said the Bluzhever Rebbe, “I had the same thought. That's why I stopped. I was about to ask the Rabbi of Zaner if I could really make that beracha. But then, I caught sight of all the faces looking so intently at that wooden clog filled with black shoe polish. And I thought, here we are in the depths of darkness, in the blackest hole that this world can support. And here are some Yidden lighting Hanukah candles. Despite all the evil that those murderers are doing, we are lighting candles. And I thought to myself: Master of the Universe! Who is like Your people Israel? Look how they stand together, with death staring them in the face, united, hanging on to every word of Al Hanisim?”

“And I thought - if now is not the place to thank G-d for this momentous occasion - then I don't know when is. It is my holy duty to say shehecheyanu now."

Even in the lands of our enemies, G-d did not forget His people. In spite of our rejection of Him sometimes, He does not reject us. He will gather us from the four corners of the Earth to His land. And He will wipe the tears from our eyes. The war in Israel has been heavy on our hearts. In times of darkness, it is so important that we stand together and seek the light, that we light our menorahs with joy and wonder, and truly be thankful to Hashem for enabling us to do so.

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 stand together in times of darkness and find the light in celebrating the momentous occasion of Hanukah! May we continue to be blessed by Hashem with health, happiness, and success!

Happy Hanukah! Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes, 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!”

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Le’ilui Nishmat…

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

Yehoshua Ben Batsheva

Luratte Bat Masouda

Esther Bat Menucha

Uri Ben Rahel

Rivka Bat Dona

Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah Le'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or In Honor of someone, can email me at Checks can be made out to “A Life of Torah” for $101 and mailed to Jack Rahmey at 2387 Ocean Avenue Suite #1G, Brooklyn, NY 11229 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah”)

Anyone interested in past parashiot please go to the website


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