Parashas Mikeitz Chanukah 5780 – The light at the end of all tunnels

The Parasha begins with the account of Yosef’s dramatic elevation from servitude in the Egyptian dungeons to the position of Viceroy. Thus, the story leading to him being thrown in jail is worth a second look. As after refusing the advances of his master’s wife, and her being fearful of him informing her husband, she lied and stated that he aggressed her. The master had no choice but to believe his wife and threw Yosef in jail. The Pasuk then states “and Yosef was in jail” [Bereshis 39,20]. This is a pleonasm, as since he was jailed, he was surely there. What message is the Torah teaching us with these extra words? In truth, Yosef,’s arrival to Egypt is strange. First, he’s abducted by his brothers and thrown into a pit full of snake and scorpions. Reuven doesn’t seem to find it dramatic and he plans to save him from there at night. It’s obvious that the brothers had no intention to have him die there, as when, later in the day, they saw a caravan passing by they decided to sell him to them. Did it occur to anyone that venomous serpents and scorpions kill, especially when you land on top of them? How were they all so sure he would not be harmed? Then, Yosef is being tested further; He’s sold as a slave. It’s not a small ordeal to go from royal status to slavery. However, he accepts it and works diligently and honestly, as it was obvious to the people surrounding him. The Midrash says that Potifar was so proud of Yosef that he couldn’t stop bragging, at the royal court, about him. It was surely a ray of light for Yosef. Trouble follows him and his master’s wife harasses him and even the dimmed light will be shunned away. Thus, when the dramatic change of fortune occurs and he finds himself in front of Pharaoh, his first action is questionable. He clearly understood that Pharaoh’s dream is a message from Hashem, seven years of abundance will happen and then seven years of famine. Why did he then provide a remedy to Pharaoh, shouldn’t he have Hashem’s will take place? The Torah then tells us that he had two sons: “And he called the name of the first-born Menashe, for Hashem has caused me to forget (nashani) all my hardship and all my father’s household.” And the name of the second he called Ephraim for, ‘Hashem has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” These verses are enigmatic, how is it possible to forget the hardship and life-threatening situations
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he had lived through? How can he suddenly forget his family? Is success such a threat to the sanity of the mind? The Malbim suggests a different understanding. Yosef called his first-born Menashe to symbolize that he was worried that he would forget (nashani) all the suffering that he endured. The second son was named Ephraim to symbolize that he recognized that Hashem had made him fruitful in the land of his suffering with the emphasis on the fact that even in the time of great success he did not forget the great suffering that he had endured in Egypt. The Malbim continues: “This is also the explanation of why we are commanded to eat Matza together with Maror on the Seder night; we should remember the Exile in the time of freedom, because the Exile is the reason for the freedom, and the bad brings the good.” However, the Malbim does not explain why exactly the ‘bad’ is the reason for the subsequent ‘good’. The Sifsei Chaim asks: In ‘Al HaNissim’ we thank Hashem for enabling us to defeat the Greeks: “You placed the strong in the hands of the weak; and the many in the hands of the few; and the impure in the hands of the pure; and the evil in the hands of the righteous; and the guilty in the hands of those who toil in Your Torah.” Why don’t the first two praises imply the reason for victory, while the remaining three praises imply it clearly? The pure were successful because their enemies were impure; and that the righteous defeated the Greeks because they were evil. He explains that in truth, all the praises are parallel in that they all explain why the Hasmoneans defeated the Greeks. When we say that Hashem placed the strong in the hands of the weak and the many in the hands of the few, we mean that He did so because we were weak and few in number therefore we were successful, not despite that fact. As the Hasmoneans felt they had to face the mightiest army of the world, that even with had they had big numbers they still had no chance of overcoming the mighty Greeks. Thus, they fought with a strong sense of trust in Hashem, recognizing that they could only succeed with great siyata dishmaya (Heavenly help). Because they did not rely on their own power, Hashem did indeed help them and caused them to achieve a miraculous victory. Now we can understand why the Malbim stated that the suffering one endures is the very reason for the subsequent good that he experiences. When a person finds himself in a situation of difficulty and helplessness it is much easier for him to recognize that he does not have the ability to succeed. As a result of this recognition he turns to Hashem to save him from his desperate situation. Because of this trust, Hashem will likely respond by giving of His unlimited kindness to
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ensure that the person’s situation drastically improves. In this way the ‘bad times’ that one endures can be the very cause of the subsequent ‘good times’. This feeling of helplessness was the key to the success of the Hasmoneans. The Kedushas Levi explains Yosef’s hardship similarly; When the Pasuk seems to repeat itself and stated that “and Yosef was in jail”, in fact it bears a fundamental message. Yosef was already quite popular in the Royal court. He could have made efforts to free himself from this injustice. And would’ve probably succeeded. Instead, he accepted his fate as he knew that nothing happens unless Hashem decided it. Since it was Hashem’s will for him to be jailed, he was at peace with it and accepted it. This is the reason the Pasuk repeated itself, to inform us that Yosef was jailed only because he accepted it. Yosef was so intoned with Hashem that he understood not only the meaning of the dream but also its purpose. As the Zohar explains: Hashem had a promise to accomplish; Bnei Yisrael will be enslaved, but afterwards they will be rewarded and receive exceptional wealth. By creating a famine while having abundance in Egypt, the surrounding nations will spend their money purchasing food from the Egyptians. Yosef amassed this way all the treasures from all surrounding nations. Therefore, he advised Pharaoh how to preserve the food. This is the money and treasures Bnei Yisrael took received leaving Egypt. The complete and unshakable trust in Hashem is the only route out of the tunnel. Especially when the tunnel seems to be having no end. The person must find peace in his heart and accept that this is a test from Hashem and its only purpose is for him to acknowledge Hashem. As long as he will not reach that understanding, the journey in the tunnel will go on. Thus, as soon as he will truthfully reach that conclusion it will stop. Let think what would’ve happened to Yosef had he managed to free himself from jail. He would’ve surely remained slave by someone else. The dramatic salvation from the dungeon to become Viceroy, was due to him recognizing that it was Hashem will and accepted it full heartedly. Similarly, he knew that all the tribulations and hardships that occurred to him were exclusively Hashem will and it was best not to interfere with Hashem plan. That’s the reason his salvation was so dramatic. We learn from this, that the least a person interferes the greater the salvation is. the Zohar states; that any person living with that motto, not only animals and humans fear him but also Angels revere him, as he became an integral part of Hashem. This is something we witnessed countless time through the ages; Daniel
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was thrown to a pit of famished lions and was left there for a full day, but nothing happened to him. Chananiah, Mishael and Azaria were thrown into a furnace but didn’t get burnt. All the brothers had this feature instilled in their DNA, therefore it was obvious to them that no snake would harm a son of Yaakov Avinu. The Talmud [Berachos 33a] relates: There was an incident in one city where a dragon was harming the people. They came and told Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa and asked for his help. He told them: Show me the hole of the dragon. They showed him its hole. He placed his heel over the mouth of the hole and the dragon came out and bit him and died. Then Rabbi Channina put it on his shoulder and brought it to the Beth Medrash and taught, the dragon does not kill it’s the sin that kills! Thus, Hashem in His infinite Goodness and will to please us, has provided us a shortcut that can even annul the decrees of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. But as it was not enough, not only will the decrees be erased, they will be turned into blessings. From the Baal Shem to the Vina Gaon, from the Arizal to the Ben Ish Chai [just to mention a few], they all agree that the lights of Chanukah are the remedies to all problems and evils. The Zohar states that nothing bad can withstand the power of these lights. As when they shine, Hashem unleashes the Or Haganuz, the original light of the creation that was supposed to provide eternal life. Indeed, if we count the words from Bereshis, the 25th word is ohr, light, which symbolizes the miracle of Chanukah that occurred on the 25th day of Kislev. In fact, Ner Chanukah [ ]נר חנוכה has the same numerical value as Satan [שטן ]. In other words, the lights of Chanukah can eradicate the obscurity and Satan himself. Actually, when Yaakov undertook his journey to Lavan who was the biggest magician the world has ever known, he took this Mitzva with him to fight all the magics. This is also the Mitzva he used in order to overcome the Angel of Eisav. And so Did Yosef. All we need to do is to pray full heartedly by the lights. Hashem is awaiting our prayers!

By Rabbi Fridmann * rabbifridmann@badatzmiami.com * 305.985.3461

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