Torah Weekly

For the week ending 8 December 2007 / 28 Kislev 5768

Parshat Mikeitz

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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It is two years later. Pharaoh has a dream. He is unsatisfied with all attempts to interpret it. Pharaoh's wine chamberlain remembers that Yosef accurately interpreted his dream while in prison. Yosef is released from prison and brought before Pharaoh. He interprets that soon will begin seven years of abundance followed by seven years of severe famine. He tells Pharaoh to appoint a wise person to store grain in preparation for the famine. Pharaoh appoints him as viceroy to oversee the project. Pharaoh gives Yosef an Egyptian name, Tsafnat Panayach, and selects Osnat, Yosef's ex-master's daughter, as Yosef's wife. Egypt becomes the granary of the world. Yosef has two sons, Menashe and Ephraim. Yaakov sends his sons to Egypt to buy food. The brothers come before Yosef and bow to him. Yosef recognizes them but they do not recognize him. Mindful of his dreams, Yosef plays the part of an Egyptian overlord and acts harshly, accusing them of being spies. Yosef sells them food, but keeps Shimon hostage until they bring their brother Binyamin to him as proof of their honesty. Yosef commands his servants to replace the purchase-money in their sacks. On the return journey, they discover the money and their hearts sink. They return to Yaakov and retell everything. Yaakov refuses to let Binyamin go to Egypt, but when the famine grows unbearable, he accedes. Yehuda guarantees Binyamin's safety, and the brothers go to Egypt. Yosef welcomes the brothers lavishly as honored guests. When he sees Binyamin he rushes from the room and weeps. Yosef instructs his servants to replace the money in the sacks, and to put his goblet inside Binyamin's sack. When the goblet is discovered, Yosef demands Binyamin become his slave as punishment. Yehuda interposes and offers himself instead, but Yosef refuses.


The Ends Of Darkness

“And Pharaoh awoke…” (41:4)

Last week, after I awoke from my somewhat protracted Shabbos schluf (sleep), my wife asked me, “Did you sleep well?”

“I don’t know, I replied, “I was asleep at the time.”

Sleep is a strange thing.

Sleep is the chief nurturer in life’s feast, and yet when we experience that pleasure we are totally unconscious.

The word in Hebrew “to awake” is lehakitz, which is an active verb. Awaking is not merely the end of sleep; it is an action. Lehakitz is connected to the word kotz, which means “to be surfeited with a glut of overabundance”. In other words, during sleep, the mind retreats to some still unexplored territory, allowing the body to suckle like a baby from the breast of sleep. When the body has feasted its fill, the mind shakes the body away from the breast and we awake, or better, we awaken ourselves.

The word that begins this week’s Torah portion, Miketz, means “at the end of”. The word miketz is strikingly similar to lehakitz; for when time of sleep comes to an end, we awaken.

The Midrash understands that Miketz refers to a verse in Iyov, “He sets a limit to the darkness, and He investigates the end of everything.” (Bereshit Rabba)

It’s not by coincidence that Miketz is always read on Shabbat Chanukah. The lights of Chanukah celebrate the end of the darkness.

There are many darknesses that fill the world, but none is more insidious than the one that professes to be the light.

That is the darkness of Greece.

We live in a world more Greek than the Greeks, a world where appearance is all important, where form has replaced content; a world where our first reaction to something new is, “What does it look like?” rather than “What does it teach me?”

G-d has placed an end to the darkness; it cannot overstep its boundary. The light breaks through, not because it defeats the darkness, but because darkness has its end, it fades and vanishes. The light is not new. It has been there since the beginning of the world. It is only hidden by the darkness.

When G-d finally returns us from the depths of our last captivity -- we will be like sleepwalkers, dreamers wrenched from the mind-masks of a Brave New World; our minds, glutted with the false dreams of the Cola Empire finally surfacing from a two thousand year slumber.

Then we will understand the ends of darkness; then we will rub our eyes, squinting from the light that always was.

  • Source: Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch and others

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