Torah Weekly

For the week ending 27 December 2008 / 30 Kislev 5769

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.


You Can Check Out Any Time You Like - But You Can Never Leave

“And behold seven other cows arose after them... and they stood next to the cows on the bank of the river. And the cows of ugly appearance ate the seven cows of beautiful and robust appearance.” (41:3,4)

Mendy fastened his seat belt obediently as the plane started its lazy descent into Heathrow. Pulling out his landing card he examined the rudimentary English script copied from the note in his pocket, which gave his local address as a house in Stamford Hill, London. Mendy had no idea where Stamford Hill might be and less the location of his temporary abode.

Mendy was not looking forward to his trip. He had never tried to raise funds before, and in the current financial situation he felt somewhat like an eager lemming, but as they say “needs must”.

Making his way to Stamford Hill Mendy found his London pied à terre — a totally unremarkable suburban house. Behind its mock Tudor façade, however, he was cheered to find many collectors like himself from Eretz Yisrael all heartened by a bed, a bite and warm Jewish atmosphere.

After two whole weeks of constant pounding the pavement, Mendy hadn’t succeeded in even raising the cost of his flight. And he was feeling increasingly uncomfortable taking advantage of the hospitality of his unseen host. Moreover, he had no idea how long one was allowed to stay at the house.

One day he found himself in conversation with someone in the kitchen. They commiserated with each other about the state of world economics generally, and specifically about their own difficulties. Mendy then said, “By the way, do you know how long you can stay here? It’s such wonderful chessed (kindness) they do here. I don’t want to overstay my welcome.”

Unbeknownst to Mendy, the person with whom he was conversing was none other than his hidden benefactor, the owner of the house.

“I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you,” he said, “I’ve been staying here for years and no one ever says a word to me.”

Not all sleepover guests, however, have Mendy's compunction.

There's one guest who is very happy to make himself at home, and once he does, it's well nigh impossible to get him to leave. First he comes to you as a ‘sleep-over’ guest, someone just passing through. If you allow him to stay, he becomes a lodger. Finally, if you don’t kick him out, he takes over, becomes themaster of the house and dominates you completely.

The seven ugly cows are a representation of the negative impulse – the yetzer hara. First, like the cows, it rises up, appearing out of the distance like a wayfarer on his travels. Then it stands next to you, on an equal footing, like a guest sharing all the facilities of your home. Lastly, just as “the cows of ugly appearance ate the seven cows of beautiful appearance”, so too eventually, if you don’t stop him, the negative impulse will devour you completely.

  • Based on a real-life Jewish hero and an article in the name of the Sfas Emes in Mayana shel Torah

*INVITATION: With great thanks to Hashem, Rabbi Sinclair invites readers of Torah Weekly to join him at the Bar Mitzvah of his son Shmuel Yehuda, at Ohr Somyach in Jerusalem this Shabbat Chanuka; Shacharit at 7:30; Kiddush to follow — and/or on Sunday evening "Zot Chanuka" at the Beit Yisrael Hall, Ezrat Torah, from 8:30PM.

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