For the week ending 4 Tevet 5761 / 29 & 30 December 2000

Parshat Mikeitz

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Parshat Miketz

For the week ending 4 Tevet 5761 / 29 & 30 December 2000

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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.




    "Out of the river there emerged seven cows...." (41:2)

    The Torah portion Miketz almost always falls during the week of Chanukah. This year it is read after the end of the festival.

    For Miketz to fall after Chanukah, three events have to coincide: Rosh Hashana must fall on a Shabbat, and both the months of Cheshvan and Kislev must have only 29 days instead of 30.

    There is obviously a very strong link between the portion of Miketz and Chanukah.

    At the beginning of this week's reading, Pharaoh has a dream about seven cows coming up from the river. These cows were healthy looking, robust, full of flesh. After them emerged seven other cows. These cows were gaunt and ugly. The gaunt ugly cows ate the fleshy cows and left no trace of them.

    Egyptian life was dominated by the Nile. To the extent that the Nile overflowed its banks, to that same degree would there be prosperity and food in Egypt. For this reason, the Egyptians worshipped the Nile. On its vagaries depended life and death.

    Seven cows emerged from the Nile. Seven is the number which connotes this-worldliness. There are seven colors in the rainbow; seven notes in the diatonic scale; seven days in the week.

    Chanukah is the festival where we celebrate eight; when we connect to that which is beyond this world. Chanukah is where we take one step beyond. The one flask of pure oil that is found in the Holy Temple can only burn for one day, but it burns for eight whole days. It is not just a miracle -- but a miracle of eight.

    The idolatry of Egypt was to take the natural world, the Nile, the world of seven, and worship it. To take nature and make into a god. As Pharaoh said to Moshe: "Who is Hashem? I do not know Hashem..." (Shemot 5:2) Pharaoh recognized that there was a "god" in the world, but he only recognized a god of nature. In Hebrew the word "Elokim" -- G-d -- has the same gematria (numerical equivalent) as hateva which means "Nature." When we make nature a supernatural force, we take the world of seven and make that into eight.

    In a regular year where Miketz does occur during Chanukah, the haftara read is Zechariah 2:14-4:7. Zechariah is shown a vision of a menorah made entirely of gold, complete with a reservoir, tubes to bring it oil and two olive trees to bear olives.

    A complete self-supporting system.

    The symbolism is that Hashem provides a system which supports us continuously. However, we have to open our eyes to see where that support is coming from.

    To remind ourselves that Mother Nature has a Father.


    Melachim II 3:15 - 4:1



    The king said, "This one claims: 'This is my son who is alive, and your son is the dead one,'
    and this one claims: 'It is not so! Your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one'." ...
    "Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other." (3:23-25)

    It is usually assumed that King Solomon ordered the baby to be cut in half in order to determine the real mother.

    In reality, it was already clear to the king who was the true mother from the way the two women had expressed themselves:

    The first one started by saying "This is my son who is alive" and only then "and your son is dead;" whereas the second mother commenced her claim by saying "Your son is the dead one" and only afterwards said that "my son is the living one."

    The second woman, who was lying, wasn't really interested in getting the living child, for why should she want to expend the considerable effort of raising a child which wasn't really hers. Rather, out of jealousy alone, she wanted to prevent the other woman from keeping the living child.

    For that reason her focus was on "Your child is dead," rather than "My son is the living one," since her whole point was to prove the dead child belonged to someone else.

    On the other hand, the real mother was only concerned to prove that her child was alive.

    From these tell-tale subconscious hints, King Solomon was able to discern the true mother. It was only to prove to the world that his analysis was accurate that he went through the theatrics of calling for the sword to divide the living child, knowing that the real mother would far prefer that the child should live, even if it meant having to give him up.

    However Solomon, the wisest of men, had already arrived at the truth of the matter as soon as the two women had opened their mouths.

    Kochav M'Yaakov in Mayana shel Torah

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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