For the week ending 27 December 2003 / 2 Tevet 5764

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 Hidden Light

"When behold! Out of the river emerged seven cows" (41:2)

One of the most difficult things in life is to take the wisdom of happiness into the despair of depression.

The despair of depression and the wisdom of happiness are two different worlds, two different realities. They have no point of contact. Its like visiting- time at the State Pen when the telephone has broken down. A one-inch wall of glass separates them like a prisoner from his wife. They gesture to each other, but their mutual isolation is total. They are like two people on different islands waving flags at each other, but neither understands the others signal. They are like two people who dont know a word of each others language, trying to hold a conversation using a dictionary in which every word is completely mistranslated.

Seven cows emerge from the river. They are beautiful to behold, strong and healthy. Then, seven other cows emerge from the river. These cows are as dissimilar from the first cows as is possible. They are gaunt, skinny, malnourished. And then, these evil looking creatures devour the fat cows. Nothing is left. The fat cows are gone and the thin cows are as thin and as miserable-looking as before.

In life, a person must use his days of optimism, the good days, the days that are full of holiness and closeness to G-d to fix in his heart the light of that holiness so that when lean, gaunt days come upon him he is prepared. Then he will understand that the light has not vanished, it is only hidden. The light seems to have been swallowed up completely by evil but in fact it is merely in exile.

At the beginning of time, there shone a unique light called the Ohr Haganuz, the Hidden Light. This light was not like any light that you or I have ever seen. With this light you could see from one end of the Creation to the other. In other words, you could see how one end of the Creation was connected to the other. It was a spiritual light that revealed the existence of the unseen world of spirituality. G-d hid away the Ohr Haganuz after the first thirty-six hours of Creation so that evil would not be able to exploit its power. However, there are times when you can still catch glimpses of its hidden glow.

On the first night of Chanuka, we light one candle, on the second night two. Thus after two nights, we have lit three candles. If you do your sums right, youll find that the total number of candles that we light on Chanuka is thirty-six (excluding the shamash). The thirty-six lights of Chanuka correspond to the thirty-six hours during which the Ohr Haganuz shone.

The power of depression is that it tries to usurp the light. It tries to usurp the true reality of things. It tries to tell us that the good days have been devoured by the bad. The light has gone forever and the bad days are now firmly in command.

Thats the message of this weeks parsha and its also the message of Chanuka. The thin cows want us to believe that the healthy cows are gone forever. That they rule in their stead. The nations of the world want us to believe that we no longer have any portion in the G-d of Israel that He has hidden the light forever.

However, those thin cows will only be in business for just as long as G-d allows them to keep the good years in exile. They have no independent power. One day, very soon, that Hidden Light will blaze once more in this world of darkness, and the rule of the gaunt and evil cows will be revealed as no more than a dream.

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