This week, our Parshat HaShevua Mikeitz is being sponsored by Moshe and Lauren Pitzele and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of their son Yosef Shalom’s fifth birthday. To the Pitzele family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
Friends, you can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
In compiling this vort, this author deems it important to give context to story of Yosef: spurned by his brothers out of hatred for Father’s favorite son and for his tale-telling, first dumped in a snake and scorpion-filled pit — his survival a naise (miracle), then he was sold to Yishmaelites who, in turn, sold him to Midianites and ended up a trusted servant in the home of Pontiphar, and later imprisoned due to the phony, false accusations of Pontiphar’s wife. Yosef was incarcerated for twelve years until the Chamberlain of Cupbearers, who had also been imprisoned, remembered Yosef’s dream interpretations to Pharaoh when Pharaoh became agitated over puzzling dreams.
So, once again, this author will, as with previous vorts on our parsha, harken back to a vort said over quite a few years ago at a Shabbos Chanukah Oneg about Yosef in Mitzrayim (Egypt) based on Jay Shapiro’s book of fictional short stories entitled “Almost Midrash.” This story is of a fictitious second to Yosef in a tale from Shapiro’s book entitled “Duaf of Memphis”.
As Shapiro’s yarn goes, Duaf, a former Barber, relating his memoirs about his service and his time with Yosef to an Egyptian scribe. The sometimes humorous fiction depicted how Duaf was drafted and fought bravely in Pharaoh’s army during a war in which Pharaoh and his remaining forces rallied to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Duaf’s role in rallying Pharaoh’s forces earned him a meteoric rise through the ranks of Pharaoh’s army, as well as a number of important missions on behalf of Pharaoh, culminating in his being appointed as the Viceroy’s right-hand man. In one humorous sideline of the tale, during one of Duaf’s missions, he came to become acquainted with the Habiru people in Cana’an.
This vort contrasted Yosef’s talent for interpretation of dreams and his ingenuity as Viceroy, second only to Pharaoh, in saving Egypt from famine, with the dialogue of Page 13 A & B of Gemora Megillah Esther (the dialogue between Achashveirosh and Haman resulting in the evil decree against the Jews). The point of the Torah Vort was that just as with their longevity in Shushan and throughout Achashveirosh’s Empire, their longevity and assimilation into Mitzri society, after the deaths of Yosef and the brothers, brought the Jews disdain and disparagement by the Mitzriyim as either being useless or too powerful, such as to ally with Egypt’s enemies. In both cases, the antagonists conveniently forgot about Yosef, in direct contrast to the fictional Duaf who concluded his recitation to the scribe by recounting that “Yosef saved Mitzrayim and will go down in the annals of history.” But we see how quickly Pharaoh and the Mitzriyim subsequently forgot Yosef, despite his ingenuity in saving the Egyptian people from massive famine and starvation, amidst what appeared as a massive integration and assimilation of the descendants of Yosef and the brothers into Egyptian society.
What a stunner! Big-time transitional meetings goin’ on in Pharaoh’s Palace. No Trump hotels here! This guy Yosef who interprets dreams soo impresses Pharaoh with seeing from his (Pharaoh’s) dreams the onset of drought and famine that he’s made Viceroy, second only to Pharaoh in ruling over Egypt.
Here’s this Jewish guy Yosef who makes all the right moves insuring that there is no starvation in Egypt during the famine, and yet, rather than “go down in the annals” as having saved Mitzrayim, there seems to be no record in all recorded history, other than in our Torah, of Yosef or this period in Egypt. If there were “annals of history” and if Yosef was in fact recorded, such records surely must have subsequently been expunged.
As Parshat Mikeitz always coincides with Shabbos Chanukah, Yosef’s experience in the pit brings this author back in time to Philadelphia, in “the “old country” and to a point made by Rav Yehoshua Kaganoff which bears repeating:
As we learned about the Neisim of Chanukah, i.e., the one flask of oil found in the Beit HaMikdash which seemingly had enough oil to burn for one day, yet burned continuously for 8 days, Rav Kaganoff spoke about a neice which happened when the brothers cast Yosef into the pit which contained snakes and scorpions. Although this pit was habitat to snakes and scorpions, Hashem held them back, restrained them within the pit. Therefore, when the brothers removed Yosef and sold him into bondage, he emerged unscathed from the danger within the pit.
But it seems to this author that Yosef’s emergence from the pit unharmed was one of at least eight miracles which Yosef experienced from the moment the other 10 brothers acted against him. Our Parsha tells of what could be seen as a second neice:
“…And behold, a company of Yishmaelim came from Gilad with their camels carrying aromatic gum (for censing), balm and landanum, …to carry it down to Egypt.” (Breish’t Perek 37, posuk 25 as rendered in Growth Through Torah, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin).
Rav Pliskin (Growth Through Torah, Parsha Vayeishev page 109), then cites Rashi;
Why did the Torah mention what the camels were carrying? To tell us the reward of the righteous. Those caravans usually carried kerosene and resin (used for fuel) which had an unpleasant odor. But the caravan that carried Yosef to Egypt had pleasant spices.
Pliskin then cites Rabbi Mordechai Pragamantsky of Telz, who heard from Rabbi Chayim Stein:
…It was a message to Yosef that all was not lost. Appreciate the Hand of the Almighty that is guiding your life and supplies you with minor pleasures to enhance your life. This is a sign that all the Almighty does is to enhance your life. This is a sign that all the Almighty Does is for your ultimate benefit.
It occurs to this author that other such miracles occured to Yosef which would seem to include; (3) his enslavement brought about his landing in the House of Pontiphar as his head servant and caretaker of all that was his (Pontiphar’s), (4) his escaping a judgement of death regarding Pontiphar’s wife’s false accusations and his sojourn in the dungeon where he emerged as assistant to the warden, (5) his being remembered, albeit after two years, by the wine steward for his translation of dreams resulting in his interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and being appointed Viceroy, 2nd only in power to Pharaoh, (6) Asnat bat Dina, born out of wedlock (Dina and Shechem) and later banished from Yaakov’s house under death-threat from the brothers, and who landed in the House of Pontiphar and who was said to have witnessed Yosef’s actions on the day of Pontiphar’s wife’s false accusations, (7) that when the women all threw down their jewelry to entice Yosef, he was won over by Asnat, with her metal foil engraved by Yaakov testifying to her holiness. And finally, like the flask of oil found by the Macabees in the Beit HaMikdash which by natural means would maybe burn one day, but burned 8 days; the final miracle would seem to be the fortune amassed by Yosef as Viceroy which would later be found by the Jews during the plague (mako) of darkness and which would be carted out of Mitzrayim upon the Yetziyat Mitzrayim.
Jews keep having to re-learn and absorb the message of Chanukah and of the miracles done to Yosef.
Time and again throughout our history, the lessons are forgotten by Am Yisrael, including here and now in our times of successive weak-spined, indecisive, ineffectual, disunited, politicized and iron-fisted, corrupt ruling Israeli regimes as well as an ongoing judicial dictatorship both promoted by the swamp pundits as free and democratic while dividing and conquering the people they “govern” and “judge,” as were the Hellenists of the time of the Macabees. Symbolic of our current ineffectual governance and judicial dictatorship, the secular majority of the so-called “supreme court” (oxymoron), in a precedent-setting decision, ruled in favor of Tel Aviv merchants being able to do business on Shabbos, desecrating the Day and thus desecrating the name of Hashem and diminishing and discrediting our Divine Right to Eretz Yisrael both in Shemayim, as well as in the eyes and perceptions of the nations.
And so, may our brethren from Gush Katif and the Shomron, as well as our Observant brethren, together with all intellectually honest and enlightened Jews, including new olim, rise up to do battle for the Jewish mind and soul, just as the Maccabees did in doing battle against the Greeks.
May it be in this year and in all future years, that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif – the many still seeking their permanent places, our brethren in the South — S’derot and the other towns bordering Gaza who live under threats of rockets and tunnels, those of Amona still awaiting their government-rebuilt homes, those in the North who still live under threat of Katushyas and Hezbollah, as well as our dear brethren, Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, be central in our thoughts, prayers, chassadim and actions.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Good Shabbos, Chanukah Same’ach and Chodesh Tov !
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.