Chanukah/Rosh Chodesh/Parshat Mikeitz 5781: The Viceroy’s Concealed, True Indentity Before His Brothers?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parsha Mikeitz is being sponsored anonymously in honor of all of the rabbanim, gabbaim, doctors, and medical professionals who have guided us all and served the community through turbulent times. To the anonymous sponsor and family, blessings and many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

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.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3


Chanukah/Rosh Chodesh/Parshat Mikeitz 5781: The Viceroy’s Concealed, True Indentity Before His Brothers?

by Moshe Burt

Usually, Shabbos Parshat Mikeitz occurs during Chanukah, and often on Rosh Chodesh Tevet as well. This year, Shabbos Parshat Mikeitz follows both Rosh Chodesh Tevet and immediately after the eighth day of Chanukah.

In last week’s Parshat Vayeishev, we learn that that the brothers threw Yosef into a bor (pit) seething with snakes and scorpions — and (1) the miracle of his emerging unscathed. This author has written in the past venturing that there were at least seven subsequent miracles that played a role in Yosef’s life and in his becoming Viceroy, including (2) who he was sold to and the sweet-smelling aromatic gum that was carried in their caravan, (3) his ensuing journey to Mitzrayim and conditions of his slavery — as overseer of all in Pontiphar’s household, (4) his imprisonment on false charges, where he became second to the jailer, after being saved from death by the testimony of Potiphar’s adopted daughter (Osnat bat Dina), (5) as Torah relates in our Parshat Mikeitz, his being remembered, albeit after two years, by the wine for his translation of a dream resulting in (6) Yosef’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams and resultant ascendancy to the position of Viceroy, second only to Pharaoh. Later, when all of the women threw down their Jewelry before Yosef in the hopes of being chosen, (7) he was won over by Osnat, 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 (8) 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.

Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his sefer, “Lilmode U’Lamed” (pages 54-55) on our Parshat Mikeitz, asks why Yosef conceals his identity when his brothers come to Mitzrayim to buy food during the famine:

Yosef’s conduct towards his brothers had long puzzled our commentators. For what purpose did Yosef falsely denounce them? How could he ignore their plight and their hunger, and how could he cause his father such worry through the threats to Shimon and Binyamin?

However, one thing is clear, Yosef cannot be accused of being driven by a desire for revenge. Though his brothers suspected [when he revealed his true identity] that he would hate them and requite the evil which they did to him, Yosef avoided all acts of vengeance. Had he wanted to, he could have easily ordered all his brothers killed. That he did not do so indicates that he was after a different goal.

Rabbi Katz then asks (ibid, page 55):

What then was Yosef’s motivation?

HaRav David Feinstein, z”l, comments in his sefer, “Kol Dodi” on on our Parshat Mikeitz (page 77):

To Yosef, who had accused them [the brothers] of being spies, the brothers totally denied all charges and and asserted themselves to be upright people. Still, among themselves, they admitted that they were guilty of ignoring their brother’s pleas for mercy many years earlier. Their confession begins with the word Ahvul, which is normally translated as: but. Rashi, however, following Okelos, translates it: b’kooshta[h], in truth we are guilty.

HaRav Feinstein cites and renders to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 42, posuk 21 (ibid, page 77):

“Then they said to each other, ‘[Ahvul] Indeed, we are guilty concerning our brother, inasmuch as we saw his heartfelt anguish when he pleaded with us, and we paid no heed. That is why this distress has come upon us.'”

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides context regarding the brothers’ journey in Egypt and Yosef’s concealment of his identity in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” (Sefer Breish’t, Parshat Mikeitz, pages 235-239)

At their father’s request, Yosef’s brothers descend to Egypt to procure food in the face of the famine that has affected the entire region. Together with other foreigners, they appear before Yosef, who is in charge of the sale and distribution of stored provisions.

Yosef immediately recognizes his brothers. They, however, fail to recognize him.

Deliberately concealing his true identity, Yosef proceeds to put his brothers through a series of grueling experiences.

Creating a sequence of manipulations clearly designed to keep the brothers off balance, Yosef accuses his brothers of being spies; allows them to return home with provisions but insists that they are not to reappear in Egypt unless they bring their younger brother, Binyamin, with them; imprisons his brother, Shimon, pending the brothers’ return…[, etc.] (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 42, posuk 1 through Perek 44, posuk 17)

Rabbi Goldin asks (ibid, pages 235-236):

What gives Yosef the right to torment his brothers?

Is Yosef simply seeking revenge against his brothers for their role in his sale into slavery?

Even if Yosef wished to punish his brothers culpable in his sale, why involve Binyamin, who did not participate in that tragic event at all? Why… torment his father, Yaakov, by imprisoning Shimon and by forcing Yaakov to allow Binyamin to travel to Egypt?

Rabbi Goldin then presents two suggestions made by classic commentators and one by a more contemporary commentator (ibid, pages 236-239):

1/ Yosef feels compelled to bring his dreams to fruition. The Ramban, among others claims that Yosef, at this point in his life, …is motivated by what he believes to be his ordained mission.

Remembering his early dreams…, Yosef understands those visions as predicting his ascension to leadership over the members of his own family. He further believes that to secure his family’s future, he must now orchestrate the realization of Hashem’s will as indicated in the dreams. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 37, posukim 7 and 9)

2/ Other commentaries suggest that Yosef deliberately punishes his brothers, measure for measure, for their crimes against him. These punishments enable his brothers to properly atone and eventually repent for their earlier transgressions. (Rabbi Goldin citing both Abravanel and Kli Yakar on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 42, posuk 7)

3/ A fascinating twist on the classical approaches is suggested by the nineteenth-century German scholar Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch [who] maintains that Yosef’s true motivation is a desire to create a new relationship with his brothers.

Yosef, however, realizes that: “Their inner feelings towards one another would have to become quite different from what they formerly were. Otherwise, an intimate relationship would never be able to be reestablished, and even if outwardly the family were to be reunited, the family would be lost to him [Yosef], and he to the family.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 42, posuk 9)

It seems to this author that we, in our time, have evolved into a similar crossroads, as with Yosef and his brothers, in the division and divisiveness between Jews here in Israel, and much of the rest of world Jewry. But unlike the state which finally evolved between Yosef and his brothers in Egypt, the intimate relationship between the Jews in Israel and much of world Jewry which existed from Israel’s modern-day statehood through the Yom Kippur War is now fraught with numerous contentious issues and a general de-emphasis of Israel as a major priority in the lives of much of world Jewry, particularly most American Jews. It appears that a roadmap toward what Rabbi Hirsch saw as creation of a new, intimate relationship uniting all Jews is not yet in sight, despite the upturn in anti-semitic attacks in recent years. May we soon see such an intimate unified relationship soon, in our times.

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 thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and can come home to Eretz Yisrael once his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha completes her treatments for cancer. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!!!

Chanukah Same’ach,Chodesh Tov and Good Shabbos!
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.