Parshat Mikeitz 5784: Yosef and Creating an Intimate Relationship of Unity Amongst Jews

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parsha Mikeitz is being sponsored anonymously in honor of Rav Avishai David and Rebbe Kalman Menachem Shapira, towering and selfless figures of the Ramat Bet Shemesh community. To our 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

Parshat Mikeitz 5784: Yosef and Creating an Intimate Relationship of Unity Amongst Jews

by Moshe Burt

Usually, Shabbos Parshat Mikeitz occurs during Chanukah, and often on Rosh Chodesh Tevet as well. This year, as in 5781, Shabbos Parshat Mikeitz stands on its own, following both Rosh Chodesh Tevet and immediately after the eighth day of Chanukah.

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 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 and presents his own commentary (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)

Yosef knew that, were he to reveal himself immediately to his brothers, their shared past would haunt them forever. Yosef would always see his brothers as callous criminals who facilitated his sale into slavery. The brothers, on the other hand, whenever they saw Yosef, would remember his cries from the pit. They would never fully trust his feelings toward them, nor would they move past their own overwhelming sense of guilt.

Something dramatic had to cause a change.

Yosef… sets about creating a new reality, a foundation upon which a future relationship can be built. He manipulates events so that his brothers are faced with the same circumstances they faced at time of his sale. When the brothers risk their own freedom to save Binyamin, they prove to Yosef and to themselves that they have changed, they no longer could cause or even allow a brother’s pain. Yosef realizes that the time has come to begin anew, for now he and his brothers will be able to view themselves and each other differently.

Yosef finally reveals his true identity and Yaakov’s sons begin their long journey towards healing.

Rabbi Goldin provides concluding thoughts which soo poignantly relate to our current Matzav (ibid, page 219) :

Often Jews are criticized for failing to move past the trauma of past tragedies and suffering. With a seeming sense of paranoia, we tend to greet each world event with the… questions: “Is it good for the Jews? How will these events affect us?”

Our posture can be well understood, however, in light of the Yosef story.

How can we trust a world that seems unchanged? The rising tide of anti-semitism sweeping across Europe, bringing in its wake propaganda and physical attacks reminiscent of the years before the Sho’a; the fanatic hatred of Islamic fundamentalists towards… Israel and the Jews in general; the readiness of nations to appease tyrannical regimes such as Iran rather than face them down; the inability of the world to halt clear cases of genocide… all drive home the clear message that the world community is yet willing to tolerate the demonization and destruction of entire peoples.

This author notes that the final sentence of Rabbi Goldin’s concluding thoughts ends with a plural — “peoples.” It seems, though, that the world community continues to tolerate, and even promote, the demonization and apparent desired destruction primarily of one people — Israel, i.e. the Jews. 7 October — the War of Simchat Torah and both the barbaric and beastly pogrom perpetrated on our brethren, and the anti-semitic violent street and university riots in the United States, Canada, i.e. “mezzuzza mapping,” etc. and world wide seem proof positive of this singularity of the attacks upon world Jewry. But alas. “man plans and Hashem laughs.” Israel and Jewry, B’Ezrat Hashem, will again emerge victorious over Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and all such terrorist groups and their sponsors, and that our brethren, held hostage by the Hamas Yishma’elim wild beasts, will be liberated. And emblematic of Mark Twain’s famous comment about the Jews vs our adversaries through out history: “We will outlive you!”

And hopefully, B’ezrat Hashem, the conclusion of this war will see a roadmap toward what Rabbi Hirsch saw as “creation of a new, intimate relationship uniting all Jews.” May we 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 re-settled in Gush Katif, once the IDF, by the Yad Hashem, destructs and eradicates Hamas, Hezbollah, and if necessary Iran, and that our brethren be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense. May our Chayalim return from battle unharmed — physically, mentally and spiritually and may all of the hostages brutally taken by the wild beasts of Hamas be liberated and returned to their families. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. 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 nine 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 see, in 5784, the REAL Jews from the Ukraine and Russia make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. 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 Some’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.