Mi’ketz 2018

> Torah Portion: Shabbat: Mi’ketz
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> Joseph’s meteoric ascent enables him to implement his advice to Pharaoh to save Egypt from the impending famine by storing food for the years of famine, during the years of plenty. As a result, only the land of Egypt had food, and Jacob, who dwells with his family in Canaan, is forced to send his sons to Egypt to purchase grain to keep their families alive.
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> When the brothers arrive in Egypt, Joseph recognizes them, but they fail to recognize him. He accuses them of being spies, holds Simeon as a hostage and insists that they bring their youngest brother to Egypt to prove their innocence.
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> When the food that they had purchased from their first journey was entirely consumed, Jacob urges his sons to go down to Egypt once again, to purchase more food. Judah reminds his father that Joseph had demanded that their younger brother be brought down with them this time, and that they cannot go down without Benjamin.
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> Jacob (scripture uses the name “Israel”) gets very upset and blurts out to them, in Genesis 43:6, לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתֶם לִי, לְהַגִּיד לָאִישׁ, הַעוֹד לָכֶם אָח , “Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man that you have another brother?” The brothers reply, (Genesis 43:7), הֲיָדוֹעַ נֵדַע כִּי יֹאמַר, הוֹרִידוּ אֶת אֲחִיכֶם , “Could we possibly have known that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down?’”
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> The commentators explain that whenever Jacob assumes the role of patriarch of the Jewish nation, scripture recognizes him as “Israel,” rather than “Jacob.” It is also common for scripture to use the name “Israel” when Jacob refers to something pertaining to the destiny of the Jewish people, rather than something that applies only to Jacob and his family.
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> In this instance, Jacob is teaching a profound lesson to the younger and the future generations, therefore, in keeping with his patriarchal role, Jacob is called “Israel.”
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> The Midrash offers a remarkable interpretation for this verse. The Midrash says that, in his entire life, Jacob never uttered anything in vain–except in this particular instance. In response to Jacob’s outburst, the Holy One, blessed be He, said, “I [God] am working to make his son into the ruler of Egypt, and he says, ‘Why are you treating me badly?’”
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> Rabbi Alpert suggests that perhaps one reason why God rebukes Jacob is because more than two decades had already elapsed since Joseph vanished, and by this time, the Al-mighty assumed that Jacob had reconciled his grief over the loss of his child, and come to terms with God’s intentions. Perhaps when Jacob first saw the bloody coat that he thought belonged to his son, he would have been justified in his anger at his other children, and cry out, “Why did you treat me so badly?” But, not so many years later.
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> Jacob had already had sufficient time to work out his grief, but he did not, and that is why God was angry.
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> Perhaps acknowledging that parents never truly overcome their grief over a deceased or missing child, Rabbi Alpert suggests another way of looking at God’s rebuke. God is not really rebuking Jacob. In fact, the Midrash is actually praising Jacob, saying that throughout his entire life, Jacob had never spoken a single word in vain other than in this instance. Can you imagine never second-guessing God, except for one instance? Never wondering about why God overlooks certain actions and punishes other actions? Why God brings calamity upon the world?
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> Both of these messages are applicable to contemporary Jewish life today. We are well familiar with the rabbinic statement (Brachot60b) that, כָּל דְּעָבִיד רַחְמָנָא לְטַב עָבִיד , that everything that God does, is always for the good.
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> The Jewish people from time immemorial have witnessed evil upon evil, yet they still survive. Not only survive, but thrive, like never before. There is 3,300 years of empirical evidence that God has watched over and protected His people. Yet, because of the intensity of the evil that Jews experience, it is hard to conclude that it is all for the good, even though we believe that ultimately it will all prove to be good.
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> A significant lesson to be gleaned from this portion and others is the importance of being optimistic even in the face of extraordinary reasons to feel otherwise. Jews must look for, and aspire for daylight, even though it is now frighteningly dark outside. We must trust in God’s loving-kindness, even though we are in pain. Shabbat Shalom & continued Joyous Chanukah.
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