Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha


12.4.2010/27 Kislev 5771
Modern Author: Rebecca Goldstein

KOSHI: HOW do we understand the Presence of God in the process of Joseph’s (Israel’s) rise/redemption? What is the plaze of MaZeL in the place Joseph stands that enables him to realize his dream?

 REMEZ…Dialogue of the Centuries—Reclaiming Culture/Connection

V. 13-14: And it was just as he interpreteed for us, so it came to pass…Thus Pharoah sent for Joseph, and he was rushed from the pit.

RASHI…  “each according to his dream”—and close to its specific content; the interpretations in context.

MUNK… From this verse R’ Elazar formulates the rule that dreams follow their interpretation, and Rava adds: provided that it is appropriate to its content, that is, ‘dreams follow the mouth.’…To be sure, not only do dreams depend on their interpretation, but more generally, so does human destiny itself.  “Everything assumes the reality of the interpretation one places upon it.” Might this not apply to the whole of our existence?  What is decisive is not so much the events themselves but the way in which we see them…

ALSHECH…Since each one had dreamed the interpretation within the dreams, Joseph had simply recognized them, being an unprejudiced and skilled listener.  Or, he could have been lucky…

V.16     Joseph replied, “Not I; God will see to Pharaoh’s welfare.”

RALBAG…  It is not my prerogative to interpret the dream as I wish, rather I am inspired from above.  Accordingly, Joseph prayed, “May God respond with an interpretation favorable to Pharaoh.

TANCHUMA…Because Joseph attributed his wisdom of interpretation to God, he was rewarded…

V.33     Accordingly, let Pharaoh find a man of discernment and wisdom, and set him over the Land of Egypt…

ALSHECH…By suggesting “So now let Pharaoh find…” Joseph drew attention to the details of the dream, providing the rationale for the suggestion he was about to offer.  Far from being arrogant or even self-promoting, the suggestion Joseph made was part of his interpretation—it flowed naturally from dream to reality…Pharaoh however realized that Joseph’s understanding was not alone the result of knowing how to listen and putting his learning to use; it came from a greater source…

MUNK…Quite understandably, Joseph must have looked upon the sudden and sensational fashion in which eh was brought before Pharaoh as a providential moment.  He still held the dreams of his youth dear, and felt that the long-awaited turning point in his destiny had finally arrived…

RISKIN… “Historia” is the modern Hebrew word for history.  Even though its officially spelled with a tet, Rav Kook would write it with a taf, creating two Hebrew words: “Hester and Kah—the hidden hand of God.”  History is, from our perspective, an account of events propelled by God…The history of the Jewish people is the recognition of a partnership between man and God.  We have to start the process.  The Maccabees were a small band of rebels fighting a mighty empire.  God led us to victory only after Judah the Maccabee took the first step…According to RAMBAM, the miracle of 8 days wasn’t happenstance but rooted in historic reality, for it took exactly 8 days to produce pure olive oil…The first candle eternalizes the human initiative, without which divine miracles can never take place…In this week’s portion, Joseph interprets dreams, claiming all along that the meaning comes from God.  It does, but Joseph himself must be involved in the divine communication…Yet Joseph doesn’t stop with mere dream interpretation. 

“Now therefore let Pharaoh seek out a man both discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.”   Joseph provides a solution, with himself being the logical executor of that solution.  Joseph understood the divine possibility of him being in the right place at the right time.

The word MaZaL—luck, is spelled mem, zayin, lamed.  A great Hasidic sage once taught that the Mem is Makom—place, and the zayin is Z’man—time; one must be in the right place at the right time.  But that is not sufficient.  We also need the lamed, which is Limmud—learning.  The individual who God places in the right place at the right time must know, through learning, how to make the most of the moment.

Hanukah and Joseph together teach us that God creates miracles in history, but they do not come to fruition without the human initiative of His very special partners, using a bit of Mazel…

V.38     And Pharaoh said to his courtiers: “Could we find another like him, a man in whom is the spirit of God?”

RAMBAN…Pharaoh did not want to appoint Joseph without his court’s permission; therefore he emphasized “in whom is the spirit of God.”  And after, “Since God has made all of this known to you,” for the interpretation met with Pharaoh’s approval, they regarded it as if it had already been fulfilled.


2 responses to “Mikeitz

  1. egrotta December 10, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    The tale is told of an old man who groaned from his heart. The doctors were sent for, and they advised him to drink goat’s milk. He went out and bought a she-goat and brought her into his home. Not many days passed before the goat disappeared. They went out to search for her but did not find her. She was not in the yard and not in the garden, not on the roof of the House of Study and not by the spring, not in the hills and not in the fields. She tarried several days and then returned by herself; and when she returned, her udder was full of a great deal of milk, the taste of which was as the taste of Eden. Not just once, but many times she disappeared from the house. They would go out in search for her and would not find her until she returned by herself with her udder full of milk that was sweeter than honey and whose taste was the taste of Eden.

  2. Guest December 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Reb Sirkman asks, “Tell me in a phrase, ‘Why was Joseph successful?'” Some of the answers:
    – Connected to God
    – In the right place at the right time
    – Sees the obvious
    – Comes from a line of manipulators
    – Seven years of psychoanalysis
    – Pharoah trusts him
    – Luck
    – Pharoah sees there’s a higher power than himself

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