Miketz – “At The End Of”

The parasha for the December 20th Shabbat is entitled, Miketz, which means, “at the end of.”  It covers Genesis Chapters 41:1-44:17.

If you remember Rabbi Glenn’s commentary last week, we heard about Joseph and the life he lived as the favorite son of Jacob.  Joseph boasted about his special status by telling his family, including his 10 brothers, about dreams where he attained a superior position to them.  This upset the brothers and eventually, Joseph ends up being sold into servitude in Egypt.

Joseph’s life continued to spiral downward, from favored son, to servant of Potiphar, to imprisonment in jail, when he is falsely accused of adultery by Potiphar’s wife.  Just when it seems that Joseph might be redeemed from prison through interpreting the cupbearer’s dream of restoration to Pharaoh’s service, the cupbearer forgets his promise.

Our parasha for this week opens by telling us that Joseph stayed two more full years in prison after the cupbearer’s release.   However, it is at this time that Pharaoh has a strange dream, which no one can interpret.  The fact that no one can interpret Pharaoh’s dream seems to jog the cupbearer’s memory and he tells Pharaoh about Joseph.  Pharaoh quickly summons Joseph and he is brought from the prison.

Pharaoh’s dream involves two parts.  In one part, seven healthy and fat cows are eaten by seven thin and ugly cows.  In the second part, seven healthy ears of corn are swallowed by seven lean and withered ears of corn.

In response to Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph gives glory to God and tells Pharaoh that God has given Pharaoh a vision of what is about to occur.  The years of the boastful, young Joseph have given way to a mature Joseph, one who seeks God through his trials and struggles.  In fact, we read that whether in Potiphar’s service or imprisoned in the jail, through the Lord’s favor, Joseph was able to accomplish whatever task was put before him.  This should be helpful guidance for those of us who are struggling in some way today.  In tough times, it is so important to put our trust in the Lord and seek His guidance to help us through our burdens.

Joseph explains that God has given Pharaoh a vision of what is about to occur.  He then explains about the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine and suggests that Pharaoh should appoint someone who will gather and store 1/5th of all produce during the seven years of plenty so that this food can be utilized during the seven years of famine.

After hearing Joseph’s plan, Pharaoh determines that Joseph should be appointed to the #2 position in all the land and carry out the plan.  Joseph was 30 years old when this occurred.

What lessons can we learn from these passages?  First, we realize that things don’t always occur as we would like for them to.  Joseph had hoped that he would be remembered by the cupbearer for a quick release, but this was not the case.  He languished in prison for another two years.  However, if he had been released quickly, he might not have been in a position to be available to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  There are times when an extended time left in a difficult situation brings about a better result than what came before the difficult time.

Secondly, Joseph had been in prison for several years, but his elevation from prisoner to second in command in the land of Egypt happened very quickly.  God can move very suddenly to help us.  We need to be ready.

And lastly, Joseph did not just interpret Pharaoh’s dream; he had a plan for what to do.  God gave Joseph the interpretation of the dream, and He also gave him a plan on how to carry it out.  And, Joseph did not take the credit for interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, he gave the glory for that to God.  How different this Joseph is than the one who boasted to his brothers those many years ago that they would be bowing down to him.

Seven years of plenty are followed by seven years of famine just as God had indicated through the dream.  In fact, the famine is so far-reaching that Jacob and his family are affected.  In Chapter 42, Jacob sends all the sons, except for Benjamin, to buy grain in Egypt and there, they are recognized by Joseph, who calls them spies.  The brothers protest that they are just buying grain for their family back in Canaan.  Perhaps remembering his time in the pit and in jail himself, Joseph throws the brothers into jail for three days.

Upon release, he tells the brothers that one of them must be left behind when they take the grain back to Canaan and then bring back the youngest brother so that their words can be verified.  Joseph then has Simeon bound and held as the donkeys are loaded with grain and the rest of the brothers are released.  Along with the grain, Joseph also returns the money that the brothers had brought to purchase the grain.

Back in Canaan, Jacob refuses to let Benjamin return to Egypt in order that Simeon can be released.  In time, however, with the famine so severe, Judah speaks to Jacob and tells him that he, himself, will be the guarantee for Benjamin’s safe return.  Reluctantly, Jacob agrees and the brothers return to Egypt, this time with Benjamin.

Surprisingly, a different set of circumstances await the brothers when they meet Joseph for the second time.  Instead of interrogation, they are taken to Joseph’s house for a feast.  And, as they eat together, Joseph keeps giving Benjamin not only the best food, but five times more than the other brothers.

In Chapter 44, as the brothers prepare to depart for Canaan with as much grain as they can carry, Joseph has his steward secretly put a silver cup into Benjamin’s bag.  The brothers, including Simeon, all depart together in joy, but that is short-lived when Joseph’s steward rides up and accuses them of stealing the silver cup.  Although the brothers protest, the cup is found in Benjamin’s sack.  Imagine the fear and sadness that the brothers must have felt as they return to Joseph’s house.  As Joseph confronts them about stealing the cup, the parasha closes with Judah, representing all the brothers, beginning to confess that they have sinned.

Our parasha today gives us several lessons regarding family interaction.  First, off, favoritism from parents is one of the key initiators of family strife.  When one child is shown more love or greater privileges than other siblings, this can foster conflict.  This is what occurred in Joseph’s life.  It is up to us as parents to keep this type of situation from occurring.

Secondly, jealously between siblings can move to hatred, and even worse in a very short amount of time, especially when one sibling is being shown more favor than the others and taunts the other siblings with that.  Again, this is something that needs to be monitored and addressed by the parents.

But a positive lesson that we can take away from today’s parasha is that in time, relationships can be mended and healed through love, forgiveness and self-sacrifice.  In Genesis, Chapter 42, Reuben expresses remorse for what happened to Joseph.  In Genesis, Chapter 43, Judah guarantees Benjamin’s safety in order that they can go and bring food back so the family will not starve.  Joseph feels deep emotions when he sees Benjamin for the first time.  And, at the end of our parasha, the brothers stay banded together as Judah begins to recount the sin of selling Joseph into slavery.

Our Messiah reminded us about love and I think it is instructive to use this in family situations, and especially during this year-end holiday season when sometimes joy of the season mingles with stress from family situations.  In John 13:34, Jesus says:  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Remembering the love that Yeshua showed to us through His life, death and resurrection will help us to deal with any type of human interaction that we encounter.  I hope you will remember this next time you are in the midst of a stressful situation with family, friends, co-workers, or even strangers.