Skip to content

Parashat Miketz 5770 — You’re in Good Hands! – 12/18/2009

Weekly Torah portion:
Parashat Miketz – You’re in Good Hands!
5770 – 12/18/2009

submitted by Robert Rabinoff

Our Parashah is the centerpiece of the drama of Yosef and his brothers.  The entire scope of this drama can be seen as competing attempts to manipulate the outcome of events – to manipulate other people and to manipulate the environment so that the results meet our individual wants, desires and expectations.  How successful one can be in such manipulation is seen during the entire drama, and especially at the end.

The story begins in the previous parashah, where Yosef has related his dreams of grandeur to his father and his brothers, and the brothers, perhaps inadvertently, interpret the dream as indicating that Yosef would rule over them.  They seek to derail his vision, which they now, having brought out their interpretation, recognize as prophetic.  They contrive to sell him as a slave to a caravan going down to Egypt, having narrowly escaped the disaster of actually killing him.  Satisfied with their work they exclaim, “Now we’ll see what will be of his dreams.”  Indeed we will.
Later in the previous Parashah, Yosef’s master’s wife tries to manipulate him into sleeping with her, and failing that, frames him for rape (there was no DNA testing back then).  While in prison, Yosef interprets the dreams of the chief wine steward and the head baker, and tries to manipulate the wine steward into springing him from the dungeon, to no avail.  In fact our Sages tell us that an additional two years were decreed on Yosef, since he was on a high enough level that he should have had perfect faith that Gd would have him released at an appropriate time.  Instead, he tried, unsuccessfully, to manipulate the event according to his desires and understanding.
At the beginning of our Parashah Yosef is rushed to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  As a result of his successful interpretation he becomes the viceroy of all of Egypt, wielding vast economic and political power.  Now he is in a position to manipulate events big-time!  The entire saga of his brothers’ coming to Egypt, being imprisoned as spies then sent back to fetch their brother Benjamin (Yosef’s only full brother), is an elaborate ruse to test them and to determine if they still harbor any of the animosity that led to Yosef’s sale to begin with.  According to our Sages, it is also calculated, measure for measure, to provide expiation for the brothers’ miscalculations and mistaken behavior of so many years before.
Finally, at the risk of spoiling the suspense, next week’s Parashah begins with Yehudah confronting the viceroy after Benjamin has been framed with stealing the viceroy’s “magic” goblet.  Many commentators argue that at this point Yehudah has figured out that the viceroy is Yosef, and he then proceeds to manipulate Yosef’s thoughts and emotions, until he can hold back no longer and breaks down and identifies himself to the brothers.  (By the way, I think this is one of the most dramatic scenes in all literature, and I’d suggest reading these three Parshiyot if just for this moment alone.)
The word “manipulation” comes from the root meaning “hand,” and if there is one theme that runs through the entire story, it is that there is a Hand controlling all these events, even if the Owner of this hand remains hidden and unrecognized.  It is only at the end of the story that Yosef tells his brothers “I am Yosef whom you sold down to Egypt.  Now don’t be agitated, because it was really Gd who sent me ahead of you to preserve life.”  Then the scales fall away from our eyes and we perceive the underlying truth of the matter – that events are not, ultimately, under human control.
On the human level we must act.  This is because we all fall short of perfection, as did Adam and Eve, and we must eat our bread by the sweat of our faces.  Therefore, on the level of individuality, effort is required, at least while we remain identified with our individual personality.  As we grow, our awareness expands (we see this especially clearly as a child matures from infantile self-absorption to an adult concerned with the feelings and needs of others and of the environment) and we become less and less identified with limited individuality.  Rather our sense of self expands to a more universal level, a level that is more and more permanent and eternal, and less mortal and changeable.  At this level we as if watch ourselves act, as if we were watching a movie, while we ourselves are uninvolved.  On this level of awareness, there is no involvement of the individual ego – rather the actions taken by our individual selves are in tune with Gd’s Will.  Our hands have become Gd’s Hand to act in the world.  As individuals we can control our actions.  We cannot determine the outcome of our actions.  What we can do is raise ourselves to a level of awareness where all our actions are wholly given over to Gd, and trust that He will arrange an outcome that is best for us, for our environment, and for the cosmos as a whole.