10. MIKETZ 5781

FROM THE TORAH

 Genesis 41:1-44:17

In last week’s Sedra Vayeshev, Joseph shares his self-centered dreams with family, who find them transparent and disconcerting.  They contribute to the undermining of family peace.  Later he interprets successfully the dreams of fellow prisoners which foretell their contrasting personal destinies.    In this week’s Sedra Miketz, he interprets royal dreams which both foretell and influence the welfare of Egypt, Joseph’s personal future, and the course of both Israelite and world history.  Joseph takes advantage of the grandest of opportunities.  At the same time he remains anchored in the love of family even under exclusion.

Joseph Arises Over Egypt

PHARAOH DREAMS
41:1-7

At the end of (Miketz) two years Pharaoh has a dream, in which he is standing over the Nile.  Out of the Nile come seven fat cows, and they graze in the reed grass.  Then seven gaunt cows come up from the Nile after them and stand beside them.  The gaunt cows eat the fat cows.  Then Pharaoh awakes.

He falls asleep again and has another dream.  Seven healthy ears of grain are growing on a single stalk.  Then another seven ears of grain, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprout up after them.  The thin and scorched ears swallow the seven healthy ears.  Then Pharaoh awakes from the second dream.

PHARAOH SEEKS INTERPRETATION
41:8-13

Disturbed, the next morning he summons all of the magicians and sorcerers of Egypt.  He relates his dreams to them, but none is able to interpret them for Pharaoh.  Then the sommelier speaks up: Today I make mention of my offenses.  Pharoah was angry with his servants.  He detained me, along with the chief baker, in the house of the chief steward.  One night each of us had a dream, each with an interpretation unique to him.  We related our dreams to another prisoner, a Hebrew lad who was a servant of the chief steward.  He succeeded in interpreting each of our dreams truly: I was restored to my occupation, and the other was impaled.

PHARAOH SUMMONS JOSEPH
41:14-24

Pharaoh summons Joseph quickly from the dungeon.  He is given a haircut and change of clothes, and he is brought to Pharaoh.  Pharaoh tells Joseph that he has had a dream, but no one has been able to interpret it.  “I have heard,” says Pharaoh, “that when you hear a dream, you can interpret it!”  “Not I,” Joseph responds to Pharaoh, “but God will fulfill Pharaoh’s need.”

Pharaoh proceeds to relate his dreams to Joseph.  He comments on the gaunt cows, “I have not seen in all the land of Egypt such bad ones as these!”  Indeed, when the fat cows had been enveloped by the gaunt cows, one could not tell that they had been so ingested, as the gaunt cows appeared as thin as they had been at first!  “I awoke,” he says, “then I saw the seven ears of grain…” in the second dream; “I told the magicians, but none could provide me an explanation.”

JOSEPH INTERPRETS PHARAOH’S DREAMS
41:25-36

Joseph explains to Pharaoh that what he has dreamt is one and the same: God is telling Pharaoh what He plans to do.  The seven fat cows and the seven healthy ears of grain are, as one, seven years: seven years of great plenty are coming for all of the land of Egypt.  These will be followed by seven years of overriding famine, represented by the seven gaunt cows and the seven thin ears.  Essentially Pharaoh has had the same dream twice in order to confirm that it is God’s established decision and that it will be implemented very soon.  So now, let Pharaoh identify a man well-qualified to be placed over the land of Egypt and, with deputies, to regulate the production of food during the years of abundance.  Let the grain be collected under the authority of Pharaoh to be stored in the cities.  The stores will serve as a reserve for the years of famine so that there will be no shortage in the land during those years.

PHARAOH ELEVATES JOSEPH
41:37-57

Pharaoh says to Joseph: As God reveals all of this to you, there is none as qualified as you!  You shall be over my house.  All of my people shall be supplied by your command.  Over you only shall be my throne.  See, I place you over all of the land of Egypt!  Pharaoh transfers his ring to Joseph’s hand, clothes him in fine linen, and places a chain of gold around his neck.  He has Joseph ride in the second chariot, and they announce before him, “Kneel!”  “I am Pharaoh,” he says, “and you will have exclusive say over what a man does in all the land of Egypt!”  He bestows upon Joseph the Egyptian name of Tsaphenat Paneach (“The god speaks and lives”) and gives him Asenat daughter of Poti Phera, priest of On, for a wife, and Joseph goes out over the land of Egypt.  All of this occurs when Joseph is thirty years old.

The land produces abundantly during the seven years of plenty.  The food that is produced in the countryside around a city is stored inside it.  Joseph collects produce in amounts as great as the sand of the sea, beyond counting.  Before the onset of seven years of famine, Joseph’s wife bears him two sons.  Joseph names the firstborn Manasseh (“He causes to forget”), as “God has caused me to forget all of my suffering and my father’s house.”  He names the second son Ephraim (“Abundant fruitfulness”), as “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

Seven years of plenty in the land of Egypt come to an end.  Then begin the seven years of famine, as Joseph predicted, famine in all lands, but there is food stored in the land of Egypt.  As the people of Egypt feel the effects of the famine, they cry out to Pharaoh for food.  He directs them to Joseph: “Do what he tells you!”  When there is famine throughout the entire land of Egypt, Joseph opens the storehouses as the famine grows more severe.  All of the world comes to Joseph in Egypt to purchase grain, as the famine grows severe in all of the world.

Joseph Rediscovers His Family

JACOB SENDS HIS SONS TO EGYPT FOR FOOD
42:1-17

When Jacob learns that there is food to be purchased in Egypt, he sends ten of his sons: “Why do you look at each other?  Go down there and purchase food for us, that we may live and not die!”  Only Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, he does not send, “lest a disaster should befall him.”

So the sons of Israel come among the others as there is famine in the land of Canaan.  They encounter Joseph, who rules over the land and dispenses rations for all of the people of the land.  They bow before him with their faces to the ground.  Joseph recognizes his brothers, but he acts towards them as a stranger and speaks to them roughly.  They do not recognize him.  “Whence have you come?” he asks.  “From the land of Canaan to purchase food,” they reply.  Joseph remembers his dreams about them.  He accuses them of being spies who have come to discover the country’s secrets.  No, they protest, we are honest men, twelve sons of one man; the youngest of us remains with our father, and one is no more.  “Well, on this you will be tested,” says Joseph: “By the life of Pharaoh, you will not leave here unless your youngest brother comes here!”  Send one of you to retrieve your brother, and the rest of you will be detained.  Thereby will we see if your words are true or if you are, as I say, spies!”  So he confines them under guard for three days.

JOSEPH SUPPLIES FOOD BUT KEEPS A HOSTAGE FOR BENJAMIN
42:18-28

On the third day Joseph proposes a plan to his brothers, opening with the words, “I fear God.”  If you are honest men, let one of you be confined in your place of detention, and the rest of you, go and bring food to satisfy the hunger of your households, and come back with your youngest brother.  Thus will your words be proven true, and you will not die.  They agree to the proposal.  They also speak among themselves and tie their current misfortune to their previous mistreatment of their brother: All of this is happening to us because we witnessed his suffering and his entreaties to us, and we ignored it all.  Says Reuben to his brothers: Did I not plead with you not to sin against the boy, and you did not listen?  Now punishment is being demanded for his blood! 

The brothers do not know that Joseph understands what they are saying, as he keeps an interpreter between them.  He moves away from them and weeps.  Then he returns to them and speaks with them.  He takes Shimon and binds him before their eyes.  Joseph orders that their bags be filled with grain, that their money be returned secretly to each man’s sack, and that they be given provision for the journey.  Thus it is done, and they carry their rations on their animals as they depart from there.

When they stop for the night, and each man opens his sack to provide fodder for his ass, he sees that his money has been restored.  As each one shares his finding with the other brothers, they become distraught, each one trembles, and they wonder, “What is God doing to us?”

THE BROTHERS RETURN TO CANAAN
42:29-38

When they arrive in Canaan, they apprise their father Jacob of the events in Egypt, how “the lord of the land” spoke roughly to them and accused them of being spies.  They tell Jacob how they responded and accounted for all twelve of his sons, including the youngest, and how the man demanded that they produce their youngest brother and that he required them in the meantime to leave one of them with him.  When they bring to him their youngest brother, the man will release the brother they left behind and they will be free to move about the land.

Then they empty their sacks, and all, including their father, see the money that has been returned.  The brothers and their father are afraid.  “You have bereaved me,” says Jacob to them, “Joseph is no more, and Shimon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin.  It all falls upon me!”  Reuben then promises his father that he will take responsibility for Benjamin and bring him  back; otherwise, “put my two sons to death!”  But Jacob refuses, “because his brother (Joseph) is dead, and he (Benjamin) alone survives, and if misfortune should befall him on the journey, you will bring my white head down to She’ol in grief.”

JUDAH URGES JACOB TO RELEASE BENJAMIN
43:1-14

In the meantime, the famine is severe, and they finish the rations that they brought from Egypt.  Their father tells them to return to Egypt to purchase “a little food.”  Judah says to him: The man warned us, “You shall not see my face without your brother with you!”  So if you would allow our brother to come with us, we will go down and procure food for you.  But if you do not so allow, then we will not go down because of what the man said.

“Why have you caused me this evil?” says Israel, “by telling the man that you have another brother!”  They claim that they were only responding to the man’s inquiries about their family, specifically as to whether their father is alive and whether they have a brother.  “How could we know that he would say, ‘Bring down your brother!’”

Judah urges his father to send the boy with him in order for all of them to survive.  He offers himself as surety: If I do not bring him back to you, then I will be guilty before you for all time.  If we had not delayed, we could have returned twice by now!  Israel resigns himself to sending their brother to the man, but he stipulates that the brothers take with them gifts for the man: some, balsam, some honey, gum, myrrh, pistachios, and almonds.  “Take with you twice the money.  Give back the money that was returned in your pouches; perhaps it was a mistake.  May God Almighty show you mercy in the presence of the man and release your other brother to you along with Benjamin.  As for me, if I am bereaved, I shall have to accept it.”

THE BROTHERS RETURN TO JOSEPH IN EGYPT
43:15-34

Thus equipped, the men go down to Egypt and stand before Joseph.  Joseph sees that Benjamin is with them.  He orders the steward of his house to bring the men in and slaughter an animal in preparation for dining with them at noon.  As the men are brought in to Joseph’s house, they fear being attacked in retribution for the money that returned to them, that they would be seized as slaves and their asses taken.  They tell their story to the steward.  “We did indeed come down once before to buy food,” and they explain that they have brought back the money that was returned to them and that they have also brought other money to purchase food.  “We do not know who put the (original) money back into our pouches!”  He seeks to reassure them: “Fear not.  Your God and the God of your father put the money in your sacks as a hidden treasure.  As for your original money, I have received it,” and he brings Shimon out to them!

When the steward brings the men into Joseph’s house, he gives them water to wash their feet and fodder for their asses.  In anticipation of dining with Joseph at noon, they prepare their gifts for him before his arrival.  When Joseph arrives, they bring their gifts into his house and bow down to him upon the ground.  Joseph asks their welfare and the welfare of “your aged father of whom you spoke, is he yet alive?” and the men assure him that their father is alive and well.  Then Joseph looks up and sees Benjamin his brother, the son of his mother: “Is this your youngest brother, about whom you spoke to me?  May God be gracious to you, my son!”

Joseph is quickly overcome with feeling towards his brother as he excuses himself and goes into another room to cry.  Then he washes his face and regains his composure, to announce the beginning of dinner.  He is served separately, they are served as a group by themselves, as are the Egyptians who are dining with him.  The Egyptians considered it abhorrent to eat with the Hebrews.  In addition, they are seated before him in the order of their seniority, from oldest to youngest, causing them to look at each other in surprise.  Portions are served to them from his table—Benjamin’s portion was many times larger than the portions of the others—and they drink with him heartily.

JOSEPH CREATES A PRETEXT
44:1-17

Joseph arranges for his steward to fill the men’s pouches with as much food as they can carry and to return secretly the money of each man into the mouth of his pouch.  “And put my silver goblet in the mouth of the pouch of the youngest together with his ration money.”  Thus does his steward.

At dawn the next day, the men are sent away with their asses.  When they are not yet too far from the city, Joseph dispatches his steward to pursue them.  Upon reaching them, he is to ask them:  Why have you repaid good with evil?  My master drinks from this and uses it for divination.  What you have done is wrong!

The steward reaches them and delivers Joseph’s words to them.  They respond: “How could you expect that of us?  The money which we found in the mouths of our sacks we brought back to you from the land of Canaan!  So how could we steal from your master’s house either silver or gold?  The one of your servants with whom the goblet is found shall die, and the rest of us shall become slaves to my lord!”  He accepts their earnest intent but changes the terms: “The one with whom it is found shall be my slave, while the rest of you shall be deemed innocent!”

The brothers take down their sacks and open them.  The sacks are searched, beginning with the sack of the oldest and ending with the sack of the youngest.  The goblet is found in the sack of Benjamin.  They rend their garments, each man reloads his ass, and they turn back to the city.

Judah and his brothers enter Joseph’s house.  He is still there, and they fall upon the ground before him.  Joseph says to them:  What have you done?  Don’t you know that a man like me engages in divination?!  Judah expresses abject contrition: “God has exposed the sin of your servants.  We are your slaves, both we and the one with whom the goblet has been found.”  Joseph responds: “Far be it from me to do such a thing.  The man with whom the goblet is found shall indeed be my slave.  But the rest of you, return in peace to your father!”

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for Shabbat Miketz
I Kings 3:15-4:1

The Wisdom of Solomon

When Solomon succeeded his father David as king of Israel,
the Eternal appeared to him at Gibeon in a dream of night,
asking him what he would like as a gift.
“Give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people,
to discern good from evil.”
God replied to him:
“Because you did not ask for a long life or riches or the defeat of your enemies,
I shall grant your request for a wise and understanding heart
unlike any before or after you,
and also those things that you did not ask for…!”
(I Kings 3:1-14)

Solomon awakes from his dream and comes to Jerusalem.  Standing before the Ark of the Covenant of the Eternal, he offers sacrifices and makes a feast for all of his servants.

Eventually two harlots come to the king for judgment.  One of them explains that they live together, that they both have delivered children within three days of each other, and that no one else is with them in the house.  The same woman claims that the other woman lay upon her infant son and that he died.  “Then in the middle of the night, she arose and took my son from me while I was sleeping and replaced him in my bosom with her dead son!  In the morning, when I went to nurse my son, I saw that the child lying in my bosom was dead, and upon inspection I knew that the dead child was not mine.”  Each woman claims the living child, denying the claim of the other.

The king, upon hearing the conflicting claims of the two women, orders a sword to be brought forth.  “Divide the living child into two, and give one half to one and the other half to the other!”  The woman whose child was the living one, out of her deep motherly compassion pleads with the king not to kill the baby but to give him to the other woman alive, while the other woman says, it shall be neither mine nor yours, divide it!  The king responds: Give her the living baby and do not kill him, because she is his mother!”

When all of Israel hears the king’s judgment, they regard their king with awe, for they have perceived divine wisdom is his performance of justice.  And so does King Solomon become king over all of Israel.

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Genesis Rabbah 89:3,4
The Wicked and Their “Gods”

“A dream comes with a multitude of subjects…”
(Ecclesiastes 5:2)

One of the subjects of Pharaoh’s dream, apart from the cows and the ears of grain, was his standing with respect to the Nile.  The Nile was regarded in Egypt as divine.  Pharaoh also represented himself as divine.  So, naturally, he wondered:  Who stands over whom: I over my gods, or my gods over me?  He was told: You over your gods, and that is what is written: “At the end of two years Pharaoh has a dream, in which he is standing over the Nile!” (Genesis 41:1)

Rabbi Yochanan said:  The wicked stand over their gods—“Pharaoh has a dream, in which he is standing over the Nile!”  But as for the righteous, their God stands over them, as with Jacob, when he saw the ladder: “Standing over him is the Eternal…” (Genesis 28:13).

Genesis Rabbah 89:4
Dreams of Power

“Pharaoh has a dream!” (Genesis 41:1):  Why is it worth mentioning that Pharaoh had a dream?  Do not all people have dreams?  It is worth mentioning because, in the case of a king, a dream that he has involves more than himself, even more than his kingdom, as is shown in the verse, “There was famine in all lands, but in the land of Egypt there was food!” (Genesis 41:54)

Genesis Rabbah 91:6; 92:4
Talmud Menachot 103b
The Foundation of Security

“When Jacob learns
that there is food to be purchased in Egypt,”
he sends ten of his sons….
“’Go down there and purchase food for us,
that we may live and not die!’”
(Genesis 42:1-2)

Why does Jacob say, “Go down?”  Because he foresaw that they would be brought low and enslaved in Egypt.

Another interpretation: “Go down” because the Torah considers whoever purchases produce from the market (rather than farming it himself) is in the category of going down.

“The life that you face shall be precarious,
you shall be in fear by night and by day,
and you shall not feel secure in your life.”
(Deuteronomy 28:66)

Rabbi Chanin has taught: “The life that you face shall be precarious” refers to one who purchases produce from year to year.  “You shall be in fear by night and by day” refers to one who purchases produce from week to week.  “And you shall not feel secure in your life” refers to one who depends upon the baker.  Rashi: For he has no land to sow, and he does not know if he will have money the following year.

“We did indeed come down once before to buy food.”
(Genesis 43:20)

It was a coming down for us, because in our own Land we were once the sustainers of others, but now we are in need of your support.  (Now we are the others who need to be sustained!)

Song of Songs Rabbah 1:9
Wisdom as Inclusive

The Eternal appeared to Solomon at Gibeon in a dream of night,
asking him what he would like as a gift.
“Give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people,
to discern good from evil.”
God replied to him:
“Because you did not ask for a long life or riches or the defeat of your enemies,
I shall grant your request for a wise and understanding heart
unlike any before or after you,
and also those things that you did not ask for…!”
(I Kings 3:1-14)

Rabbi Simone in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta likened Solomon at Gibeon to a nobleman who grew up in the king’s palace.  At one point the king said to him: Ask of me what I can give to you.  The nobleman thought to himself: If I ask for silver and gold, those he will give to me; if jewels and pearls, those he will give to me. But if I ask for his daughter in marriage, all the rest will be included!  So it was for Solomon at Gibeon: If I ask for wisdom, all of the rest will be included!  To this the Holy One, blessed be He, responded: Solomon, you requested for yourself wisdom, and you did not request for yourself riches and possessions and the lives of your enemies; by your life, wisdom and knowledge shall be granted to you, and thereby riches and possessions shall I give you!

Yefeh Kol (Samuel ben Isaac Ashkenazi Jaffe, 16th cent., Constantinople): Solomon was not being deceptive by requesting something apparently modest in order to capture a greater prize.  If he were, then how could the Holy One, blessed be He, have said to him, “You did not request for yourself riches and possessions?”  The point is: they are included in wisdom!  The way to understand this is that wisdom is greater than “all of the rest.”  What Solomon was thinking is that riches and possessions, as measured against wisdom, are as nothing in my eyes, so in this way wisdom includes all the rest.  Indeedin Midrash Yalkut (173) the nobleman (as the metaphor for Solomon) says, “I shall ask for something to which all other things are inferior, to which silver and gold are inferior!”  So it is important to understand that he was not asking for silver and gold as the primary gift, since they are not important in and of themselves, but only wisdom, and wisdom without some adequate supply of money will not endure!  Therefore Solomon thought: If I ask for wisdom, would not the Eternal then grant me what is sufficient to sustain my wisdom, and in that way everything else would be included!

Song of Songs Rabbah 1:9-10
The Rise and Decline of Solomon

“Solomon awakes from his dream and comes to Jerusalem.
Standing before the Ark of the Covenant of the Eternal,
he offers sacrifices and makes a feast for all of his servants.”
(I Kings 3:15)

Rabbi Elazar taught:  From this we learn that we make a feast (se’udah) upon completion of the Torah. Matnot Kehunah (Yissachar Ber Berman Ashkenazi, 16th cent., Szczebrzesyn): For as Solomon was granted the gift of wisdom, he completed thereby all of the Torah.

Yefeh Kol (Samuel ben Isaac Ashkenazi Jaffe, 16th cent., Constantinople):  Thus we do when we complete the Reading of the Torah as on the festival of Simchat Torah, as well as upon the completion (siyyum) of any tractate (masechta) of Talmud—just as Solomon made a feast for all of his servants when he attained wisdom.

Said Rabbi Yudan:  This teaches you that whoever teaches Torah in public has the merit of one embraced by the Holy Spirit.  For this is what happened to Solomon.  He learned Torah, the Holy Spirit settled upon him, and he composed three books of the Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.

When you look into it, you will find that all that happened to Solomon happened in threes.  For example, he arose in three stages:

First Stage: “Solomon ruled over all of the area on this side of the Euphrates…” (I Kings 5:4)

Second Stage: “Solomon ruled over all of the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and the border of Egypt…” (I Kings 5:1)

Third Stage: “Solomon sat upon the throne of the Eternal as king…” (I Chronicles 29:23)

But Rabbi Isaac questioned: Is it possible for a person to sit upon the throne of the Eternal…?  It means that just as the throne of the Eternal rules from one end of the world to the other, so the throne of Solomon ruled from one end of the world to the other!  It also means that just as the throne of the Eternal judges without reliance upon witnesses, so the throne of Solomon judged without reliance upon witnesses.  An example of that is the two harlots who came before Solomon and whom he judged without reliance upon witnesses, as was said, “One of them explains that they live together, that they both have delivered children within three days of each other, and that no one else is with them in the house.” (I Kings 3:16-18)

Similarly, Solomon declined in three stages:

First Stage: “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel” (Proverbs 1:1) only, after he had formerly ruled from one end of the world to the other!

Second Stage: “I am Koheleth, I was king over Israel in Jerusalem” (Ecclesiastes 1:12) only, after he had been king over all of Israel!

Third Stage: “Here is the couch of Solomon surrounded by sixty bodyguards..out of fear at night” (Song of Songs 3:7-8), ruling not even all of Jerusalem but only his house, and in fear!

Regarding the three books that he wrote,
there are different views as to when he wrote them
and possibly in what order.
Here is how the discussion goes:

Rabbi Chiyah Rabbah said that Solomon wrote Proverbs first, then Song of Songs, then Ecclesiastes, bringing the following verse as support: “God gave wisdom to Solomon…he composed three thousand Proverbs, one thousand and five Songs” (I Kings 5:9,12), leaving Ecclesiastes last!  However, it was reported in an earlier teaching of Rabbi Chiyah Rabbah that Solomon composed all three at the same time.  It was also reported in an earlier teaching of Rabbi Chiyah Rabbah that only in Solomon’s old age did the Holy Spirit reside upon him so that he composed the three books (in his old age):  Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.

Rabbi Yonatan taught that he composed the Song of Songs first, then Proverbs, and then Ecclesiastes, arguing on the basis of “the way of the world” (derech eretz):  When a man is young, he composes words of poetry; when he is mature, he writes words of instruction; when he is old, he utters words of despair.

Rabbi Yannai, father-in-law of Rabbi Ammi, said: All agree that Ecclesiastes was composed last.  Chiddushey HaRashash (Samuel ben Joseph Strashun, 19th cent., Vilna): Rashi (s.v. Shir Hashirim, Talmud Bava Bathra 14b) expresses his own view that Song of Songs was composed last [possibly as per the earlier teaching of Rabbi Chiyah Rabbah], and it is possible to find a correspondence between his view and the teaching of the Midrash regarding the three stages of Solomon’s decline (see above) [also in accordance with the aforementioned earlier teaching of Rabbi Chiyah Rabbah].

Genesis Rabbah 91:9
The Value of Wisdom

“Joseph orders that their bags be filled with grain,
that their money be returned…
When they stop for the night,
and each man opens his sack…,
he sees his money…
and each says to the other:
‘My money has been returned!’
… and they become distraught….”
(Genesis 42:25,27-28)

When Rabbi Simon bar Zavdi died, Rabbi Il’ah opened his eulogy with these verses:

“Where can wisdom be found?…No one can know its value.
It cannot be found in the land of the living.
The deep says: It is not in me….
Gold cannot replace it, no amount of silver can be paid as its price….
The securing of wisdom is of value greater than corals….
Whence does wisdom come, and where is the place of understanding?
It is concealed from the eyes of all living,
and hidden even from the birds of heaven.”
(Job 28:12-21)

There are four commodities upon which the world relies, and each of them can be replaced:

“There is a mine for silver
and a place for the refinement of gold;
iron is taken out of the earth,
and copper is smelted from rock.”
(Job 28:1-2)

But for a Torah scholar who has died
a replacement cannot be found.

Rabbi Levi observed:  If the sons of Jacob lost money, they would not have been distraught, because the precious metal of money can be replaced.  But they were distraught when their money was returned.  How much the more then should we be distraught for losing Rabbi Simon, a Torah scholar!

Genesis Rabbah 92:4
Joseph and Shabbat

“Joseph sees that Benjamin is with them.
He orders the steward of his house to bring the men in
and slaughter an animal
in preparation for dining with them at noon.”
(Genesis 43:16)

It would have been sufficient for Joseph to order the slaughter of an animal for dining.  Why does the Torah add “in preparation?”  These additional, redundant words allude to the preparation required for Shabbat: Slaughter an animal not only for today but also prepare food today for tomorrow, so it must have been Erev Shabbat (Friday), and this shows that Joseph observed the Sabbath even before it was commanded under Moses at Mount Sinai!

Genesis Rabbah 92:4
Assurance of Merit

“’We do not know who put the (original) money back into our pouches!’
The steward seeks to reassure them:
‘Fear not.
Your God and the God of your father
put the money in your sacks as a hidden treasure.
As for your original money, I have received it…’”
(Genesis 43:22-23)

The steward refers not to the God of the men and the God of their father as if to more than one God.  Rather, he was saying to them:  Do not worry, there are sufficient merits among all of you to justify the money in your sacks as hidden treasure.  Whether for your own merit or for the merit of your fathers, your God has given you these gifts.  Separate from that, however it happened, your money has come back to me.  [Joseph later arranges for his steward to return secretly the money of each man into the mouth of his pouch (44:1).]  Above all, I do not suspect you of stealing from my master!

Genesis Rabbah 92:4
News of the Living, News of the Dead

“Joseph asks their welfare and the welfare of
‘your aged father of whom you spoke, is he yet alive?’
and the men assure him that their father is alive and well.”
(Genesis 43:27-28)

Rabbi Chiyah Rabbah once encountered a friend who had come from his native Babylonia.  He asked him, “How is my father doing?”  The friend responded, “Your mother asks how you are doing.”  He said to him, “I ask you about one thing, and you respond to me about something else?!”  He explained, “We reply about the living, and we do not reply about the dead.”

Thus the men took Joseph’s words “your…father” to refer to their father Jacob and replied that their father is “alive and well.”  But they understood “your aged father” to refer to Isaac and let Joseph know that he had died by not replying about him.

Genesis Rabbah 92:4
Benjamin’s Special Blessing

“Then Joseph looks up and sees Benjamin his brother,
the son of his mother:
‘Is this your youngest brother, about whom you spoke to me?
May God be gracious to you, my son!’”
(Genesis 43:29)

Why is there here this single, brief blessing for God’s favor to Benjamin?  Benjamin was the only tribe which had not thus far been favored with such a blessing, for when Jacob with his wives and children encountered his brother Esau, he said, “These are the children with whom God has favored your servant” (Genesis 33:5), and Benjamin had not been born yet (cf. Genesis 35:16-18).

Genesis Rabbah 92:6
My Brother, Keetov

Joseph arranges for his steward
to fill the men’s pouches
with food and money,
and to put his silver goblet
in the mouth of Benjamin’s pouch.

 “Then, In the morning, at light,
the men are sent away with their asses.”
(Genesis 44:1-3)

As it would be sufficient
to have said,
“In the morning the men are sent away,”
why is the phrase “
at light” added?

Said Rabbi Levi:  There was an incident in the south regarding a certain innkeeper, who used to arise at night and bestir his lodgers to arise as well on the pretext of a caravan which would be passing through in the darkness.  They were led to believe by that innkeeper that they would benefit from the merchandise that the caravan would be carrying.  But when the lodgers went out into the night, they were set upon by highwaymen who robbed them and murdered them.  These highwaymen then entered the inn and divided the spoil with the innkeeper.

On one occasion Rabbi Meir was traveling, and he lodged at that inn.  When the innkeeper sought to entice Rabbi Meir with the same pretext, he begged off with his own pretext: I am expecting my brother to meet me here, so I must remain and not go out.  The innkeeper asked: So where is your brother now?  Rabbi Meir answered: In the synagogue.  Well, what is his name? asked the innkeeper, so that I can go out and summon him.  His name is Keetov (”That it was good”), said Rabbi Meir.

The innkeeper spent the entire night shouting at the entrance of the synagogue: Keetov! Keetov!  But no one answered him.

In the morning, at light, Rabbi Meir arose and loaded his ass, ready to go.  The innkeeper asked him: Where is the brother whom you mentioned?  Oh, he has already arrived, answered Rabbi Meir, as was said, “And God saw the light, Keetov, that it was good” (Genesis 1:4)!


SHABBAT SHALOM!

Copyright © 2020 Eric H. Hoffman

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