Weekly Reading Insights:
Miketz 5778


Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on Shabbat Miketz, 28 Kislev 5778 (Dec.16)

Shabbat Chanuka

Torah: Genesis 41:1-44:17, Numbers 7:48-53 (Chanukah-8th day);
Haftorah: Zachariah 2:14-4:7

Miketz is the 10th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and 10th overall, and 4th out of 54 in overall length.

Miketz opens with two dreams of Pharaoh. In the first, seven lean cows swallow seven fat cows; and in the second, seven thin stalks of grain swallowing seven fat stalks. No one could interpret the dream, but finally the butler recalled Yosef who was summoned from the dungeon and made presentable. He interpreted that both dreams foretold of seven years of agricultural plenty that would be followed by seven years of famine. Yosef suggested that Pharaoh seek an administrator to supervise food storage food during the years of plenty to preserve for the famine. Realizing that the wisest man for the task was Yosef himself, Pharaoh appointed him viceroy, named him Tzafnat Paneach, and married him to Osnat with whom he had two sons, Menashe and Efraim. Yosef built storage cities during the years of plenty. The years of famine eventually arrive all over the world drawing people to Egypt to purchase stored food. So too, Yaacov's sons came to Egypt, excluding Benyamin. Yosef recognized his brothers though they didn't recognize him. He pretended to be angry and accused them of spying the land to attack it. To prove their innocence, Yosef told them they must bring their youngest brother, Benyamin, to Egypt and kept Shimon hostage until their return. Yosef wept when overhearing his brothers conclude that the episode was punishment for having sold Yosef years before. Upon relaying to Yaacov what happened, he was grieved, but reluctantly allowed his sons, this time including Benyamin, to return to Egypt when their food supply depleted. This time, they bring a gift for Yosef. After seeing that Benyamin also arrived, Yosef asked that a meal be prepared for himself to eat with his brothers. Upon meeting them, Yosef asked about his father, and hid his tears when meeting Benyamin. After the meal, Yosef instructed that his brothers' packs be filled with food, and in Benyamin's money and Yosef's 'magic' chalice should be replaced in his pack. After the brothers left the city, Yosef's men pursued them to catch Benyamin with his 'theft'. The brothers were brought back before Yosef who declared that Benyamin must remain in Egypt as his slave as punishment for stealing.


An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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This week's Torah portion is called "Miketz", which means "at the end". The story begins with Joseph in prison, telling how he was about to be released. The Midrash explains this topic and opens with a verse from Job, "There will be an end [in Hebrew, 'ketz'] to the darkness". The Midrash compares Joseph's release from prison to the final redemption of Mashiach when there will be no more spiritual darkness.

The Baal Shem Tov explains the Midrash as follows: As long as a person's evil inclination, his or her desire to do negative things, exists, it is like being in prison, because they can not freely serve G-d. Pitch blackness and the shadow of death characterize their reality.

The great Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the Arizal of Safed, describes this in connection with the concept of the extraction of "divine sparks" from the physical aspects of the world with which we come into contact. These sparks were originally part of supernal spiritual "vessels" that were shattered, and their shards became the inner dimension of this physical plane. Our purpose is to extract and elevate these sparks from the inanimate, vegetable, animal and human spheres, and return them to their source on high. This is the Torah way of life and is true in every aspect of the things we do, from mitzvah observance to what we think about when we eat.

The Baal Shem Tov continues saying something revolutionary: The divine spark that exists in every part of the physical world, but particularly in the inanimate and vegetable kingdoms, is made up of the same 248 spiritual limbs and 365 spiritual veins, arteries and sinews that are the spiritual make up of a human person, of which the body is its physical mirror image! As long as this spark is confined in the physical object, it is like a person in prison! And the individual who is able, through thoughts and intentions, to extract and elevate these sparks is fulfilling the Torah commandment of redeeming captives! How much more, if we imagine that these divine sparks are very dear to the King of Kings, that it they are like His son, the prince, who is imprisoned, than how much merit will come to the prince's redeemer!

Who is it that will make an end to the darkness? Just as the Almighty decides when Mashiach will come, so also it is a divine judgment how long each spark will be imprisoned, when it will merit to be released and who will be the vehicle for that redemption to happen. When an opportunity presents itself, do not let it sour. You have been chosen by the King of Kings to redeem the spark from exile.

Happy Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more,

click to Miketz

one sample:

Contemporary Kabbalists
Dreams and Exiles

From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe; adapted by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

The reality of exile is analogous to that of a dream, consisting of coexisting conflicting and contradictory elements. We pray to G-d with absolute devotion and yet, in a matter of minutes, we may find ourselves acting in ways that contradict G-d's directives.

The Torah teaches us that although our actions are inconsistent and may seem hypocritical at times, we should not become disheartened, for the effects of our good deeds nonetheless will last forever.

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