This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H & my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H & in Z’chus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmother Channah Freidel Bas Sarah
-My great aunt Rivkah Bas Etta
-Miriam Liba Bas Devora
-Aviva Malka Bas Leah
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamah of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
מִקֵּץ ~ Mikeitz
*חֲנוּכָּה ~ Chanukah*
After finally being released from prison and interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, Yosef becomes the viceroy of Egypt, the second in command to Pharaoh. Yosef’s transformation, in fantasy terms, seems like a classical “rags to riches” story. One moment, Yosef is at the bottom of a pit, and the next, he is on the royal throne, bedecked with jewelry, elegant garments, and he is ultimately named the provider and sustainer of Egypt, taking charge over all the food in the land. Pharaoh praises Yosef’s apparent wisdom and talent, gives him the royal signet ring, and tells him [41:44], “…U’Vil’adecha Lo Yarim Ish Es Yado V’Es Raglo B’Chal Eretz Mitzrayim”-“…and without you [your direction], a man will not (such as) lift up his hand or [and] his foot in all the land of Egypt”—that essentially, he controls all of the affairs in Egypt. Aside from Pharaoh himself, Yosef is the top man.
What’s troubling about Yosef’s new esteem and position is that he seems to just accept it—all the grandeur being showered upon him. What happened to humility? It’s more troubling because if one looks at Yosef’s life, despite the fact that he was undoubtedly a G-d fearing man, Chazzal tell us that he is completely scrutinized by the Divine eye for his every action, word, and thought, so that whenever he displayed even the slightest bit of pride or feeling of personal entitlement, he was lowered and humbled.
In the beginning of Yosef’s travels [Bereishis 37], he proclaims his dreams to his brothers, dreams which seem to not only imply that he would reign over them but that they would bow to him. And what would happen? He would be humbled, thrown into a pit, and later sold as a slave.
Later [Bereishis 39], Yosef rises up again as he becomes the top man in Potifar’s home. At that point, just when the Torah tells us that he was good looking and when Chazzal tell us that Yosef would curl his hair [See Rashi to 39:6 citing Bereishis Rabbah 44:5, Tanchuma 8], Yosef is humiliated by Potifar’s wife who publically accuses him of abusing her, and he is ultimately thrown off his pedestal again, into the prison.
Finally [Bereishis 39-40], Yosef somehow becomes the top man in the prison, and there, he interprets the dreams of the chief butler and chief baker. At that point, Yosef makes an appeal to the butler, saying that he should remember him and give his name to Pharaoh so that he can be released from the prison. In his sentiment, Yosef insists [40:14], “Ki Gunov Gunavti MeiEretz HaIvri’im V’Gam Poh Lo Asisi M’Umah Ki Samu Osi BaBor”-“For I have surely been kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and also here, I have done nothing [to deserve] that they placed me in the pit.” In other words, he argues that he had done nothing wrong to deserve what he has gotten—a declaration of personal entitlement. And what happens next? The chief butler forgets him for two years, not coincidentally, but as Chazzal indicate [See Rashi to 40:23 citing Bereishis Rabbah 89:3], as a direct result of his reliance on the butler, and perhaps his apparent lacking in faith in G-d’s justice.
Considering all of the above, it is not a small matter that Yosef has now become the viceroy in all of Egypt. Once again, Yosef is on top, but this time, his esteem has never been greater. Moreover, this time, he is not thrown off his pedestal. Not only does no one get in his way, but as Pharaoh told him, “Bil’adecha”-“without you,” no man will even make a move. It’s ironic because if there was ever a time for Yosef’s ego to skyrocket, it would be now—when he is the second in command at the palace of the most powerful land in the world at that time. How could Yosef simply accept this glory if he couldn’t handle being a servant or prison warden without being to prideful? Why, before, did G-d strip Yosef of his pride for merely implying that his brothers would bow to him, but now, He allows Yosef the satisfaction of his brothers actually bowing to him? Why, before, does G-d allow Yosef to be publically humiliated for merely curling his hair as a servant, but now, He allows Pharaoh to publically rave about Yosef? What has changed?
The simple answer to these questions is that Yosef is a changed man. If he had even a slight tinge of arrogance before, considering Yosef on his own exalted level, he has now learned to curb his pride. He has learned to accept his gifts and talents humbly. Before, when even a little bit of authority and honor would be bestowed upon him, he would let it get to him somewhat, but now, he had actually matured during those two years in prison and he would not let even the greatest honors go to his head. He can wear the royal clothes and even watch his brothers as they bow to him, without basking in his own glory. Indeed, perhaps the younger Yosef who dreamed of his brothers bowing to him could never let such an actual occurrence down, but the Yosef who became viceroy was mature enough to handle the situation respectably.
But the question is: How? Yosef just matured? What does that mean? That he chose to carry himself in a humble way, despite knowing how great and entitled he truly was? Perhaps, that is a level of maturity. But, if one looks closely at the text of these Sidros, it is quite clear that Yosef’s maturity and humility were not merely manifest in his behavior and mannerisms, but in his honest, newfound perspective and recognition of his own self.
As was mentioned, the apparent problem of the younger Yosef was that he honestly felt entitled. He was a righteous, G-d fearing man, who actually committed no apparent crimes. But, did he assert his entitlement? Certainly. But the question is: Was he entitled?
Meanwhile, if one looks throughout Yosef’s time in Egypt—before he was named viceroy—the Torah tells us numerous times that “Hashem was with Yosef” and that Hashem made Yosef “successful.” Now, the younger Yosef might have argued that G-d should have been there for him, because after all, Yosef did nothing wrong.
The problem is that the Torah specifies that Yosef is bestowed with “Chein,” “favor” or “grace,” the first time, when he’s in Potifar’s home [39:4], and the second time, when he is in prison [39:21]. What is “Chein”? So, the first time this word appears in the Torah is in reference to Noach who found “Chein” in G-d’s eyes [6:8]. Now, what did Noach do to deserve this “Chein”? Chazzal teach us that “Chein,” or graciousness, refers to an undeserved favor, and in fact, Noach did nothing to deserve the “Chein” he got—because, by definition, “Chein” is undeserved [Bereishis Rabbah 29:1, Sanhedrin 28:1]. Now, we shouldn’t be mistaken, Noach was an innocent, relatively righteous man, certainly not a sinner like the rest of his generation. But, he did not actively do anything to be entitled to Divine grace.
Yosef too, was no sinner. He proved that by overcoming his desires for his master’s wife. But, was Yosef perfect? As far as Chazzal are concerned, Noach most definitely had some critical character flaws, and apparently, so did Yosef. Yosef was great, but not flawless. And if Yosef was as truly entitled as he claimed himself to be, he would not require “Chein” to bring him to the top in every situation. Accordingly, it was not just the way he carried himself, but the way he thought of himself fundamentally that set the Divine judgment against him. And certainly, Yosef knew well that ultimately, G-d was arranging a Divine plan, but even Yosef had complaints against his lot—because indeed, despite the faith he had in G-d, which undoubtedly he did, he still challenged Divine justice and continued to lobby for what he felt were his entitlements.
All of this changed by the time Yosef was released from prison—not merely his behavior, but his entire way of thinking. Yosef no longer such as looked at himself as “the man,” but as a simple messenger of G-d, a mere beacon for G-d’s glory alone. The evidence is in the difference between his presentation before the butler and baker and his presentation before Pharaoh when he interpreted their respective dreams. To the butler and baker, yes, he acknowledges G-d [40:8]; “…Halo L’Eilokim Pisronim? Sapru Na Li”-“…‘Are not (dream) interpretations G-d’s? Relate to me if you please.” But compare this expression to what Yosef says before Pharaoh [41:16]; “…Bil’adai Elokim Ya’aneh Es Shalom Pharaoh”-“…‘It (the interpretation) is beyond me; G-d will answer the welfare of Pharaoh.” Both expressions are religious sounding, but in this second one, Yosef has completely removes himself from all credibility, so that if before, Yosef looked at dream interpretation and perhaps all of his successes as fifty percent his own, fifty percent G-d’s, or even one percent his, and ninety-nine percent G-d’s, now Yosef is declaring that it is zero percent his, and one hundred percent G-d’s. It is because, by now, Yosef’s glory and accomplishments, he realizes is truly not his own, but G-d’s alone! That is why Yosef can handle being the viceroy of Egypt. That is why Yosef can watch his brothers as they bow to him, without feeling proud. That is why, when Pharaoh tells Yosef that “Bil’adecha”-“without you,” no one even raise an arm, Yosef knows that “Bil’adai”—that everything he has is truly beyond him, and is ultimately G-d’s. That is why Yosef can suck in his pride and make peace with his brothers, despite what they have done to him, because, as he later says to his brothers [50:19], “…HaSachas Elokim Ani?”-“…am I in place of G-d?” Because Yosef realizes that he is not in place of G-d, but in fact, G-d is actually in place of him, so that everything Yosef has comes from G-d. Whether Yosef is being graced with “Chein” or being disgraced, he understands that everything he experiences is directly a result of G-d’s Divine Plan.
Undoubtedly, this idea of G-d’s “Chein” being the true determining factor of our successes is the message behind the miracles of Chanukah. One could have made the argument that the Maccabees’ military victory over the Greek Hellenists, even against all odds, was the result of their intelligence, perhaps military prowess, a fluke, or anything of the sort. If that was truly the case though, the Sages would not have instituted a holiday of Chanukah just to thank and praise Hashem.
Indeed, the Gemara in Shabbos [21B] tells us that Chanukah was instituted for generations because of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days, because it was this miracle that reminded them of the true “Chein” that G-d graced them with throughout, not just war against the Greeks, but all of their successes in Galus (exile), throughout every moment of every day. We were not entitled to a victory in the war, and we were not entitled to finding a jar of pure miracle-oil. It was the grace of G-d that gave us those things, and everything that we have. It is for this reason as well, that in the climax for Haftarah of Shabbos Chanukah in which the Navi, Zechariah describes the vision of the Menorah, he exclaims “Chein Chein Lah”-“Grace, grace for it!” [Zechariah 4:7], for as the Navi argues [Ibid. 4:6], “…‘not through army and not through strength, but through My spirit,’ says Hashem of Legions.” “Chein” is the basis for Chanukah (*which may be alluded to in the word Chanukah [חֲנֻכָּה], which can be broken down to “Chein Koh” [חֵן כֺּה], which means “Grace is here”).
In the end, the story of Yosef’s life as well as the miracles of Chanukah must be taken as reminders in our generation, as in all generations prior, that none of us our perfect or entitled, but on the contrary, we are constantly living off of “Chein,” that it is by the grace of G-d that we are able to succeed each day.
May we all be Zocheh to realize the graciousness of Hashem in our lives, truly sing our thanks to Hashem, and He shall continue to shower His lovingkindness upon us as He did BaYamim HaHeim Ba’Zman HaZeh, this time with the Geulah in the days of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos, Chodesh Teiveis & a Freilichin Chanukah!
-Josh, Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂