Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile

Od Yoseif Chai

(Joseph is still alive!)

Part 4: Joseph's redemption, the tests of his brothers and more roots of enmity with Judah

Commentary on Parashat Mikeitz
TORAH: Genesis 41:1 — 44:17
HAFTORAH: 1 Kings 3:15 — 4:1
December 15, 2001 — 30 Kislev 5762

© 2005 Maggid ben Yosef


This is the fourth of the six weeks of special commentary on the Torah portions that record the birth, mission and death of Joseph. This commentary is being written and disseminated to determine whether the Torah may allude to or reveal outright a plan to return the non-Jewish Assimilated House of Joseph to be reunited with the Jewish House of Judah. In fact, we submit that such a plan is mystically hidden in the circumstances surrounding Joseph’s birth, life and interaction with his brothers, especially Judah as indicated in this week’s portion.

Such a return would naturally involve the biblical inheritances of the House of Joseph (the historical/biblical borders of Ephraim and Manasseh) together with the biblical territory of Benjamin, who becomes part of the House of Joseph in this week’s portion. It may be no coincidence that these same territories define the entirety of the region today known as the Shomron or Samaria. Also, the same territories are sought to comprise the northern 2/3rds of the proposed Palestinian State.

In this week’s portion, pay special attention to the phrase by which Pharoah refers to Joseph, “a man in whom is the Spirit of God” and the name by which Pharoah refers to Joseph, “
Zaphenath-paneah.” These references may be important clues to help identify the descendants of Joseph today.

The name “
Ephraim” and the context in which he is named is also of importance as is the special meal Joseph has prepared for his brothers, a veiled reference to Hanukah, which we celebrate during the week of both portions Mikeitz and Vayigash. Finally, there is the interaction of Joseph with his brothers which may hold significant clues to the eventual reconciliation.

Maggid ben Yosef

Portion of the Kohen:  Genesis: 41:1-14

Mikeitz (“from the end”) is translated “at the end.” Mystically this portion could be a veiled allusion to end-times events. If so, the dreams of Pharoah, which Joseph interpreted, indicate a time of immense prosperity followed by a time of extreme hardship. For those who are not prepared, the former can serve to make one complacent and content so that the times of hardship are further magnified. The fact that Joseph is rushed from the prison to Pharoah indicates that his salvation came hastily and unexpectedly. It may also be noteworthy to mention that Joseph came before Pharoah clean-shaven on Rosh Hashanah, which was both of their birthdays.

Portion of the Levite:  Genesis 41:15-38
After Joseph satisfactorily interprets the Pharoah’s dreams (giving the credit for doing so to Hashem) and advised Pharoah to appoint an overseer, Pharoah makes an astounding statement to his servants,

Could we find another like him — a man asher ruach Elokim bo literally, who the Spirit of God is in him.”

This statement indicating the presence of the indwelling Ruach in Joseph is not characteristic nor emphasized in Jewish thought yet it is a major characteristic and almost central to the spiritual experience of a vast number of Joes emerging from the experience of a charismatic background in Christianity. Emphasizing the “gifts of the Spirit” (healing, deliverance, miracles, prophecy, words of wisdom, words of knowledge and discerning of spirits) through the indwelling Spirit, the charismatic experience has served to break down denominational barriers in the Church and question the historical doctrines and beliefs that have served to divide. Listening to no man, but rather to only an inward voice or witness, hundreds of thousands of these charismatics are being directed toward the God of Israel, the Torah of Israel, the Land of Israel and the Jewish people.

The indwelling Spirit is reprogramming their faith and beliefs to line up with Torah and ridding them of false doctrines (such as the Trinity, deity of messiah and anti-nomianism) that have been barriers to a reconciliation with the Jewish faith. In meditating on this phenomenon and watching its practitioners closely I have observed very great sincerity and zealousness for Hashem. It is my belief that the indwelling Ruach was bestowed upon Joseph and his children through this spiritual means as part of the equipment he would need to survive his exile. Also, it may be a m'dah connected to the judgment by his brothers, who threw him into an “empty pit. There was no water in it.” (Genesis 37:24). The mystical symbolism of “water” with the ruach Elokim is well founded.

Such a total assimilation of the children of Joseph (as we will see prophesied in portion
Vayechi) points to a system of identification in line only with spiritual means involving phenomenon not characteristic of goyim — love of Hashem, Torah and Eretz Yisrael and affinity with the Jewish people. These “in whom the Spirit of God is” define the modern, albeit still largely hidden Joes.

Third Portion:  Genesis 41:39-52
The name
Zaphenath-paneah given to Joseph by Pharoah also alludes to this mystical orientation of Joseph and perhaps his children. While it may mean one thing in Egyptian, the literal Hebrew breaks down into the words tzaphon (hidden) and pa’nach (to safeguard). Rabbi Hirsch therefore interprets the name to mean “he who holds the key to the most hidden secrets or the most secret things are safeguarded.” Rashi and Rambam interpret it to mean “he who explains what is hidden.”

The mystery of
Asenath, who became Joseph’s wife, becomes particularly intriguing if we embrace the Midrash, which tells us she was the child of the rape of Dinah by Sh’chem. It is as though his marriage to her is a tikkun (a kind of spiritual atonement) for this rape and empowers him (and his descendants) spiritually to eventually reclaim this stronghold of Israel’s enemies even today.

Verse 49 states that Joseph amassed grain like the sand of the sea in great abundance “until he ceased counting, for there was no number.” This may be a veiled allusion to the progeny of Joseph and his role in continuing the promise of the birthright given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob before him that also pointed to a multiplication of descendants - a majority made up of majorities or a rivvot.

The names of Joseph’s two sons, (who later become Jacob’s adopted sons),
Manashe and Ephraim are also telling. Manashe is named in the context of Joseph forgetting all of his hardship including his father’s household or the anguish caused him by his brothers. The literal interpretation suggests that he was by now so assimilated into Egyptian culture that he had completely forgotten his former estate in the land of Canaan.

Ephraim (doubly fruitful) is given this name in the context of Joseph’s exile or the “land of my suffering.” This is a prophetic indication that Ephraim will realize its multiplicity in numbers only after a separate exile. When first dwelling in Eretz Yisrael, Ephraim’s population did not exceed the other tribes. But as Moshe would later state, “Manashe will be “alfey’ — thousands, but Ephraim will be the rivvot (multiple rovs or majorities). However, this did not occur for the duration of the time Ephraim dwelt in its territories or before the exile of the Northern Kingdom into Assyria.

Fourth Portion:  Genesis 41:53 — 42:18
Several things are immediately noteworthy about Joseph’s brothers being sent to Egypt for provisions. First, is the absence of Benjamin who was an adult, yet was held back by his father from accompanying his brothers. The 10 brothers who do make the trip are called “
b’nei Yisrael,” (sons of Israel), the first place that this description occurs in the Torah. It it therefore noteworthy that the House of Joseph (which comprises Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin) is not included at the first mention as “b’nei Yisrael.”

Even though the 10 brothers bow down to him, he recalls his dreams (verse 9) and devises a plot whereby Benjamin and his father must also be brought to him. There is an allusion to the missing brother in their reply to Joseph, “sons of one man are we.” The word we is usually anachnu, but here it is nachnu with a missing aleph, the letter that represents the gematria of one. The mystic that Joseph was, he would remember his Hebrew and would know that his brothers were speaking truthfully:  One was missing.

Since the 10 brothers comprise a minyan and Joseph and Benjamin (here) are not included, there is also precedent for the House of Joseph at least initially being excluded in a minyan of the children of Israel, which may be a consideration for the future Sanhedrin.

Fifth Portion:  Genesis 42:19 — 43:14
Ringing through loud and clear in this portion is the fact that Hashem can mastermind events using heart motives. The brothers imprisonment causes them to reflect on their guilt toward Joseph, awakening their remorse and beginning their repentance. Note that this does not occur until they realize the anguish they caused Joseph and that anguish (
m'dah k’neged m'dah) comes upon them. Reuben’s remorse is especially noteworthy and indicates his innocence in the sale of Joseph. The major instigator in Joseph’s fate is Simeon as indicated by him being held hostage. Or perhaps it was Judah who persuaded his brothers that Joseph not be killed but rather be sold into slavery.

Returning the money that each brother had brought for grain for his family, to that brother’s sack was Joseph’s way of atoning measure for measure (
m'dah k’neged m'dah) for their sin of selling him.

Jacob continues to utter prophecies saying “Joseph is gone. Simeon is gone, and now you would take away Benjamin? Upon me has it all fallen.” Joseph indeed has been removed and assimilated into the nations, Simeon assimilated into the cities of Judah and lost its tribal identity. And, as we see with mystical eyes in the
Haftorah portion, Benjamin was severed in half during the split of the two kingdoms. The men of Benjamin also were almost totally wiped out in the aftermath of the abuse of the concubine at Gibeah that belonged to a Levite. The mystics note that Jacob’s expression, “Ahlai (upon me) it has fallen” refers to the curse his mother Rivka said would be on her head because Ahlai is spelled ayin (the first letter of the name Esau) lamed (the first letter of the name Laban) and yod (the first letter of the name Joseph). Esau, Laban and the suspected death of Joseph were Jacob’s trials.

Judah asserts his leadership after time passes and the family is again needing grain. Perhaps because he has lost two sons himself, Er and Onan, Judah’s sincerity is recognized by Jacob and he agrees to put Benjamin in Judah’s charge. Verse 9 is particularly important to the move of the Return of the House of Joseph in that Judah states to his father emphatically, “If I do not bring him (Benjamin) back to you and stand him before you, then I will have sinned to you for all time.” The mystics here see a supreme
tikkun in that Judah agrees to be his brother’s keeper, rectifying the sin of Cain who slew Abel. This tikkun is tantamount to resurrecting the dead, thus returning Joseph as well as Benjamin. This is alluded to when Simeon is not mentioned by name in verse 14 and Jacob prophesies that Hashem should release to you “your other brother” as well as Benjamin.

Jacob sends his sons down to Egypt with a petition to
El Shaddai (the name of Hashem that pleads with Him to switch from His attribute of judgment to that of mercy by saying simply “Enough!”

Sixth Portion:  Genesis 43:17-29
Joseph orders the head of his household (Manashe according to Rashi) to prepare a meal for his brothers. He says
t'voach tevach v’hacheyn (have meat slaughtered and prepare it). The latter part of this phrase contains the word, Hanukah, the festival which will later commemorate the victory of the Hasmoneans over the Hellenist Greeks. In this context, it also calls to mind the struggle between Jacob and the guardian angel of Esau who smote Jacob on his thigh. According to tradition, this meal was prepared by removing the gid hanaseh or displaced sinew which all of Israel was forbidden to eat after the injury to Jacob. The brothers should have recognized him as Joseph because of this. Similarly, many Joes are returning to Kosher diets.

The brothers also confess to the man who was in charge of the House of Joseph at the entrance of the house, concerned that the earlier payment for their grain was not received by him and that they have returned it with additional payment for additional grain. The head of the House of Joseph says that “Your God and the God of Your Father has put a hidden treasure in your sacks.” Mystically balsam, honey, wax, lotus, pistachios and almonds represent the land’s “glory.” Jacob instructed his sons to take this glory with them as a tribute. It far out-weighed the monetary considerations in the eyes of the God of Jacob. This was the
hidden treasure that prepared Joseph to receive his brothers. Also, the sages wrote that the reluctance of Joseph’s brothers to enter into the house before “attending to business,” means that one who enters another’s home with ill-intent and dines with him, can bring judgment on himself.

When the brothers include Benjamin and again prostrate themselves to Joseph toward the ground, the first dream he related to them is fulfilled.

Seventh Portion:  Genesis 43:30 — 44:17
This portion mentions the divining cup of Joseph. If the reference is taken literally, then it is evidence beyond the dreams and interpretations of the mystical dimension of Joseph’s faith. According to Tanchuma, Joseph tapped on his divining cup and called out the order in which his brothers should be seated “the firstborn according to his seniority and the youngest according to his youth.” This discernment, feigned or otherwise, should have been another clue as to Joseph’s identity. Certainly the brothers must have realized that Hashem was doing this.

The additional portions (five times his brothers) of food set before Benjamin was to determine whether any jealousy existed between the brothers and the youngest son of Rachel. Joseph also drank strong drink with his brothers and they became intoxicated together. The future reunion party should be a good one.

As the brothers are sent on their way, Joseph has fabricated the ruse of keeping Benjamin assuring that his father, Jacob will come to Egypt. The silver divining goblet is placed in Benjamin’s sack. The brothers declare:

Anyone among your servants with whom it (the divining cup) is found shall die, and we also will become slaves to my lord (meaning Joseph).”

The head of Joseph’s household replies, “What you say now is also correct (meaning that the one in whose sack the cup was found would become “dead” to them) and they would become as servants to Joseph. But he added, “the one with whom it is found shall be my servant, but the rest of you shall be exonerated.” Since the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, Benjamin became part of the House of Joseph.

Haftorah: 1 Kings 3:15 — 4:1
The proximity of Solomon’s decision to decide between two women both claiming the same infant and the fate of Benjamin is almost unmistakable. When Solomon orders a sword to cut the child into intending to give each woman half, he knows the true mother will be willing to give up the child in order to save its life. And so, the fate of Benjamin. Divided in twain when the kingdoms of the House of Israel and the House of Judah were demarcated. Yet, as we see in the Torah portion, Benjamin is the possession of the House of Joseph by Divine decree. However, the only Benjaminites who know their pedigree are from the House of Judah. To this, the House of Joseph should be willing as the true mother in th
e story, to concede in order that Benjamin may live.

The prophetic role of Benjamin in reuniting the House of Judah and the House of Joseph remains to be played out on the stage of world history. Benjamin’s territory as well as the territory of Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manashe today comprise the Shomron -- the northern two-thirds of Judea-Samaria. The same region -- which Jacob gave Joseph as his BIRTHRIGHT -- has been decreed by the doctrine of President George W. Bush called The Road Map to Peace in the Middle East, as part of a Palestinian state.  But Rachel (and Jacob) cry from the World To Come for Joseph, who is alive today in his descendants. Jeremiah 31:15-18, records Rachel's answer from Hashem. It is a promise that her children -- which include Joseph (Ephraim and Manashe) and Benjamin -- will return to their own and these same territories.  That decree -- not the Bush Doctrine -- resounds in the ears of Joes today.

Shabbat Shalom & Hashem's love & blessings,
Maggid ben Yoseif

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