Mikeitz as the Model for Mordechai
by Linda Moed Cohen and Hillel Cohen
Although Parshat Mikeitz is quite apparently linked to Chanukah (the Parsha coincides with the Chag), Mikeitz is actually the template for another major post-biblical holiday, Purim. After a moment of reflection, this is not surprising. Yosef and his brothers were in Galut in Egypt just as the Jewish people were in Galut in Persia centuries later. Yosef HaTzadik, as the leader of the Jewish nation in Egypt, helped his family navigate the workings of Pharaoh’s court so that they survived probable death and subsequently thrived. Mordechai, as the leader of the Jewish nation in Persia, likewise helped the Jewish nation navigate the workings of Achashveirosh’s court so that the Jewish nation survived seemingly certain death and subsequently thrived.
Many examples of similar (sometimes exactly equivalent) wording used in Parshat Mikeitz and Megillat Esther crystallize the link between the two (see the Da’at Mikra’s introduction to Megillat Esther).
Right off the bat, we see that the kingdoms of Pharaoh and Achashveirosh are organized in a similar fashion. In Mikeitz (41:34-47), the Torah states, “VeYafkeid Pekidim Al HaAretz…VeYikbetzu Et Kol Ochel HaShanim HaTovot...Vayitav HaDavar BeEinei Faroh UVeEinei Kol Avadav,” “Let [Pharaoh] appoint officers over the land...and let them gather all of the food from the good years...and the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all of his servants.” The language that Megillat Esther uses is very similar: “VeYafkeid HaMelech Pekidim…VeYikbetzu Et Kol Na’arah Betulah…Vayitav HaDavar BeEinei HaMelech,” “Let the King appoint officers...that they may gather all virgins...and the thing was good in the eyes of the King” (2:3-4). This sets an expectation that the Jews will be treated in a similar manner in both episodes.
The backgrounds for the experiences of both Yosef in Egypt and the Jews in Persia are also presented in a similar manner. In Mikeitz (42:29), the Torah states: “VaYavo’u El Yaakov Avihem…Vayagidu Lo Et HaKorot Otam,” “And they came to Yaakov their father...and told him all that had befallen them.” We note a parallel text in Megillat Esther (4:7): “Vayaged Lo Mordechai Eit Kol Asher Karahu,” “And Mordechai told [Esther, through Hatach,] all that had happened to him.”
Yosef HaTzadik steels himself against expected emotional adversity when he provides food for his brothers, but before he reveals himself to them, “Vayirchatz Panav, Vayeitzei Vayit’apak,” “And he washed his face, and he went out and restrained himself” (43:31). A similar word is used when Yosef feels himself unable to control his emotions: “VeLo Yachol Yosef LeHit’apeik LeChol HaNitzavim Alav,” “And Yosef could not restrain himself before all that stood by him.” It is shocking that the Torah uses parallel wording to describe the emotions of Haman (Esther 5:10): “Vayit’apak Haman Vayavo El Beito,” “Haman restrained himself and returned to his home.”
Achashveirosh honors Mordechai in a manner almost identical to the way in which Pharaoh honors Yosef. Mikeitz 41:42-43 discusses the latter: “Vayalbeish Oto Bigdei Sheish Vayasem Revid HaZahav Al Tzavaro, Vayarkeiv Oto BeMirkevet HaMishneh Asher Lo Vayikre’u Lefanav…,” ”… And [Pharaoh] arrayed [Yosef] in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. And he made him ride in his secondary chariot, and they proclaimed before him...” Regarding the honor of Mordechai, Megillat Esther states (6: 8-11), “Yavi’u Levush Malchut Asher Lavash Bo HaMelech VeSus Asher Rachav Alav HaMelech…VeHirkivuhu Al HaSus BiRchov HaIr VeKar’u Lefanav,” ”Let the royal apparel be brought which the King has worn, and the horse that the King rides upon…and bring [Mordechai] on horseback through the streets of the city, and proclaim before him...”
Even a small detail, the king’s ring and seal of authority, is found in both Parshat Mikeitz and Megillat Esther. In Mikeitz, we see that “Vayasar Paroh Et Tabato Mei’al Yado Vayitein Otah Al Yad Yosef,” “Pharaoh took off the ring that was on his hand and put it on the hand of Yosef.” The same occurs with Mordechai in Megillat Esther (8:2): “Yayasar HaMelech Et Tabato Asher He’evir MeiHaman Vayitnah LeMordechai,” “And the King took off the ring that he had given to Haman and gave it to Mordechai.”
There are many other examples of parallel text between Parshat Mikeitz and Megillat Esther. Clearly, then, the experiences of Mordechai and the Jews of Persia are related, through Maaseh Avot Siman LaBanim, to the experiences of Yosef and his brothers in Egypt. Perhaps we can even take this idea a step further – just as the Yosef story related to the Mordechai story, so too do both apply to Jews in power today, who must learn the lessons taught by these two great political leaders.
(The contributors of this article are indebted to Mrs. Dena Knoll of Ma’ayanot for teaching them much of the aforementioned Torah.)
by Ilan Griboff
After Yosef interprets Pharaoh’s dream, he adds, “VeAtah Yeireh Paroh Ish Navon VeChacham…,” “And now, Pharaoh should appoint an understanding and wise man…” (41:33). Many commentaries question Yosef’s suggestion here. How could he even consider telling Pharaoh what he should do?
The Ari z”l solves this problem by pointing to a previous Pasuk: “Vayomer Yosef El Paroh, ‘Chalom Paroh Echad Hu: Eit Asher HaElokim Oseh Higid LePharoh,” “Yosef said to Pharaoh, ‘The dream of Pharaoh is one: that which God is doing He has told to Pharaoh’” (41:25). This Pasuk emphasizes the fact that Hashem revealed certain facts to Pharaoh, an idea that is discussed by the Gemara in Berachot 55a. Rabi Yochanan states there that Hashem pronounces three things on his own: when there will be famine, when there will be plenty, and when to appoint a leader. Since Hashem told Pharaoh about famine and plenty, which he does not usually do, Yosef thought it would only be fitting that Pharaoh do the third thing Hashem usually does Himself – decide to appoint a leader.
Rav Yonatan Eibeschutz takes a different approach, addressing the timing of Pharaoh’s dream rather than its content. The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (10b) states that Yosef was released from prison (in preparation for interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams) on Rosh Hashanah. The Gemara then states on 16a that each year’s crops are judged on Pesach. Why then, Rav Eibeschutz wonders, do Ashkenazic Jews say in Rosh Hashanah’s Tefillah of UNtaneh Tokef, “And on this day it will be said about the countries, which will enjoy plentitude and which will suffer famine?” Shouldn’t this be said on Pesach when the crop is judged? He concludes that when we say “countries,” we must be referring to everywhere in Chutz LaAretz, where the crops are in fact judged on Rosh Hashanah; the Gemara’s statement about Pesach must have been referring only to Eretz Yisrael. This explains why the Egyptian advisors could not produce an acceptable interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream: they knew that Pesach, not Rosh Hashanah, would have been the appropriate time for the crop to be judged. Therefore, they offered explanations of the dream that did not involve judgment of the crops. Yosef, however, was able to understand the distinction between Eretz Yisrael and Chutz LaAretz, and could therefore give Pharaoh the proper interpretation. He also realized that since the agricultural situation was indeed communicated to Pharaoh, there was obviously something else that Hashem wanted Pharaoh to do, which was to appoint a leader to be responsible for dealing with the upcoming famine.
According to either interpretation, then, Yosef’s actions were entirely appropriate. In advising Pharaoh, he merely extrapolated what Hashem wanted Pharaoh to do from the information He had revealed.
by Joseph Jarashow
Parshat Mikeitz recounts the first interaction between Yosef and his brothers since they sold him. One would expect that the brothers would rejoice and be happy to see each other. However, 42:7 reports the contrary: “Vayar Yosef Et Echav Vayakireim Vayitnakeir Aleihem,” “Yosef saw his brothers, and he recognized them, but he acted like a stranger towards them.”
A question arises from this encounter between Yosef and his brothers: why did Yosef not inform his brothers of his true identity? Why did he mislead them and act as if he had never seen them before? Furthermore, Yosef knew that his father was distraught and depressed over the loss of his son. If Yosef was truly “Yosef Hatzadik,” why did he not inform his father that he was indeed alive, relieving his father of much anxiety?
Rav Shlomo Twerski explains Yosef’s reasoning in choosing this course of action. Yosef knew that if he forgave the brothers immediately, they would feel ashamed. In fact, they would feel so bad that they would never be able to face Yosef or Yaakov again. Their morale would have been completely destroyed. Of course, Yosef did not wish this unto his brothers. Therefore, he provided his brothers with the opportunity to achieve Teshuvah.
The Gemara says that full Teshuvah only occurs if the person is placed in the same situation that previously led to sin but does not sin. The person must be successful in conquering his Yeitzer Hara and not commit the same act a second time. Therefore, Yosef had to create a situation that would allow his brothers the opportunity to achieve such Teshuvah.
Yosef’s plan was to falsely accuse his brother Binyamin of robbery and sentence him to prison. He would then observe how the brothers would react. Would they neglect Binyamin as they did Yosef, or would they acknowledge their mistake and do Teshuvah? When Yehudah offered to stay in jail instead of Binyamin, Yosef knew that the brothers had achieved Teshuvah. Since they had done Teshuvah, the brothers would not be morally crushed, and they would indeed be able to face Yosef and Yaakov. At this time, Yosef revealed himself to his brothers.
We still remain with the question of why Yosef did not inform his father of his well-being. Rav Shlomo explains that Yosef knew his father well. He knew that his father would be willing to sacrifice years of suffering in order to provide his children the opportunity for Teshuvah. Yosef would not have been able to fulfill his father’s wish if he had informed Yaakov of his well-being. Therefore, Yosef was indeed justified in his actions and deserved the title of “Yosef HaTzadik.”
We can learn a profound lesson from this story. Yosef teaches us the importance of facilitating Teshuvah and self-esteem. He was even willing to take extraordinary measures to provide his brothers with an opportunity for Teshuvah and restore their self-esteem. We must all strive to do the same, carefully and wisely using all resources to assist others in achieving Teshuvah and enhancing their self-esteem.
The Holiday of Lights Season
by Dov Rossman
Rav Yoel Bin-Nun (in a Shiur he delivered at TABC) pointed out that the holiday of Chanukah was actually a holiday before it was even rabbinically instituted. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 8a) vividly describes the first day of Adam HaRishon, from his creation in the month of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah to be exact) to the sin of the Eitz HaDaat. Hashem told him that from the moment of that sin on, he was destined to die. As the weeks progressed, the days kept getting much shorter and the nights became ever-longer. Eventually, Adam believed that his death was to take place in the form of complete darkness with no light, thus reversing the process of creation and returning the world to “Tohu VaVohu.” On the 17th of the month of Kislev, one of the shortest weeks of the year, Adam HaRishon decided to fast and pray for eight days to address this concern. On the eighth day of fasting, the 25th of Kislev and the winter equinox, Adam HaRishon realized something remarkable: the days began to lengthen and the nights to shorten. Adam then understood the ideas of the solstice and equinox. The following year, Adam HaRishon decided to make the eight days of his fast and the eight days after it into a holiday. This was not only a festival of the Jews, but of all mankind. Since it was the darkest period of the year, people lit lights as part of the holiday. Many years later, the Jews reinstituted this holiday to commemorate their national miracle of (extra) light. In this sense, Chanukah is a “festival of lights” from the historical perspective.
Another aspect of this property of Chanukah emerges from Al HaNissim. It seems rather puzzling that we say in this Tefillah, “VeHidliku Neirot BeChatzrot Kodshecha,” “they lit lights in the courtyard of the Beit HaMikdash.” The menorah was not in fact situated in the “courtyard”; it was inside of the Kodesh, an inner section of the Beit HaMikdash! What do we mean by this phrase?
Rav Yoel noted that one of the few Mishnayot which discuss Chanukah states that Bikkurim, the first fruits which must be brought to the Beit Hamikdash, may be brought from Shavuot until Sukkot. They may also be brought between Sukkot to Chanukah (but no later). The reason for having extended the time until Chanukah is that the olives are ripe (and thus ready to be picked) at this time of the year, in Kislev. Therefore, all of Klal Yisrael were bringing olives to the Beit HaMikdash in the month of Kislev; the olive-bringing season made up the tail end of the Bikkurim season. There was then a surplus of oil for the Beit HaMikdash, to the point where it would be impossible to use it all just for the Menorah. Consequently, they took the oil and lit candles all over Yerushalayim, even in the courtyard of the Beit HaMikdash. After the miracle of Chanukah occurred, the lighting of candles in the Chatzer of the Beit HaMikdash was once again practiced. Thus, Chanukah represented a restoration of the lighting practices of old – truly a religious “festival of lights.”
It’s All About the Looks
by Yaakov Rubin
The Gemara states (Shabbat 23a) that not only should anyone who lights a Menorah recite a Berachah, even one who merely sees a lit Menorah (assuming that he cannot light himself) should utter a Berachah, called Birkat HaRo’eh. Tosafot (Sukkah 46a s.v. HaRo’eh) wonder why we did not establish a similar rule for all other Mitzvot, allowing one who merely sees the performance of a Mitzvah to make a Berachah. Tosafot answer that lighting the candles shows Chavivut HaNeis, the “preciousness” of the miracle that occurred. One can express Chavivut HaNeis through a Berachah even if he does not actually light the candles, but only sees them.
However, Tosafot’s answer still leaves a question: what about the Mitzvot of Purim and Pesach? A precious miracle in celebrated on those holidays as well, but we do not provide a Berachah for one who watches others celebrate or drink the four cups! Perhaps due to this issue, Tosafot give a second answer: we have Birkat HaRo’eh on Chanukah in order to allow people who do not have homes to fulfill the Mitzvah of Chanukah candles.
Tosafot acknowledge, though, that this answer also leaves a question: what about Mezuzah? A homeless person cannot take part in that Mitzvah either, yet we do not allow him to make a Berachah for seeing the Mezuzah! Tosafot therefore conclude that the first answer is better. Hence, we must return to our original question: what is so special about the Mitzvah of Neir Chanukah that allows one to fulfill it to degree by merely looking at the Menorah?
Rav Soloveitchik explains that the Mitzvah of Neir Chanukah, unlike all other Mitzvot, is entirely dependent on the onlooker. Even if a person has done the Mitzvah perfectly, if it looks like the Mitzvah was done incorrectly, the Mitzvah is not fulfilled. Since there is such a dependence on the observer, there is a strong connection between the Madlik (the one who lights the Menorah) and the observer. Because of this link, Chazal decided to extend the Mitzvah to the observer as well.
There are two passages in the Gemara that solidify the Rav’s approach. The first appears on Shabbat 23a, where Rav Huna and Rava debate where Menorahs must be placed if a house is situated on a street corner. Rav Huna says that a house with two doors must light a Menorah by both doorways (in that time Menorahs were lit by doorways, as is practiced in many places in Eretz Yisrael today), even if the doors are on the same side of the house. Rava says that a person must light at two doorways only if they are on different sides of the house. This must be done because a person walking by the door that does not have the Menorah might think that the homeowner has not lit a Menorah at all. We see from here that the viewer’s thought process plays a key role in the Mitzvah of Neir Chanukah.
Another passage in the Gemara (Shabbat 22b) questions when the actual obligation to light is fulfilled: does it occur with the Hanachah (the placing of the Menorah) or the lighting itself? Rava says that the Mitzvah of Neir Chanukah is the actual lighting of the Menorah, but the lighting of the Menorah must take place where the Menorah will be placed. The Gemara then asks: if a person lights the Menorah inside and then moves it to the doorway (or nowadays a window), why is the Mitzvah not fulfilled? Rava answers that if passersby see him lighting by a table, they might think the lighting is not for Chanukah. This Gemara also underscores the connection between the Madlik and the observer – it is the latter who determines whether or not the former fulfills his Mitzvah. -Adapted from a shiur delivered by Rabbi Yosef Adler in TABC
Halacha of the Week The Mishnah Berurah writes (682:1) that it is preferable to say “VeAl HaNissim,” not just “Al HaNissim,” both in Shemoneh Esrei and in Birkat HaMazon. Rav Herschel Schachter reports that Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik Z”L followed this practice.
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