Lights...Understanding...Action! by Rabbi Daren Blackstein


            The Torah tells us in 42:8-9 that upon seeing his brothers, Yosef recognizes them while they fail to recognize him.  At that moment, we are told, Yosef remembers his dreams and then proceeds to accuse them of spying on the land's weaknesses.  In his essays on Chumash, Rabbi Kanotopsky zt"l poses the annual question as to why Yosef failed to reveal himself at this juncture.  How could Yosef take it upon himself to cause so much trouble for his brothers and suffering for his father?  Rabbi Kanotopsky cites Rashi and Ramban on 42:9.  Rashi comments that Yosef's actions are in response to seeing his dreams come true with the brothers having just bowed to Yosef.  Rashi, however, doesn't deal with the moral complexion  of this treachery.  The Ramban comments that if Yosef had felt that the dreams had been fulfilled, it would be immoral to extend the charade any further. The Ramban, himself, holds that at this point the dreams had not yet come to fruition.  Firstly, all the brothers had not appeared, and Yaakov was also not on the scene.  Due to this, Yosef proceeds to facilitate the dreams' fulfillment.  However, the same difficulty arises!  Who is Yosef to  help Hashem to achieve His will?  How can man justify chicanery in the name of Hashem?  Won't Hashem's plan unfold regardless of man's intervention? 

            Rabbi Kanotopsky, acknowledging the difficulty in totally answering this dilemma, suggests an approach that certainly takes the sting out of the question.  He posits that any meeting with Hashem, any divine communication, necessitates a response from man.  Prophecy is not only to be considered informational but also instructional.  While in prison, Yosef asks the butler to mention his presence to Paroh.  The Midrash Rabbah in section 89 says that this behavior demonstrated a lack of faith on Yosef's part and this earns him two more years in jail.  It should be noted, however, that the Midrash also comments that the two extra years in jail were to enable Yosef to be on the scene when Paroh needed his dreams to be interpreted.  This jail time actually serves to propel Yosef to greatness!

            Be that as it may, we see that Yosef took an active role.  Yosef not only interprets Paroh's dreams but also gives economic advice!  He apparently goes beyond the call of duty because he sees it as a requirement.  We can be confident that Yosef wasn't motivated by greed and power because we read in 37:2 that Yosef tended sheep with his brothers. 

             With this in mind, it seems quite sensible that Yosef would remember his dreams specifically when the brothers bow to him.  Yosef's dreams are unfolding before his very eyes and he sees it as his sacred duty to play the hand that Hashem has given him in order to achieve their fulfillment.  Additionally, Yosef seems to be aware of Abraham's prophecy about his children becoming slaves in a strange land.  He must attract Yaakov's whole family to Egypt.  Indeed, with all the pieces of the puzzle before him, how can Yosef stand by and ignore the clues given  to him by Hashem?  Just how far Yosef can go to achieve his ends may forever be subject to debate, but we are assured that his motivation is of divine origin.

        Using Rabbi Kanotopsky's line of reasoning we may say the following.  The Haftorah of Miketz, opening with Kings I 3:15, seems to deliver the same message.  King Shlomo awakens from a dream and cleverly solves a dispute between two women  over  the possession of a child.  If one looks at the beginning of chapter three one discovers the contents of the dream.  King Shlomo, apparently insecure with his role, is approached by Hashem.  Hashem asks Shlomo what he wants.  Shlomo then requests understanding and the ability to judge between good and evil.  Hashem praises him for not requesting things of a more selfish nature and grants his request.  Shlomo then awakens and is soon confronted with the dispute.

            As soon as Hashem gives understanding and judgement to someone it seems that they are obligated and asked to use it!  This is what occurred to Shlomo and indeed, to Yosef.

            The lights of Chanukah represent the understanding of our people that Hashem's Shechinah is with us.  The Greeks tried to unhinge this belief in and devotion to Hashem, but they failed.  We must remember that while we may not be the beneficiaries of prophetic dreams, Hashem communicates to us.  Through events in our everyday lives Hashem is calling each and every one of us to not only realize the understanding placed in our hearts, but to also put these thoughts into action for the benefit of all mankind.

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