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Mikeitz 5777

Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Rabbi Abraham Twerski points out in his Twerski on Chumash it is no coincidence that Chanukah occurs during the week when we read the epic of Joseph and his brothers. He then asks: What is the deeper significance of the miracle of the oil burning 8 nights?

Usually, ritually pure oil was required for the Menorah. However, since everyone was in a state of ritual impurity, they could have used any oil. It would take 8 days to process pure oil. Therefore, they were very excited to find a cruse of pure oil with the seal of the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) -- even though it would burn for only one day. However, the oil burned miraculously for 8 nights! Why did God make this miracle? Writes Rabbi Twersky:

"The P'nei Yehoshua (a commentary on the Torah) answers: Precisely because it was permissible to use impure oil, the miracle demonstrated the intensity of God's love for Israel -- that the Menorah illuminated the Temple for eight days with just the single vial of pure oil. There was no purpose for this miracle other than to show God's love for Israel.

"Rav Avraham Pam (former Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas) teaches us that we see this special love of God for the whole Jewish people even though many had defected to Hellenism and then returned to Torah observance with the triumph of the Macabees. When a couple reconciles after a separation, the relationship often becomes one of peaceful coexistence, but the quality of love that they initially had for each other is rarely restored.

"Not so when Jews do teshuvah (repentance -- returning to the Almighty and to ways of the Torah). Rambam says that although a sinful person distances himself from God, once he does teshuvah he is near, beloved and dear to God. It is not that God "tolerates" the baal teshuvah (returnee), but rather that He loves him as He would the greatest tzaddik (righteous person). As the prophet says, "I will remember for you the loving-kindness of your youth, when you followed Me into the desert, into a barren land" (Jeremiah 2:2). The love of yore is fully restored.

"This is the significance of the miracle of the oil. It teaches us that with proper teshuvah our relationship with God is restored, as if we had never sinned.

"This is also the message of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph did not simply forgive them and suppress his resentment for their abuse of him. Rather, he loved them and cared for them as if nothing had happened, telling them that he feels toward them as he does to Benjamin, who was not involved in his kidnapping (Rashi, Genesis 45:12).

"The celebration of Chanukah is, therefore, more than the commemoration of a miracle. We are to emulate the Divine attributes (Talmud, Shabbos 133b). Just as when God forgives, His love for us is completely restored -- so must we be able to restore the love for one another when we mend our differences.

"As we watch the Chanukah candles, let us think about the light they represent: the bright light of a love that is completely restored!"

* * *

One additional question: Why the celebration of the miracle of the oil? The real salvation of Chanukah was the victory of the Macabees over the "Super Power" (the Syrian Greeks) of the day! It was no less miraculous, yet it gets only minor mention in our prayers. From Inside Chanukah by Rabbi Aryeh P. Strickoff:

  1. Jews celebrate their own salvation, not the downfall of others. The miracle of the oil is about the uplifting of the Jewish people; the victory in war was about the defeat of the Syrian Greeks (the Yavanim).
  2. The oil is about purity and holiness, the war was about death, destruction and impurity.

For lots more on Chanukah:


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Torah Portion of the week

Miketz, Genesis 41:1 - 44:17

Pharaoh dreams of cows and sheaves and demands for someone to interpret his dreams. The wine butler remembers Joseph's ability to interpret dreams. They bring Joseph from the jail. Pharaoh acknowledges the truth of Joseph's interpretation (that there would be seven good years followed by seven years of famine) and raises Joseph to second-in-command of the whole country with the mandate to prepare for the famine.

Ten of Joseph's brothers come to Egypt to buy food, Joseph recognizes them, but they don't recognize him. Joseph accuses them of being spies and puts them through a series of machinations in order to get them to bring his brother Benjamin to Egypt. Then Joseph frames Benjamin for stealing his special wine goblet.

Next week ... the denouement!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah sets forth Pharaoh's prophetic dream:

""And behold from the Nile rose up seven cows, which looked good and healthy of flesh and they grazed in the pasture" (Genesis 41:2).

What does it mean that the cows "looked good"?

Rashi comments that their looking good was a sign of the years of plenty, for then people look good to one another and are not envious of each other.

The idea that Rashi expresses is important for happiness in life. When you allow what someone else has to rob you of your own happiness, you will frequently suffer. However, if you learn to appreciate what you have to its fullest, you will be so filled with good feelings yourself that you will not be disturbed by what anyone else has. The more you focus on the good in your life, the less it will make a difference to you if anyone has more than you. When you master this attribute of feeling joy for what you have, your whole life is a life of plenty!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Pharaoh dreamt two disturbing dreams and all his wise men failed to interpret them to his satisfaction. Pharaoh's chief butler had previously been in the same jail as Joseph, where Joseph successfully interpreted his dreams. The butler now suggests that Pharaoh seek the advice of Joseph. Note how the butler recommends Joseph's talents to Pharaoh:

"And there was with us there (in jail) a Hebrew lad (na'ar), a slave to the Captain of the Guard and we told him (our dreams), and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he interpreted" (Genesis 41:12).

What lesson for life can we learn from analyzing the butler's words?

Rashi comments on the butler's statement to Pharaoh: "Cursed be the wicked, for even their goodness is not complete. The butler praises Joseph's ability, but in contemptuous terms:

  1. na'ar (a lad): a fool, and not fit for greatness,
  2. Hebrew: he doesn't even know our language,
  3. a slave: and it is written in the statutes of Egypt that a slave cannot rule nor don royal garments.

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz comments that the butler actually meant to speak well of Joseph, for Joseph had been kind to him. Nevertheless, a completely favorable statement will never emerge from the lips of a wicked person. Even when praising someone, he will off-handedly add a derogatory comment.

Every person should check his own behavior with regard to this pitfall. When you speak favorably of someone, do you habitually add something unfavorable? For example: "She is very charitable, and always makes sure that people know it" or "He's very kindhearted now, but you should have seen him five years ago."


Candle Lighting Times

December 30
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:10
Guatemala 5:25 - Hong Kong 5:32 - Honolulu 5:42
J'Burg 6:45 - London 3:42 - Los Angeles 4:36
Melbourne 8:27 - Mexico City 5:51 - Miami 5:22
New York 4:20 - Singapore 6:51 - Toronto 4:32

Quote of the Week

Growth begins at the end of your comfort zone



With Deep Appreciation to
Gabor Szerb
With Tremendous Gratitude to
Roman Cherkasskiy

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