"at the end of"
(1 Tevet 5776 - 12 December 2015)
We continue our study of Sefer B’reshith this week with Par’sha Miketz. The par’sha begins in B’reshith 41.1 and continues to B’reshith 44.17. Miketz means at the end of and this par’sha opens a Yoseph time in prison is drawing to a close. It had been two years since Yoseph had interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer, but the hope he had place in the cupbearer’s remembering him has surely faded by now.
The Hebrew text uses two different words to describe how complete the cupbearer had forgotten Yoseph. In B’reshith 40.23 we were told that the chief cupbearer did not remember לֹֽא־זָכַ֧ר Yoseph, but forgot יִּשְׁכָּחֵֽהוּ him. Zachar means to remember in order to redeem something while the shoresh of yis’chat’hu, שׁכח, means to forget due to distraction or inattention. The use of these two words reveals the hopelessness of Yoseph’s situation had it not been for Elohim, but then, He is never far from His people. As the par’sha unfolds we begin to see Y’H’V’H’s plan to use Yoseph’s situation to preserve a remnant of Yisra’el in the earth and give them life by a great escape.B’reshith 45.7
Teaching Torah sometimes presents both a problem and a blessing. The problem is that there are so many lessons in each of the weekly parshiyot it’s difficult to cover all of them in one midrash. The blessing is that there are so many lessons in each of the weekly parshiyot. This Shabbat we are going to consider some of the lesson of Par’sha Miketz and how they apply to our lives today.
One of the first things we should consider is life from Yoseph’s point-of-view. Is this the way he had expected life to turn our for him? At seventeen years old he was living in the land of his inheritance and was by far the favorite of his father’s twelve sons. It was obvious that his brothers didn’t care for him, but sibling rivalry was not something new to his family.
Then had come the dreams - dreams that were so real to him that he had shared them with his family; the first one with his brothers and the second one with his father and his brothers. Did he have any idea the path his life would have to take to see those dreams fulfilled? One day he was living a somewhat pampered life in his father’s house, but in short order he went from a pit in the wilderness to a slave in Mitsrayim.
Life as a slave in Potiphar’s house began to improve rather quickly. He soon became a prosperous man and was put in charge of all the Potiphar owned, but this wasn’t by chance or coincidence. Mosheh tells us in B’reshith 39.2 that Yoseph’s rise in Potiphar’s house was because Y’H’V’H was with him. In fact, Y’H’V’H’s presence with Yoseph was such that even Potiphar recognized he was being blessed because of his young Hebrew slave. Potiphar’s house and fields were also reaping the blessings of Y’H’V’H, but all of this soon came to an end as Potiphar’s wife entered the picture.
She set her sights on Yoseph and would not take no for an answer. Day after day she approached Yoseph, trying to entice him and day after day Yosef refused her advances. He explained to her the he could not commit such a great evil and sin against Elohim.39.9 All of this eventually led to her false accusations which landed Yoseph in prison.
While in prison Yoseph again rose to a favored position and once again we are told why. In B’reshith 39.21 we are told, Y’H’V’H was with Yoseph and extended loving-commitment to him, and he found favor in the eyes of the prison warden. The warden developed so much trust in Yoseph’s abilities that he didn’t even bother to look into anything Yoseph did all because Y’H’V’H was with him. And whatever he did, Y’H’V’H made it prosper.39.23
First in Potiphar’s house and now in prison, Y’H’V’H was with Yoseph and prospered him, but prosper doesn’t necessarily refer to becoming wealthy. Prosper is translated from matz’li’ach מַצְלִ֥יחַ, from the shoresh צלח, which means to succeed. This teaches us something about Yoseph’s character. Yoseph trusted Elohim and refused to sin against Him even when his life was turning out far different than he expected it to and because of this trust and obedience Yoseph strived to make the best of whatever circumstances he found himself in. He knew Elohim and trusted that whatever happened to him it was necessary if he was to accomplish that which Elohim needed him to accomplish.
That doesn’t mean that Yoseph never experienced times of depression or sadness. It doesn’t mean that there weren’t times when he felt the desperation of his circumstances. We see an example of this in his exchange with the cupbearer. After interpreting their dreams, Yoseph told the cupbearer, Remember me when it is well with you…and mention me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house…for I truly was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews…and I also have done naught that they should put me into the dungeon.40.12 But two years later Yoseph was still in prison. The one time we know that he tried to take matters into his own hands to gain release from prison had failed. He was still a slave and still a prisoner. He was still waiting for his dreams to be fulfilled and that is where we find him as this week’s par’sha opens.
Ever stopped to ask yourself how you would have handled life had you been Yoseph? How would you have handled being betrayed by your brothers, left to die in a pit in the wilderness and then sold as a slave and taken to a foreign land? How would you have handled being falsely accused and thrown into prison? Would you have responded with anger, bitterness, complaints, murmurings or something of the sort?
Therein lies one of the many lessons of this week’s par’sha and Yoseph’s life. How we handled the challenges and hardships associated with this life is in direct correlation to our relationship with Elohim. The more you trust Him and the more you refuse to sin against Him, the more you will learn to respond as Yoseph did.
Realizing this brought me to another lesson from Yoseph’s life: the hardships he endured changed him. In B’reshith chapter forty-two we find that the famine was well underway and was affecting the land of Kena’an as well. Ya’akov had seen there was grain in Mitsrayim and sent his ten oldest sons there to buy grain. When they arrived and approached the man who was governor over the land42.6…Yoseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.42.8
This isn’t difficult to understand. The last time they had seen their brother he had been crying out, pleading with his brothers42.21, now he was arguably the second most powerful man in the known world. The last time they had seen him he had been a carefree Hebrew teenager, now he was the governor of all that Pharaoh owned. He also no longer looked or spoke like a Hebrew. He had changed in appearance, stature and responsibility, but not in his trust and love of Elohim.
He understood all that had happened to him wasn’t because of his brother’s jealousy of him or Potiphar’s wife lack of fidelity to her husband or even the cupbearer’s forgetfulness. What Elohim had put him through in this life was necessary in order to preserve the life of his family - the family who had once turned against him. As such, his love and forgiveness of his brothers was never in question. Yoseph could hardly contain himself.
Herein lies another lesson: do people see you the same way they once saw you? Do you look, act and talk the same way you did before you began this walk of having the testimony of Messiah Y’shua and guarding the commandments of Elohim?
Something else I noticed from this week’s par’sha. Y’H’V’H doesn’t see us as the world sees us. He sees as for what we can be through our faith in Him. Yoseph’s brothers had seen him as a pampered, tattle-tell of a younger brother, but Y’H’V’H had seen him as a man who could be trusted to pave the way to save an entire nation.
King Sha’ul looked like a king. He stood head and shoulders above all the other men of Yisra’el. Da’vid on the other hand was so small when he won the battle Sha’ul couldn’t win that Sha’ul’s armor swallowed him. Yet it would be Da’vid who would become the greatest of all Yisra’el’s mortal kings
Kepha once saw himself as a courageous man, willing to stand and fight to protect the Messiah against overwhelming odds. He later saw himself as a failure - a man who, out of fear, had denied the Messiah he loved so much three times. The Messiah, however, saw him as a man who would help lead others into proclaiming the good news that would turn the world upside down.
Thankfully, our Father sees us for what we can be, not as we are or as the world sees us. Others around us may justifiably see us as we are, but Y’H’V’H sees beyond our weaknesses and sins and sees that which we are capable of through Him and, like Yoseph, what we are capable of through Him is far greater than what the world may believe we are capable of.
But Yoseph and this week’s par’sha also teaches us something about ourselves. Just as Y’H’V’H sees us for what we can become through faith in Him, how do we see Him? Do we see Him the way we want to see Him or do we see Him as He truly is? Do we see our Father in Heaven the way we think we need Him to be or do we look at ourselves and strive to become what He needs us to be?
During the Messiah’s first sojourn among us two thousand years ago, many Hebrews, especially among the leadership, world rejected Him because they wanted a conquering King, not a suffering Servant. It was only those that looked beyond what they wanted in a Messiah and accepted the truth about what they needed in the Messiah that ever truly came to know Him. I believe the same is true of people today.
And for us, do we approach Him to ask Him to deliver us from the hardships of this life or to see us through them so we can be in place to accomplish that which He has for us to do? Do we come before our Messiah and our Father asking what They can do for us or what we can do for Them?
When people meet you today, do they recognize the same person you were before you began this walk or do they see someone else? Do they see a person who has met the hardships of life, trusted in Y’H’V’H and His Son and grown through them and who is now eagerly serving Elohim or do they see a person who has allowed the hardships of life make them bitter, resentful and unforgiving.
How we respond to the events of our life - the easy ones or the hard ones - is in direct correlation to our relationship with Elohim. We know the lessons Yoseph’s life reveals to the world, what lessons do our lives reveal.
1 Tevet 5776
12 December 2015