Dvar Torah for Parshat Miketz


Based on Likutey MoHaran II, 67

'It was a dream come true.Ó 'It was a nightmare.Ó We often use these expressions to describe events that seem to us unreal. Often the events that precipitate such expressions lead us to wonder, 'Who's in charge here?Ó It's a legitimate question any time things are - or seem - topsy-turvy. It's the question Pharaoh asked when he dreamt his dream, and it's a question we ask when we take a look at the events around us and the events within us. Let's look at the answer.

(For those who may have forgotten, a brief synopsis of Pharaoh's dreams: Pharaoh is standing on the bank of the Nile when two sets of cows emerge from the river, one after the other. Each cow in the first set is a prizewinner: fat and beautiful. The ones of the second set are all nightmarish; ugly and emaciated. The emaciated ones swallow the fat ones, but their appearance is totally unchanged. Then Pharaoh dreams that he sees seven beautiful stalks of wheat, which are followed by seven blight-stricken stalks of wheat. The latter swallow the former. As with the cows, no change at all is noticeable in their appearance. Pharaoh relates the dreams to Yosef HaTzaddik {the saint} who interprets them as follows: The dreams are one. God is soon to bring upon Egypt seven years of great plenty, which will immediately be followed by seven years of extreme famine. The good of the seven years of plenty will be totally forgotten. Yosef HaTzaddik's advice: store up during the years of plenty to provide for the years of famine. Pharaoh accepts Yosef HaTzaddik's advice and appoints him viceroy, giving him full authority to do as he pleases.)

After they are introduced, Pharaoh tells Yosef HaTzaddik, 'I've heard it said about you that you can hear a dream and interpret it.Ó To which Yosef HaTzaddik replies, 'No! The wisdom is not mine, but God's. He will provide Pharaoh with a satisfactory answerÓ (Genesis 41:15-16). So who's right? They're both right.

God is, of course, in absolute charge, and all and everything that happens is under His hashgacha pratis (Divine providence). Nonetheless, He has given the world over to mankind and each of us is responsible to take care of the responsibilities within his/her realm. The realm of the tzaddik is greater than that of an ordinary person. The realm of the tzaddik includes the entire world, including - especially! - mankind. This is what is meant by the verse, 'Yosef rules over the earth; he provides for all the peopleÓ (ibid. 42:6).

When does that happen though? When does the tzaddik have the opportunity to exercise his influence on mankind, which will allow them to benefit both materially and spiritually? When 'PharaohÓ lets him out of the prison of negative publicity/public opinion. When he was working for Potifar (Genesis 39) Yosef HaTzaddik was known to be a righteous individual; he was always mentioning God's name (Rashi on Genesis 39:3). What ever business, agricultural or personal matters Potifar had, he would have Yosef HaTzaddik take care of them and the matters were blessed with success. Nonetheless, when his wife framed Yosef HaTzaddik, Yosef HaTzaddik became a nation-wide object of scorn and derision (ibid., vv. 14ff; Rashi on 40:1). (Even in prison Yosef HaTzaddik was recognized as a saintly individual, but his influence was severely limited.)

When Pharaoh recognized Yosef HaTzaddik's wisdom and sagacity he made him viceroy. A parade was held in Egypt's capital publicizing Yosef HaTzaddik's appointment; Pharaoh bedecked him with regal garments and give him a royal daughter for a wife (ibid., 41:42-45). From that time on, as Yosef HaTzaddik's prestige grew, his fame and influence grew further still.

We have Chanukah. We celebrate Chanukah only once a year, but we can apply its lessons often. There are times when we rise up to reclaim our heritage and our holiness only to find everything in total disarray. Put even in the prison of disarray there is a flask of the kohen gadol's (High Priest) pure and untainted oil, his Torah teachings, to be found. When we polish off our menorah and light the oil we let the world know: There is a tzaddik whose teachings - even the littlest - can light up the world! There is a tzaddik whose teachings - even the littlest - are so potent that they shine for days on end and grow constantly. When we publicize the teachings of the Torah - in the proper setting - we add to its prestige. 'Yosef HaTzaddikÓ leaves prison and his influence begins to spread far and wide.

Then, when people give the tzaddikim and the Torah their due respect, it can be said that the world has a master, that there is truly One in charge. Then we can realize that the dream-like good is genuine, a token of God's favor toward us. Then we can realize even a much higher perception: that our 'nightmaresÓ were not random, but lovingly planned; not to our detriment, but to our eternal benefit.

Agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!