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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Miketz

Parashat Miketz

"Even in Darkness..."

The purpose of "darkness" is to present man with a challenge - the challenge of strengthening his faith and uncovering God's presence. Because Joseph faced the trials of faith and stood up to them all, he merited the light of redemption.
Rabbi David Dov LevanonParashat Miketz, 5760
Dedicated to the speedy recovery of
Asher Ishaayahu Ben Rivka
Click to dedicate this lesson
1. "An End to the Darkness"
2. Hidden Light in the Candles

"An End to the Darkness"
"And it came to pass at the end of two years" (Genesis 41:1). The Midrash tells us that God "put an end to the darkness. A fixed amount of time was given to Joseph - a number of years in the darkness of the prison. When the time came for him to be redeemed, Pharaoh dreamed his dream..." According to this Midrash, it appears that Joseph's remaining in jail for these final two years had been preordained. On the other hand, the words of another Midrashic source, as brought in Rashi's commentary, are well known: These additional two years were meant to serve as punishment "for Joseph's having said to the chief steward 'Remember that I was with you… Say something about me to Pharaoh...' Consequently, two years were added to his prison term, as the verse states: 'And it came to pass at the end of two years.' " (Obviously this punishment was meted out in accordance with Joseph's exceptional piety. Regarding Joseph the verse states, "Praiseworthy is he who places his faith in God." Hence, God was exceedingly stringent with him, adding an additional two years to the ten he had already served in the prison.

It appears possible to resolve this seeming contradiction by addressing the following question: Why were these final two years more dark for Joseph than the previous ones? A likely answer is that Joseph himself was the cause of this darkness: He did not place sufficient trust in the Almighty; imagining that he had simply been forgotten there in the prison, Joseph even requests of the chief steward to "remember that I was with you…" and "say something about me to Pharaoh..." The condition of a person who has lost faith can be likened to darkness.

The Midrash thus states: "And it came to pass at the end of two years" - He put an end to the darkness. Time was given to the world, a number of years in darkness. And what is the reason for this? He put an end to the darkness. So long as the evil inclination thrives, darkness and calamity engulf the world... When the evil inclination is uprooted from the world, darkness and calamity also cease to exist.

The evil inclination brings darkness upon the world, for it causes a person to feel as if God is not actually presiding over the events in his life. Surmounting this feeling depends on a person's overcoming his evil inclination. If one is successful in this, he merits experiencing the words of King David, "Even though I sit in darkness God is my light."

Rashi, in his commentary, on the opening of the Torah portion "VaYechi," addresses the question: Why is this Torah portion totally "stumah" (lit., closed. A section of the Torah which begins on the same line as the preceding ends, but is separated from it by an open space wide enough to contain nine letters, is referred to as "stumah")? The great commentator provides two answers. The first is that when Jacob died, the eyes and hearts of the Children Israel were "closed" due to the hardships of the Egyptian bondage. Rashi's second explanation is that Jacob wished to reveal the time of the End of Days to his sons, but the vision was "closed" to him.

The author of "Sefat Emet," Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Gur, explains that these two explanations are interrelated. This is because so long as knowledge of the time of the End of Days was not closed to them, the eyes and hearts of Israel were not closed due to the hardships of the Egyptian bondage.
In light of this, it is possible to assert that the purpose of darkness and the "eclipse of God" in the world is to present man with a challenge - the challenge of strengthening his faith and revealing God's presence amidst the darkness. Hence the Midrash teaches: " 'Every pain gives way to preeminence.' - All of the suffering endured by Joseph because of his master's wife turned out to be for his benifit. In what sense? He married her daughter." We might add that the abundant success Joseph enjoyed in Egypt came about on account of his having been placed in jail. It was there that he met the chief steward. Because of Joseph's interpreting the chief steward's dream he became know as "Tzaphnat Pa'aneach," the revealer of hidden things, who "upon hearing a dream can explain it." This eventually became known to Pharaoh, the result being that Joseph was made "Pharaoh's vizier, director of his entire government, and dictator of all Egypt." And so, because Joseph faced the trials of faith and stood up to them all, he merited the light of redemption. The opposite is also true - when he failed to maintain faith, he was overcome by darkness, as the continuation of the Midrash indicates: "Because Joseph said to the chief steward 'Remember that I was with you... Say something about me to Pharaoh...' - two years were added to his prison term."

Hidden Light in the Candles
"Bnei Yissachar" cites Rabbi Elazar Rokeach of Worms' "Sefer HaRokeach" which states that the one should ponder the Chanukah candles, and view them as containing something of the mystical "Or HaGanuz" (lit., "hidden light"). This is hinted at by the fact that we kindle a total of thirty-six candles on Chanukah. These thirty-six candles parallel the thirty-six hours during which the primordial Original Light served Adam before eventually being stored away. It follows that the Chanukah candles contain an aspect of this illusive light.

What are we to gather from all this?
It would appear that this primordial light was of a spiritual nature, representing the revelation of God's Divine Presence in the universe. The Sages teach in the name of Rabbi Yehuda ben Rabbi Simon that by using this light Adam was able to stand and gaze "from one end of the universe to the other." When, though, God saw the crooked ways of the generation of Enosh, and the generation of the Great Flood, he hid this light away. For whom did the Almighty store away this light? For the righteous in the World to Come.

Needless to say, a light which allows man to gaze from one end of the universe to the other is no ordinary worldly light. Rather, it is a light which spells recognition of God's omniscient presence in the universe. Accordingly, it was sin that led to the smothering of this light. The righteous, though, via their choosing good, are capable of uncovering this hidden light. Furthermore, the Midrash testifies that "it was hidden away in the Torah." In other words, by studying Torah one is capable of discovering new horizons of faith and recognition of God's presence. Once one has reached such a level, nature itself serves to reveal that "the Heavens declare God's glory" (Psalms 19:2).

The Greek subjugation is referred to by the Rabbis as "darkness," for the Greeks caused darkness to engulf the hearts of the Jewish people by outwardly denying the existence of the Living God. The Miracle of Chanukah restored the faith of the Jewish people. Hence, the act of pondering the Chanukah candles (the symbol of that miracle), and the wisdom of the Torah which flowered in the generations after the Miracle of Chanukah, has the power to restore the faith of the People of Israel. This is the "Or HaGanuz" in the Chanukah candles - a hidden light which reveals itself to one who ponders it.

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