Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Miketz
To dedicate this lesson

Listen, Do You Want To Know A Secret?

Yosef’s personal saga and journey through life is actually the “roadmap” for the entire history of our exile and our redemption!


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Yosef is given a new name by Paro: Tzafnat Paneach. Though its meaning is obscure, Rashi says the name means, "He who explains hidden things." What things??

I suggest that there is something very important hidden in the story of Yosef. I believe that Yosef’s personal saga and journey through life is actually the "roadmap" for the entire history of our exile and our redemption! That is, whatever happens to Yosef during his lifetime exactly parallels what happens in the national life of Am Yisrael!

Let us consider:
- Yosef is the "favorite son" of Yakov, just as we are the chosen, favorite, first-born of Hashem.
- Yosef innately understands that he is an elite leader, before whom others will come to bow; this subconscious knowledge emerges in his dreams. But Yosef is also tentative, unsure, and at times overly boastful of this role – all stages which we, too, go through as a nation.
- Yosef fights with his brothers. Clearly, intra-Jewish bickering has plagued our whole history, even so far as creating whole "movements" within Judaism that fiercely battle one another.
- Yosef must go into exile – just as we were forced to do – but there he learns to do chesed (as when he reaches out to the butler and baker) and eventually will rise to great prominence, becoming a blessing to the whole world, which he feeds as the "mashbir." Similarly, we became illustrious in the exile, proving to be a blessing for every country in which we lived, helping their economies, their education, winning Nobel prizes and sharing our wisdom with the rulers there, from sultans to kings to presidents.

Eventually, Yosef understands that he must be a unifier, that he must reconcile with his brothers and bring the family together. This he does by bridging the generation gap and assembling his entire family, from Yakov to Efraim. At the same time, Yosef realizes that Egypt – the exile, the Diaspora - cannot be the ultimate meeting-place for Am Yisrael. Jewish life ultimately cannot, will not flourish in the barren soil of galut; only Israel can fulfill that need. So he makes his family swear they will return to Eretz Yisrael, taking the "bones" of past generations with them.

We, too, are finally coming to a rapprochement with our brothers, and it is occurring in Israel, as Jews from all over the world gather here to define and develop their Jewish souls. We carry the "bones" and ashes of the past, and we bring them to life here. Yosef, the favorite son, lives again.
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