Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Miketz
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Ezra Ben Ma'atuk Ha'Cohen

The House of Yaakov is the Fire and the House of Yossef is the Flame

Parshat Miketz

The House of Yaakov is the Fire and the House of Yossef is the Flame 1. Yossef is Similar to Yaakov 2. The Differences Between Yaakov and Yossef 3. The Essence of the Differences 4. The Strength of Yossef in our Generation


Rabbi S. Yossef Weitzen

Kislev 5761
1. Yossef is Similar to Yaakov
2. The Differences Between Yaakov and Yossef
3. The Essence of the Differences
4. The Strength of Yossef in our Generation

Yossef is Similar to Yaakov
The central figure in the Parsha Miketz is Yossef. Chazal indicate the similarities and differences that exist between Yaakov and Yossef:
"They are both filled with semolina dipped in oil for the sacrifice of mincha": Yaakov and Yossef were both completely righteous and were similar to each other. According to the midrash, (Midrash Rabba Bamidbar Parsha 14, verse 5), Rabbi Shmuel bar Nechami explains why it is written in Bersheit 37 that "These are the generations of Yaakov, Yossef." Shouldn't it say the generations of Yaakov Rueven? It is written in this way in order to teach us that Yossef was similar to his father in everything. Both Yaakov and Yossef were born circumcised. Both of their mothers were barren and afterwards suffered great hardships at the time of giving birth. Both of their mothers gave birth to two sons. Both of them had a brother who desired to kill him. Both had brothers who hated them. Both were shepherds. Both were hated by their siblings. Both were blessed with ten blessings. Both had to leave Eretz Yisrael. Both married women from outside of the Land of Israel. Both were accompanied on their departure from Israel by angels. Both had children born to them outside of Israel. Both were made great by a dream. Both father-in-laws' houses became blessed by their presence. Both went down to Egypt. Both helped cause the end of the famine. Both provided sustenance to their family members-Yossef to his brothers and Yaakov to his sons. Both died in Egypt. Both were embalmed. Both of their bones were brought to Israel.

The many similarities between Yaakov and Yossef mentioned in this midrash do not involve a connection based on their behaviors, rather they are based on what happened to both of them and the events that occurred in each of their lives.
Can one compare the way Yaakov reacted to his situations with the way Yossef dealt with his?

At first glance it seems that Yaakov and Yossef have many similar character traits.
The midrash actually begins by describing a similar character trait-they were both completely righteous. However, the rest of the midrash continues to describe only the similar historical events that occurred to both of them. Of course, the common ground that they shared was that despite all the trials and tribulations they both suffered, and despite a hostile environment they both had to endure, they succeeded to cleave to Hashem and continued to believe in His ultimate salvation. They both chose to deal with their unfortunate situations and surroundings not with aggression and hostility, but by intermingling so as to not cause unnecessary friction. Even though they were both very alone, their presence was greatly desired and they brought with them blessings wherever they went.

Both Yaakov and Yossef had clear set goals that they aimed to achieve. However in order to do so they had to follow a twisted and complicated path.
Yaakov never gave up the blessings he received from his father Yitzhak. He did not give up his desire and right to take Rachel as his wife. He did not give up on his returning to Eretz Yisrael. He did not give up when Levan exploited him. He did not give up on not making a covenant with his brother Esau. He did not give in to the people of Shchem who wanted to make a covenant with him. But, in order to stand strong through all of these situations, Yaakov had to adopt a strategy of "quiet politics" and use a complicated and twisted path to achieve his goals.

Yossef did not give up on the dreams he dreamt while in his father’s house. He did not give in to Potiphar or her accusations. As we see in this weeks Torah portion, Yossef did not give up on his desire and goal to once again see his father and his brother Binyamin. He also did not give up on the need to settle accounts with his brothers who sold him into slavery. Yossef, like his father, achieved all that he did with patience and in a similar complicated and roundabout way.

The Differences Between Yaakov and Yossef
There is one great difference between the character traits of Yaakov and Yossef. Despite Hashem’s promises to Yaakov, his actions and accomplishments are always accompanied by the fear that perhaps he will not be able to extradite himself from the situation. Chazal learn from Yaakov when he says, "I am little amongst all your pious ones and all the truth that you did with your servant" that there is no assured promise for the righteous in this world. Every Saturday night after the Sabbath ends and we start the new week, we encourage ourselves by saying "Do not be fearful, servants of Yaakov".

Yossef, unlike Yaakov, seemed to be full of confidence. There is no hint of him experiencing any hardships in his different predicaments. The only real glitch that we see in connection to Yossef appears in the beginning of this week's Torah portion: "at the end of two years". Chazal teach us that Yossef was stuck in the prison for two years because he relied on flesh and blood, the chief baker, to liberate him, instead of Hashem. It may be said that Yaakov is like the wise one that enters into troubles but through his faith and the strength of his prayers, he is always saved. Yossef, on the other hand, is the intelligent one that does not enter into such situations.

This idea is expressed in the beginning of this week's Torah portion with the resolution of Pharoah's dream. Pharoah dreams of seven years of plenty in the land of Egypt followed by seven years of famine. Yaakov appears later on in the portion, entering into the troubles of the famine. After great efforts, he was, nevertheless, successful in finding food for his family. He arrived later to Egypt and, according to Chazal, through his merit the famine ended. Yossef, however, never entered into the problems of the famine; rather, he prepared the nation in advance by storing the harvest from the good years in the warehouses. Yossef prepared the medicine before the affliction.

The Essence of the Differences
From where are these differences derived? Yaakov our father was not willing to completely be dressed in Esau's clothes or to become a man of the field. He always felt that this world belongs more to Esau than to himself. He was immersed in the internal spiritual world and only from this spiritually elevated height was he willing to confront the world. Yossef, on the other hand, was more daring and dressed completely as an Egyptian and learned seventy languages. Yossef and his talents exceeded all, including the most powerful ruler-Pharoah.

Chazal teach us that Esau could never be delivered into the hands of Yaakov:
What is the meaning behind what is written: "These are the kings descending from Esau" and also: "And Yaakov sat"? Rabbi Chonia said that this is an example of one that sets off on his way and is subsequently surrounded by a pack of dogs and proceeds to sit amongst them. Thus when Yaakov our father saw all the chiefs descending from Esau he was suddenly afraid and decided to sit with them. Rabbi Chonia said "Are you fearful of them? All that is needed is a spark from you and a spark from your son and they will be burned." So it was when Yaakov saw all the chiefs of Esau and he became afraid, Hashem spoke to him: "You are afraid of them? You just need a spark from both you and your son and they will disappear in the flames, all of them. Thus it is written that the house of Yaakov is the fire and the house of Yossef is the flame (Ovadiah 1). Our Rabbis taught us that the two verses "And Yaakov sat" and "These are the generations of Yaakov-Yossef" come to teach us that the generations after Yaakov were made possible through the merit of Yossef, and for Yossef's sake. Nothing worked out for Yaakov in Lavan's house except for his goal to marry Rachel and his legacy only began with the birth of Yossef. Once Yossef was born, the counter force against the evil Esau came into existence. (Midrash Rabba Breshit Parsha 84 piska 5)

However we see from the midrash that Yossef by himself would not have been able to confront Esau. Yossef is only the flame and not the fire. It seems that Yaakov was the internal force, and Yossef is the force that enables the internal force to spread. Thus, Yaakov's blessing to Yossef: "For his hands are made supple by the hands of the mighty G-d of Yaakov; from thence the shepherd stone of Yisrael" (Bereshit 49,24), that all of Yossef's strength is derived from the G-d of Yaakov.

The Strength of Yossef in our Generation
In our generation it may also be said that the Zionist movement is the manifestation of Yossef's strength. The passage of the Jewish nation from the galut to redemption requires first the building up of the connecting forces and strengths to this world. It is impossible to build a state with just the spiritual forces. The talents of all the nations are also necessary to build a state. Such is the case when in the historical period of the heels of the messiah. The nation of Israel has built all of its foundation throughout the generations. It has built its head and its heart, leaving only its heel to be built. The heel is our point of contact with the earth and the land.

The State of Israel, in its external appearance, is not any less developed than the most powerful country in the world. It is already seen how the nations of the world are impressed with the power of the Jewish mind and innovation. Nevertheless, all this could not exist without the connection to the head, the strength of Yaakov, the internal force of the Jewish nation. It is sure that, as the Jewish nation merits seeing how the heel is rebuilt, it will understand that all that it has already built is as a result of the strength of the head, as it is stated "The house of Yaakov should go, and go within the light of Hashem."

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