By Rebbetzin Malkah
Ramban teaches us that Sefer Bereshis is really a book of symbols and allegory; it tells us not only what transpired in the past, but more importantly, it reveals that which will occur in the future. The poet William Blake says it well in this passage:
The story of Yosef going down into Mitzrayim only to be raised up is more than just a sad series of events with a happy ending. This small glimpse of the world to come wrapped up in grain storage, famine, and a lost brother and son has a deeper purpose: to make possible the revelation of the light of Mashiach. Yosef's story is one of our Mashiach in hiding. It brings hope that he will be revealed to all of our mishpochah when the "dream" is fulfilled: when all of the grain, or people, has been "amassed like the sand of the sea" and all of Israel comes before him. And how fitting that this parasha falls each year as the rest of the world celebrates a holiday supposedly reminiscent of the Messiah, a Messiah who to most wears a very different tunic.
The whole story of Yosef is linked with an important concept regarding the Talmudic notion of Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David. This notion of a Messiah having two special purposes, natures and serving at different times is a very common theme in Judasim. When we look back at Yosef's earlier life up until he is honored in this week's parasha, Yosef's life is the emblem of the Mashiach ben Yosef, or the suffering Messiah. We see that in his earlier years he is spurned by his brothers. As Yosef is hated and betrayed by his brothers, so too was Yeshua. Yosef has no favor with his brothers and is thrown into a pit - a grave - and sold for twenty pieces of silver. This is prophetic as we see also that Yeshua was sold for silver. Yosef's tunic, his robe of honor, is stripped and the verdict of his day of "death" has come - his tunic is drenched in blood to be shown to his father that his life was taken. His rejection by his brothers and his ultimate "death" echoes into the future of what Yeshua would endure through his suffering and death.
This suffering Yosef, like our Mashiach Yeshua, enters a dark or dormant time. He descends into Mitzrayim, a grave of sorts, and enters prison for twelve years after a false charge is rendered upon him. This false charge, mirrored in the charge brought upon Yeshua for claiming his authority, brings about his descent. He is torn from the known world and cast into a prison, or the bowels of the earth. This corresponds with the Gemara when it talks about Mashiach ben Yosef dying in Tractate Sukkah.
As we enter parasha Mikeitz, we see that Yosef is nearing the end of his time in prison or the grave. The event which will be the harbinger of a new beginning for Yosef is about to take place. Not only will he will be called from prison by Pharaoh to interpret a troublesome dream, he will also be named second in command to Pharaoh because of that interpretation. He wears the ring of the king and commands the land.
"I am Pharaoh; without your permission no man shall even raise his hand..." (Bereishis 41:44)
This interesting twist of fate for Yosef is no coincidence. Harkening back to what Rambam says of Sefer Bereishis, every story is a looking glass into the future. Through the looking glass of Yosef, we see Mashiach clearly. The Zohar states that it is through descent into darkness that true light can be born. It is here in Yosef's life, and Mashiach's, that the light of salvation arrives and so begins the dawn of a new era.
The Anointed One
It is within this time period that Yosef enters as Mashiach ben David: he is second only to Pharoah. This symbolism is very strong as we see the power of this anointed one, in goyish garb, over the nations coming to Mitzrayim for sustenance. He sustains the world with a giving hand and is later noted for this by King David in a psalm.
Within this passage, there is some very strong symbolism that should trigger covenantal memories. As Avraham was promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the sands of the seashore, we see an anointed ruler who not only has amassed grain like the sand of the sea, but is also bringing throngs of people into the gates of the city. And not only that, he brings to them salvation and hope. People who would have perished due to the famine are rescued. This passage rings messianic in tone as we see that the Mashiach seemingly dons a Purim mask and goes into a nation, not his own, to bring salvation eventually to his own people.
But while Yosef is beginning his role of Mashiach ben David and those around him are benefiting from his shepherding, Yaacov and his family remain far away, starting to feel the effects of the famine. Yaacov, being spiritually keen like our rabbis, sees prophetically and hears of the provisions, or salvation, in Mitzrayim:
As Yosef ‘s brothers enter through different gates to the city searching for their lost brother and sustenance with hope, so too were the rabbis of Yeshua's time and today on the lookout for Mashiach. But what do they receive when they finally encounter the anointed one, or the brother whom they truly seek? Someone foreign and not brotherly. Why? Because he wears goyish garb and has no family resemblance - all that they seek has been covered up. This mirrors not only the case in Yeshua's history, but even today with how our people view Yeshua.
Despite the past events, Yosef so greatly desires to give them sustenance, closeness, healing and restoration that it moves him to tears. However, Yosef holds back on the account that certain conditions must manifest themselves before he reveals himself to them. In the same vein, Yeshua, longed to give these same things to his mishpochah during his days in Yisrael. However, as it was then and even now, there are certain circumstances that must exist before all of our family are ready to receive him.
O' Come All Ye FaithfulAs we have examined, this parasha is laden with messianic overtones and a glimpse into how Mashiach will manifest himself in history. The connection between the life of the Yosef and future events is summarized by Chazal in this famous quote from the Talmud:
As well, the Midrash states: All that happened to Yosef happened to Tzion. (Tanchuma, Vayigash 10). If we examine the gematria of Yosef and Tzion, we find they are the same: 156. So if indeed the deeds of the fathers play out as a sign for the children, how does the story of Yosef affect us? How and why does Mikeitz line up with Chanukah each year? And why, during this season of lights and the miracle of oil, does this portion speak to us while at the same time we are bombarded with Christmas music, commercials and images of the nativity?
Only within this sidrah do we find there is a mneumonic for the number of words - in this case 2025. The rabbis state that in Hebrew the word for candle, "neir" , has the numerical value of 250; and thus eight times 250 equals 2,000 (since we light eight candles for the miracle of the oil lasting eight days). Since the event of lighting candles starts on the 25th day in the month of Kislev, thus, the final number 2,025 alludes to the 25th of Kislev plus eight candles. But is there a deeper reason why it seems there is this obvious conflict or coinciding that occurs each year between the seasons of Chanukah and Christmas? Why can't the Messiah be seen for who he really is instead of being masqueraded in a goyish holiday?
While many biblical scholars and astronomers believe that the Messiah we call Yeshua was born during the fall season of Sukkot, it seems that a greater population of celebrating Christians are determined to honor the Messiah at a time closer to the winter solstice. Why, if Hashem wanted to reveal the Mashiach to his people, why would this apparent conflict and difficulty be allowed so that so many would reject him and also not recognize him?
As I agonize over this yearly predicament, I hearken back to a conversation I had the other day with a good Jewish friend. While he recognizes the Jewish nature of Yeshua, he is not absolute about him being the Mashiach. Nonetheless, our conversation lingered over to his general irritation he feels when he hears Christmas music while shopping. While admitting that the nature of "O' Holy Night" moves him, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" sends him positively in the other direction. At the same time, while he hates the commercial and ritualistic aspects of Christmas, he admitted that in certain older people he sees a sense of "magic" or "glimmer" in their eye about the season. My response to him was this: those older people are the ones who have the hope and understanding of the Messiah. For them, he is the inspiration and the "magic" during this season. While my friend seemed contented and contemplative on the whole idea of Yeshua placing in people something very special and nourishing, he quipped with a tongue and cheek phrase analogous to the brothers' disbelief in Yosef's identity: who ever heard of Jews believing in Jesus. I laughed because I know he doesn't despise or discount Yeshua, but it is exactly the point of how this season looks to our people: unbelievable.
While the apparent contradiction and parading of this season causes my friend and countless others distress, for now, Mashiach wears a goyisha mask and is allowed to parade in a begged (garment) that is unrecognizable to many. For the sake of Heaven, just as in Yosef's day, this is necessary so that someday our misphochah will finally wander through the gates and find him. May our Mashiach continue to amass souls as grain, in whatever season, and place in them healing, consolation and restore them - just as Yosef did in his day.
Chanukah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom...
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