In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Prov.3;6 ב”ה
“Let’s make the next few minutes last forever….”
Vayigash: Spirit AND Wisdom…. 5779
The season of Chanukkah we have just been through is all about remembering. It is about the battle against assimilation, the season of the Feast of Dedication is about daring to do a little and witnessing Hashem make your dreams come true. The festival of light is about the elevation from the pits and prisons in which we find ourselves. The conception of salvation- and a gift that will remain long after the glow of festivities has dampened into everyday existence.
So why have we been reading about the life of Yosef from pre, during and post Chanukkah?
If all we have learned has made an impact upon us then we will recall it, recount it, and remember. But first we find Yosef, remembered by God- everywhere he goes, prospering and finding successes even in the darkest of situations… yet, forgotten by men. The men he dreamed would embrace and celebrate his potential and blessing (his brothers) reject him.
Yosef’s brothers do not remember.
B’reshit 40;8 Then they said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.” 9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph…12Then Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: … you will put Pharaoh’s cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer. 14“Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house. 15“For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”…21He [Pharaoh] restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand; … just as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not זָכַר remember Joseph, but שָׁכַח forgot him.
Some other things we are to zakar זָכַר – to remember to do the commandments, to remember to keep the Sabbath holy, to remember (referenced on many occasions in the text) that we were slaves in Egypt and thus we know what it feels like to be oppressed and also… granted freedom and redemption.
We are to see the tsit tsit in order to remember the commandments (and to do them). The very last time we find zakar זָכַר in the Torah is in the following passage which calls us to remember the former things, the previous generations and people, our elders (we spoke deeply in regard to the responsibility we have to give over the Torah to all who might grasp hold of it) and in this context we find that it is the very definition of Israel as a set apart people (set apart by our fulfillment of the Torah in actuality and spirit) this definition will define all the boundaries (healthy Godly boundaries) for all of mankind.
Devarim 32:7 “ zakar זָכַר Remember the days of old, Consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you. 8 “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.
The last context of shachach שָׁכַח found in the Torah explains to us with precision, losing our focus, leaving off from the remembrance of (with the intention of devotion and performance to…) the Torah of Hashem will eventually lead to our forgetting HIM. He will not be evident in our lives as if He didn’t exist there. On the contrary, when we safeguard to perform the Torah with heart… HE IS evident.
Devarim 32:18 “You neglected the Rock who begot you, and shachach שָׁכַח forgot the God who gave you birth.
When the cupbearer is leaving the prison, Yosef requests that he mention him to Pharaoh. One position is that Yosef was sentenced by the heavenly courts to two more years in that pit because he sought to rely on human help in a moment of weakness. It makes more sense to me that Yosef KNEW he was going to come out of the prison. He knew that his dreams would come true and so this may be less of a request and more of a prophecy: When you come before Pharaoh make mention of me.
B’reshit 41;12 “Now a עִבְרִי Hebrew נַעַר youth was with us there, a עֶבֶד servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. 13“And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him.” 14Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. 15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”
The cupbearer reports to Pharaoh his interaction with Yosef in the prison. He uses three descriptive terms which could be interpreted as ‘derogatory’ from one angle. He calls Yosef a Hebrew, (remember the way Potiphar’s wife spoke in her false testimony against Yosef? : “See, he has brought in a עִבְרִי Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed.” Ber. 39; 14). We will find the Hebrew brothers of Yosef seated at different tables, and later as all of Egypt is selling their property to Phar’oh via Yosef we see the animosity grow and grow. The cupbearer describes Yosef as a נַעַר na’ar– a youth, or attendant… he’s just some young guy, someone who attends to others. He describes him as a עֶבֶד ebed– servant (see the first use of this word in B’reshit 9;25: So he [Noach] said,“Cursed be Canaan; a עֶבֶד servant of עֶבֶד servants He shall be to his brothers.”) In one breath this nervous cupbearer is painting Yosef as being of no consequence in a sense, yet- his report in regard to Yosef is extremely consequential.
Verse 13 is very interesting, for the cupbearer says HE interprets the dreams, HE restored me to my office and HE hanged the baker. Yosef! This guy is standing before Phar’oh, someone who believes he is a god on earth…someone who previously threw him into prison (Perhaps it was for this very thing? The way he says things? Maybe while someone’s had too much to drink?)….and this cupbearer in addition to degrading Yosef before he explains how gifted he is, seems to be denoting responsibility or even authority upon Yosef for these things coming about. When Yosef comes before Phar’oh he clears up any confusion there may be: IT IS NOT ME, it is God who will give the answers.
We took some time digging into the connections and meaning behind the purpose of reading about Yosef and all the themes relating to him alongside our observance of the Feast of Dedication. One theme yet to be explored is that of the wisdom of Yosef. When Pharaoh encounters Yosef, there are two things that he recognizes about him. These are the two very things that we as believers should emote to our onlookers as well (for like Yosef, we will be closely scrutinized and criticized ). The Spirit of the Lord (ruach Elohim) and wisdom (that which comes from Hashem’s word, His teaching, His Torah). The menorah itself is a symbol of both of these essentials. It is like unto a tree, a tree of life (the Torah/wisdom) and its branches express the spirits of Hashem. The menorah symbolizes the Light of Wisdom in a Spiritual life.
B’reshit 41; 38Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is a אֱלֹהִים divine רוּחַ spirit?” 39 So Phar’oh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and חָכָם wise as you are. 40“You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.”
Yosef is the first man
to be known as wise,
to be recognized
as a fount of wisdom.
#2450 (adj) chacham חָכַם – capable of judging,
skillful, wise, intelligent.
Yosef is called Chacham- wise by Pharaoh and the only other cases for being called wise are the first failed attempts of Pharaoh’s court dream interpreters, the latter Pharaoh who calls his ‘sorcerers’ to imitate the plagues at the time of the Exodus. These abilities prove to be naught in the face of Divine power and spirit, as their imitations were swallowed up by the staff of Aaron. For there must be BOTH in unison (wisdom and spirit). The rest of the contexts of wisdom are in regard to those who built the Tabernacle and made Aaron’s garments which he would minister in (verses which contain the aspect of the Holy Spirit or an endowment from Hashem.) Other contexts include references to the Torah would be wisdom for the entire people, and qualification for the judges of Israel- those wise heads over 10, 100, 1000’s.
If we look at the verbal shoresh (root) of חָכַם chacham we find it is only used two times in all of the Torah.
These contexts are striking, the first being the instruction of the Phar’oh who (like the cupbearer of Yosef’s time) CHOSE not to remember Yosef and all he had done in Egypt. He has transferred the relation to a wisdom which became salvation for that nation (Egypt and the mixed multitude within it, as well as the Hebrews) toward a purpose and means whereby he and his people would actively seek to control, dominate and oppress the Hebrews. The second and only other context in Torah is a plea from Hashem to his people, that they would seek to find and secure this wisdom in their lives… that they might cling to Him and His Tree of Life, the Torah being knowledge which would forever set them apart.
# 2449 (v) chacham חָכַם – to be, TO BECOME wise.
- Sh’mot 1; 10 “Come, let us deal חָכַם wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.”
- Devarim 32; 28“For they are a nation lacking in counsel, and there is no understanding in them. 29“Would that they were חָכַם wise, that they understood this, that they would discern their future! 30“How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up?
I Thessalonians 1;2 We give thanks to God always for all of you… 3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Yeshua Messiah in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers…
This is the very thing that Yosef’s (and Yeshua’s) brothers couldn’t recognize about him. They didn’t see his divine blessing, didn’t recognize the Spirit of the Lord working in him at every turn. They didn’t identify the wisdom his father saw, which promoted him to firstborn among his brothers. They sought to put him into the pit/the grave and sold him out. But he did rise. And it was a pagan, Egyptian, gentile king who had no qualm with declaring God is with him… he is wise above all, he will be the way of salvation and deliverance for all these people.
B’reshit 42; 6 Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7 When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly. And he said to them, “Where have you come from?” And they said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him. 9 Joseph זָכַר remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, “You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.” 10 Then they said to him, “No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. 11“We are all sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.”
Yosef, continues to insist that the brothers are spies, he wants them to be there looking for him. But they are just there for food. When the text says he saw them as his brothers, it is amazing… he still considers them to be his brothers but everything that follows
could be a well thought out plan
to determine if THEY really are
ready to be brothers or not.
If they are ready
to recognize and remember
that he always has been
and IS their brother.
Adam and Chavah in Gan Edan had access and freedom to choose to eat from the Tree of Life, and yet they sought wisdom. We need both, Torah and the Spirit. The “old” and the “new”. The history and tradition alongside the flow of God in everyday life.
Tevet is the tenth of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar. Tevet begins with the last days of Chanukah. Its tenth day–the tenth day of the tenth month (“the tenth shall be holy to G-d”)–is a fast day, in commemoration of the siege of Jerusalem, the beginning of the destruction of the Temple. This fast is so important that it is observed even when it falls on the Sabbath.
As we come out of the light of Channukah, carrying the flame yet in our full vessel of prepared oil,
and into the culmination of the suffering…
the picture of Messiah in Yosef…
whom we’ve been learning about all the while, let us grasp the implications of everything Hashem by His Spirit has been revealing to us in the time we have spent together.
It is said, that in every generation the Holy Temple is not rebuilt, it is considered as if it were destroyed again. In this month of Tevet when we recall the destruction, let us remember what it was that “allowed” God to take this action on His Holy House…
it was dissension between brothers, baseless hatred which was clearly seen with Yosef and his brothers.
Let us also remember the hope that we have in Yeshua, a rebuilt New Man, a lifted up Tabernacle of David… and the words of the prophet Zechariah in perek chet, passuk yud tet:
“… the fast of the tenth shall be for the House of Judah for joy and happiness and holidays.”
So may it be soon our days.
Resources: Much of this entry was learned from Rabbi Shlomo Katz, Rabbi Ari Kahn, Rabbi Ginsburg, and more. See the Homepage on the Blog and “My Resources” entry for a complete list of sources.