Parashas Mikeitz

I decided this week to continue where I left off last week in presenting a discourse of the Maggid on the Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 85:1, since the discourse pertains to this week’s parashah as well as to last week’s. The Midrash states:
And it was at that time, that Yehudah went down from his brothers. It is written (Malachi 2:11): “Yehudah has betrayed, and an abomination has been done within Yisrael ….” Hashem said: “Yehudah, you have repudiated. Yehudah, you have lied. An abomination has been done within Yisrael. Yehudah has become unsanctified.” [As it is written further in the verse in Malachi]: “For Yehudah has defiled Hashem’s holy one, whom He loved.” And it was at that time. It is written (Michah 1:15): “I will yet bring over to you a dispossessor, O inhabitant of Mareshah; the glory of Yisrael will come way up to Adulam.” To Adulam will come the sovereign and the holy one of Yisrael. As it is written: He turned aside to an Adulamite man. And it was at that time. R. Shmuel bar Nachman expounded: “It is written (Yirmiyah 29:11): ‘For I know the thoughts.’ Yaakov’s sons were engaged in the sale of Yosef, Yosef was engaged in his sackcloth and fasting, Reuven was engaged in his sackcloth and fasting, Yaakov was engaged in his sackcloth and fasting, Yehudah was engaged in taking a wife for himself, and the Holy One Blessed Be He was engaged in creating the light of King Mashiach.” And it was at that time, that Yehudah went down from his brothers. It is written (Yeshayah 66:7): “Before she went into labor, she gave birth.” Before the first subjugator came into being, the final redeemer was born. And what is written right before? “And the Medanites had sold him [Yosef] to Egypt” (Bereishis 37:36).
In the segment we presented last week, the Maggid discussed the fact that everything Hashem does is for the good, even when we experience events that seem to us to be bad.
The Maggid now continues by discussing how the events recounted in parshios Vayeishev and Mikeitz illustrate this fact. In these parshios, the Torah describes a number of trying events that Yaakov went through: Yosef’s disappearance and apparent death, Shimon’s being taken captive, and Binyamin’s having to leave Yaakov to travel to Egypt with his brothers. The Midrash expounds (Bereishis Rabbah 84:14):
It is written (Bereishis 37:14): “‘And bring me back word.’ And he sent him from the valley (עמק) of Chevron.” But Chevron is on a mountain, so how could it be written ‘the valley of Chevron’? Said R. Acha: “He went to implement the deep accord (העצה העמוקה) that the Holy One Blessed Be He concluded with the fine friend who was buried in Chevron: ‘And they shall enslave them and afflict them [for 400 years … and then they will go out with great wealth] (ibid. 15:13-14).
We can explain this Midrash as follows. Hashem chose Yaakov as the one from whom He would build the House of Yisrael, the understanding nation, so that they would accept His holy Torah and enter the goodly land, Eretz Yisrael, that He had promised to Avraham, and so that He would cause His Presence to abide in their midst. In order for this plan to be accomplished, it was necessary first that the Jews be enslaved in Egypt. In this vein, it is written (Hoshea 11:1): “From Egypt I called to my son.” And along these lines the Gemara says (Berachos 5a): “Three goodly gifts were given to Yisrael, and all three were given only through affliction: the Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and the World to Come.” Accordingly, Yaakov had to be drawn into Egypt. The Midrash on our parashah expounds (Bereishis Rabbah 86:2):
It is like a cow that was being led to market and would not be drawn along. What did they do? They drew her calf along in front of her, and she went after him. … Similarly, it would have been fitting for our father Yaakov to have gone down to Egypt bound and collared in chains. Said the Holy One Blessed Be He: “This is my firstborn son – shall I bring him down in disgrace? Instead, behold, I shall draw his son along in front of him, and he shall go down after him.”
We thus see that Hashem brought upon Yaakov the events we mentioned above in order to bring him and his family down to Egypt, thus setting the foundation for the wondrous good that He would ultimately bestow upon Yaakov’s descendants. As it is written (Yeshayah 27:6): “[Days] are coming when Yaakov shall take root; Yisrael shall bud and blossom.” But Yaakov did not understand the purpose of the events he was going through, and so each event caused him added worry and anguish. Thus, the Midrash expounds (Bereishis Rabbah 91:10):
“And Yisrael said: ‘Why did you do me ill [by telling you man you had a brother]?’” (Bereishis 43:6). … The Holy One Blessed Be He said: “I am engaged in making his son a ruler in Egypt, and he says, ‘Why did you do me ill?’” This is as it is written (Yeshayah 40:27-28): “Why do you say, O Yaakov, and declare, O Yisrael, ‘My way is hidden from Hashem, and my cause has passed by my God? Did you not know? Did you not hear? Hashem is God of the universe, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not tire, He does not grow weary, and His discernment is beyond fathom.”
When a person raises questions in his mind about a difficult experience that Hashem sent his way, he thinks he that he previously understood how Hashem operates, and only now he was put through a difficult experience that he cannot comprehend. But in truth we cannot really understand anything that Hashem does until we see the final result.
We can bring out the point with an analogy. Consider a visit to a great craftsman by a commoner who knows nothing about crafts. He sees him working with stones and he asks him about a specific action that he performed. The craftsman retorts sharply: “Do you have an understanding of crafts, that you ask me a question about what I’m doing before I’ve finished my work? After I’m done, you’ll see that nothing I did up to now was for nought, and each and every thing I did was clearly a necessary step in the process of making this item.”
This is the idea behind Hashem’s statement in the passage from Yeshayah that the Midrash quotes. Hashem is saying: “How can you question what I am doing before I am finished and you see that goal I wanted to accomplish? I am the Creator of the ends of the earth, and I am in the process of developing the state of affairs that will prevail on earth in the end of days. What you are going through now is not the ultimate goal I’m aiming for, but stepping stones toward the great blessing I will bring you and your descendants in the era of Mashiach.” Yaakov was upset over the ordeals involving Yosef, Shimon, and Binyamin because he thought that the era of Mashiach was supposed to arrival in his time, and when the ordeals came upon him, he thought that some sin he committed caused matters to go awry. But he miscalculated because he did not grasp Hashem’s true plan.
We now return to the Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 85:1. The verse from Yirmiyah quoted in the Midrash teaches us about the way Hashem runs our affairs. Yirmiyah declares: “‘I know the thoughts that I am thinking over you,’ says Hashem, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” As we explained above, every single event that Yaakov and his family experienced was orchestrated by Hashem toward the goal of bringing about the lofty and idyllic state of affairs that He had planned for them in granting them the Torah and Eretz Yisrael. But Yaakov and his sons did not grasp what was really taking place. Each of them reacted to the events according to his own mind’s understanding, and each took his own course, while Hashem was pursuing a larger plan. Thus the Midrash says: “Yaakov’s sons were engaged in the sale of Yosef, Yosef was engaged in his sackcloth and fasting, Reuven was engaged in his sackcloth and fasting, Yaakov was engaged in his sackcloth and fasting, Yehudah was engaged in taking a wife for himself, and the Holy One Blessed Be He was engaged in creating the light of King Mashiach.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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