Mikeitz/Chanukah – Wise and Discerning or Discerning and Wise?

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Mikeitz, Yosef the Hebrew, Yosef the slave-boy, Yosef who was stolen from the land of the Ivriim, Yosef, who can’t seem to catch a break from the troubles that befall him, suddenly, without scarcely a moment’s notice, becomes Yosef The Viceroy, ruling over the entire land of Egypt. 

וַיִּשְׁלַח פַּרְעֹה וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-יוֹסֵף, וַיְרִיצֻהוּ מִן-הַבּוֹר; וַיְגַלַּח וַיְחַלֵּף שִׂמְלֹתָיו, וַיָּבֹא אֶל-פַּרְעֹה – And Pharaoh sent forth, and he called for Yosef, and they rushed him up from the pit (from jail), and he shaved and he changed his clothing, and he came to Pharaoh (Bereishis 41:14).

Upon properly interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams – Egypt will have seven years of plenty, which will be followed by seven years of famine – Yosef is, unbelievably, miraculously, stunningly, appointed mishneh la’melech – second to the king.  Not a morsel of food, nor an iota of grain, can be purchased in Egypt from anyone other than Yosef.  He is transformed from slave-boy-prisoner to the CEO, CFO and COO of the most advanced society in antiquity: Ancient Egypt. 

Upon appointment as second to the king, Yosef is given the king’s ring from upon his hand, and he is dressed in linen garments, with a golden chain upon his neck, and Pharaoh has him ride in his second chariot, and they call before him “Avrech – this one is patron of the king!” 

וַיִּקְרָא פַרְעֹה שֵׁם-יוֹסֵף, צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ – And Pharaoh called Yosef Zaphenath-Paneah… (Bereishis 41:45).  What is the meaning of this unusual name which was given to Yosef?

Rashi teaches that Yosef was מְפָרֵשׁ הַצְּפוּנוֹת, the decipherer of the cryptic – he could explain that which was hidden.

The Ba’al HaTurim teaches that צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ is an acronym, which stands for: צופה פודה נביא תומך פותר ענו נביא חוזה.  Yosef was a visionary, redeemer, prophet, supporter, interpreter, humble, understanding and a seer. 

Yosef the dreamer was a man of many things.  He was a man of wisdom, vision, dreams, hope, and faith.   And so, upon the correct interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream, the king declares:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר פַּרְעֹה֙ אֶל־יוֹסֵ֔ף אַחֲרֵ֨י הוֹדִ֧יעַ אלקים אוֹתְךָ֖ אֶת־כָּל־זֹ֑את אֵין־נָב֥וֹן וְחָכָ֖ם כָּמֽוֹךָ – And Pharaoh said to Yosef, “As G-d has informed you of all this, there is none more discerning or wise than you” (Bereishis 41:39).

Rav Soloveitchik zt’l explains that, “A חָכָ֖ם (wise man) is one who is somehow guided by a mysterious lights.  To run the Egyptian empire, Yosef had to have great imagination.  Chachmah (wisdom), however, is not enough.  The נָב֥וֹן (discerning, intuitive) translates the imagination to fact.  Pharaoh recognized that Yosef possessed both qualities.  He was both chacham and navon: a man with great imagination, but also one who could implement his plans” (Chumash Masores HaRav, Bereishis, p.307).

The chacham is one with wise ideas and a grand imagination, while the navon is one who will implement those ideas, effect concrete change and make dreams reality.  We would, therefore, expect the verse to say that Yosef was a chacham v’navon, with wisdom of grand ideas preceding the understanding and ability to implement those ideas.  However, the Torah puts navon first!

Perhaps from here we learn an important lesson.  Anyone can have good ideas (chacham), but only one who lives his life as a navon, always seeing the end result of anything he dreams of or envisions, will be successful.  Therefore, the quality embodied by a navon, in a sense, is more important than that of a chacham.  Hence, the Torah puts discerning intuition before wisdom, in describing Yosef the dreamer, Yosef the visionary, Yosef the doer: אֵין־נָב֥וֹן וְחָכָ֖ם כָּמֽוֹךָ.

The story of Yosef is always read before/during the holiday of Chanukah.  Many reasons are offered, connecting Yosef to the story of Chanukah. 

Like Yosef, the Chashmonaim warriors were visionaries who foresaw a time when the Syrian-Greeks and their ways would not rule the Holy Land and her people.

Like Yosef, they were redeemers, freeing the people from the spiritual bondage of the ways of the pagan, hedonic Greeks.

Like Yosef, the Chashmonaim-turned-Maccabiim were able to uncover that which was hidden, for when they entered the Sanctuary, finding utter ruin and impurity, they searched and searched for the small flask of pure oil, which was waiting to be found.

And like Yosef, the Jewish warriors did not just have good ideas, they were far more than chachamim (wise men); they had ideas of freedom, religious liberation, holiness and purity, redemption and light – and they acted upon those ideas

Like Yosef, they were wise and discerning and discerning and wise

While anyone can dream, not everyone can do.

May the actions of the great ones who lived before us inspire us to reach ever higher heights in our avodas Hashem (service of G-d) and service of fellow man.  For while it’s noble to dream big, we must be sure, b’ezras Hashem (with the help of G-d), to act in pursuit of those dreams, to always strive to turn our grandiose plans into reality.

בברכת חנוכה שמח ושבת שלום,


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