Parshas Mikeitz: Recognizing Our Brothers

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Mikeitz, Yosef’s fate takes a drastic turn for the better.  The Hebrew lad, torn from his land, family and home at the young age of seventeen, and who is thrown into jail shortly after his arrival in the home of Potiphar, Chief Executioner of Egypt, finds himself suddenly rushed from the dungeon to appear before King Pharaoh.

For King Pharaoh has dreamed dreams that have agitated his spirit, and there is no one who can interpret the dreams to his liking.  Pharaoh is told that languishing in prison is a Hebrew lad, a servant, who can interpret dreams.

Yosef the servant, Yosef the prisoner, seemingly in an instant, becomes Yosef the Viceroy over the entire land of Egypt.  Pharaoh appoints Yosef second to the king, and commander over the people, the land, and the food.  After seven years of plenty – wherein Yosef the ruler amasses food and stores it, so that the country, and its people, shall survive the coming famine – the famine descends. 

As citizens of surrounding countries converge upon Egypt to purchase food – for Egypt is the only land with food supplies during the famine – lo and behold, the ten brothers of Yosef, the very same brothers who heartlessly sold him into slavery years earlier, appear before Yosef himself in order to purchase food! 

The verse tells us וַיַּכֵּר יוֹסֵף, אֶת-אֶחָיו; וְהֵם, לֹא הִכִּרֻהוּ – And Yosef recognized his brothers, and they did not recognize him (Bereishis 42:8). 

Rashi (ibid) comments, “And Yosef recognized his brothers – when they were given over to his hand, and he now had power over them, he recognized that they were his brothers, and had mercy on them.  But they did not recognize him, when he fell into their hands (many years earlier) by treating him in a brotherly manner.”

The lesson is simple, yet profound.  Do we recognize our brothers… Do we understand that though as Jews, we may look different than one another, act different than one another, speak, live, practice and dress different than one another – we are all brothers.

It is Chanukah once again.  Chanukah: the Yom Tov of light, of the triumph of Torah over wanton sinners, the victory of the few against the many, the weak against the strong, the righteous over the wicked.  The Yom Tov when a band of brothers, the Maccabiim, and their army, were successful in driving out the enemy who sought our end. 

As we once again witness the rise of those who seek to destroy us in our day and in our time – those who wish to eradicate our people and our Land – let us recall that if we band together as brothers, if we recognize our brothers, if we appreciate our brothers, perhaps we may just be strong enough to drive out the enemy who seeks our end.

Once a woman who was a professional opera singer came for Shabbos to the Machlis home in Jerusalem. 

She got up in the middle of the meal and wanted to sing.  To silence her would have been insulting, to allow her to sing would have been a violation of halacha.  Henny a’h went over to her and calmly explained the prohibition of kol isha, women singing in front of men.  Then Henny added, “Even though you cannot sing right now, we women are very interested in hearing you.  So after the meal we will have an opera recital downstairs.  No men are allowed.  We’ll close the door.  And the women will get to enjoy you.  We would really be honored to hear you sing.”

Relating the story, one of the Machlis daughters concluded, “That opera singer was a very weird lady.” 

R’ Machlis’ response to his daughter encapsulates the Machlis attitude toward every Jew: “What do you mean she was weird?  She was Jewish.”

וַיַּכֵּר יוֹסֵף, אֶת-אֶחָיו; וְהֵם, לֹא הִכִּרֻהוּ – And Yosef recognized his brothers, and they did not recognize him.

As we celebrate Chanukah, and recall our enemies of all times – from Eisav to Lavan, Pharaoh to Haman, the Greeks to the Cossacks, the cursed Germans to those today – both at home and away… let us recall that it was a band of brothers who led the victorious battle against the Greeks.

One of my 5th grade boys came home from school earlier this week and said his teacher was going to Israel.  She would be visiting an IDF army base and she asked the boys in the class to write letters to the soldiers.  My son wrote, “Dear Soldiers, Thank you very much for protecting us. I hope you are proud of yourselves because of what’s happening now in New York. Thank you.” 

[What’s happening now in New York is a reference to the recent UN security council resolution, may G-d protect us.]

Let us strive to always recognize, appreciate, and love our brothers, so that with achuds, unity, we too will merit to see the many delivered into the hands of the few, as once again we will be privy to miracles, as He did for our forefathers, in those days, in this time, amen v’amen

בברכת חנוכה שמח, חודש טוב, ושבת שלום,


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