The Weekly Guest D'rash and the Scriptures that we will be reading this Shabbat for Miketz from Rabbi Isaac Roussel from Congregation Zera Avraham in Ann Arbor Michigan:
TORAH ~ Genesis 41:1-44:17
HAFTARAH ~ 1 Kings 3:15-4:1 BRIT CHADASHA ~ Matthew 12:35-42
Nachmanides says there are two types of miracles; Nes Nigleh, the obvious miracle, and Nes Nistar, the hidden miracle. The quintessential obvious miracle is Pesach. God causes the ten plagues, splits the Red Sea, and reveals the Torah with great fanfare at Sinai. The quintessential hidden miracle is Purim. God is not even mentioned in the Purim story; he works silently behind the scenes to affect his will.
Joseph’s story, which we are reading right now, is an example of a hidden miracle. God accomplishes his will to teach Joseph humility, and prepares him through many trials to become the leader that he was meant to be. Hanukkah is an example of both. In the story of Hanukkah, God works behind the scenes through Mattathias and his sons, but then we have the open and obvious miracle of the oil.
Yeshua’s arrival is a mix of both as well. For most people, it was just the birth of a son to a humble couple from Nazareth. A few people saw the miracle, though. Shimon and Hannah at the Temple, the shepherds who saw an angelic host, and the magi from the east know that something is up. But Yeshua’s second coming will be an obvious miracle in the extreme. He will arrive in the sky with a heavenly host at his heels, bringing judgment upon a sinful world! These days, obvious miracles do occasionally happen, but for the most part miracles are of the hidden variety; a person suddenly recovers from an illness for no apparent reason, another has a financial windfall just as it was needed. An elderly friend of mine told me a story about when she was a young single mother raising her children alone. They were very poor. One morning she realized that she had nothing to feed the kids for breakfast. She prayed and trusted. Suddenly there was a knock at her door and a neighbor was holding two boxes of cereal. She said that her kids didn’t like it and was wondering if my friend could use them! Many miracles like this happen every day; we just don’t hear much about them. As Jews, our job is to constantly seek the hidden miracles in life. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel encouraged everyone to live in “radical amazement.” He said, “One of the goals of the Jewish way of living is to experience commonplace deeds as spiritual adventures, to feel the hidden love and wisdom in all things.”
The siddur guides us toward this goal. First thing in the morning when we awake, we recite the Modeh Ani, thanking God for the miracle of having another day. We recite Psalm 145, which recounts wonder and praise at Hashem’s provisions. Before we recite the Shema, we say “In his goodness he renews daily and constantly the work of Creation.” In the Amidah, we say during the Modim, “We thank you and recount your praise, for our lives which are entrusted to your care, for our souls which are in your charge, for your miracles which are daily with us, for your continual wonders and favors, evening, morning, and noon.” And in the Birkat Hamazon we say, “He nourishes and sustains all, and benefits all and he prepares food for all of his creatures which he has created.”
All of these are a recognition of hidden miracles that are with us daily. Creation itself is a hidden miracle. Many look at it and see nothing but the result of randomness. Others see God’s hand. The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said that the world, “is a symphony we do not hear, a magnificent spectacle concealed from our eyes—so we see just a world. That is all there is to the world: concealment. Rip away the concealment and there is only Miracle.”
The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
Going back to Nachmanides, he wrote, “Hidden miracles are the basis for the entire Torah. A man has no share in the Torah, unless he believes that all things and all events in the life of the individual as well as in the life of society are miracles.” We can read of Joseph’s experiences and think the ancient writers saw God there when he wasn’t. We can read the Hanukkah story and simply conclude that a ragtag group of underdogs won the war by sheer luck and circumstance. We can also read the story of our daily lives and miss the miracles. But our vocation is to see the Nisim Nistarim, the hidden miracles, every day. May we train our hearts and minds to do so, and may our siddurim be our guide in this pursuit. May we see the hidden “Hanukkah light” at the core of everything! Chag Hanukkah Sameach!
TORAH PORTION: GENESIS 41:1-44:17 41:1 Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile. 2 And lo, from the Nile there came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. 3 Then behold, seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4 The ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke. 5 He fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. 6 Then behold, seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them. 7 The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. 8 Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh. 9 Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, "I would make mention today of my own offenses. 10 "Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. 11 "We had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. 12 "Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a 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." 14 Then 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; G-d will give Pharaoh a favorable answer." 17 So Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, "In my dream, behold, I was standing on the bank of the Nile; 18 and behold, seven cows, fat and sleek came up out of the Nile, and they grazed in the marsh grass. 19 "Lo, seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and gaunt, such as I had never seen for ugliness in all the land of Egypt; 20 and the lean and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows. 21 "Yet when they had devoured them, it could not be detected that they had devoured them, for they were just as ugly as before. Then I awoke. 22 "I saw also in my dream, and behold, seven ears, full and good, came up on a single stalk; 23 and lo, seven ears, withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them; 24 and the thin ears swallowed the seven good ears. Then I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me." 25 Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, "Pharaoh's dreams are one and the same; G-d has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do. 26 "The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same. 27 "The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine. 28 "It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: G-d has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do. 29 "Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; 30 and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 "So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe. 32 "Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by G-d, and G-d will quickly bring it about. 33 "Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 "Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. 35 "Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh's authority, and let them guard it. 36 "Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine." 37 Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. 38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?" 39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since G-d has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and 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." 41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt." 42 Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. 43 He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, "Bow the knee!" And he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt." 45 Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, as his wife. And Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt. 46 Now Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven years of plenty the land brought forth abundantly. 48 So he gathered all the food of these seven years which occurred in the land of Egypt and placed the food in the cities; he placed in every city the food from its own surrounding fields. 49 Thus Joseph stored up grain in great abundance like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure. 50 Now before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him. 51 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, "For," he said, "G-d has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household." 52 He named the second Ephraim, "For," he said, "G-d has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction." 53 When the seven years of plenty which had been in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do." 56 When the famine was spread over all the face of the earth, then Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians; and the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 The people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth. 42:1 Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, "Why are you staring at one another?" 2 He said, "Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die." 3 Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Joseph's brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, "I am afraid that harm may befall him." 5 So the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who were coming, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also. 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 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." 12 Yet he said to them, "No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!" 13 But they said, "Your servants are twelve brothers in all, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive." 14 Joseph said to them, "It is as I said to you, you are spies; 15 by this you will be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here! 16 "Send one of you that he may get your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. But if not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies." 17 So he put them all together in prison for three days. 18 Now Joseph said to them on the third day, "Do this and live, for I fear G-d: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die." And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, "Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us." 22 Reuben answered them, saying, "Did I not tell you, 'Do not sin against the boy'; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood." 23 They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 He turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. 25 Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain and to restore every man's money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. And thus it was done for them. 26 So they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed from there. 27 As one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money; and behold, it was in the mouth of his sack. 28 Then he said to his brothers, "My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack." And their hearts sank, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, "What is this that G-d has done to us?" 29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30 "The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly with us, and took us for spies of the country. 31 "But we said to him, 'We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 'We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.' 33 "The man, the lord of the land, said to us, 'By this I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me and take grain for the famine of your households, and go. 34 'But bring your youngest brother to me that I may know that you are not spies, but honest men. I will give your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.'" 35 Now it came about as they were emptying their sacks, that behold, every man's bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. 36 Their father Jacob said to them, "You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me." 37 Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, "You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you." 38 But Jacob said, "My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow." 43:1 Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, "Go back, buy us a little food." 3 Judah spoke to him, however, saying, "The man solemnly warned us, 'You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.' 4 "If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 "But if you do not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, 'You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.'" 6 Then Israel said, "Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had another brother?" 7 But they said, "The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, saying, 'Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?' So we answered his questions. Could we possibly know that he would say, 'Bring your brother down '?" 8 Judah said to his father Israel, "Send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. 9 "I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever. 10 "For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice." 11 Then their father Israel said to them, "If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 "Take double the money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake. 13 "Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; 14 and may G-d Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." 15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, "Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon." 17 So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph's house. 18 Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph's house; and they said, "It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys." 19 So they came near to Joseph's house steward, and spoke to him at the entrance of the house, 20 and said, "Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food, 21 and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand. 22 "We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks." 23 He said, "Be at ease, do not be afraid. Your G-d and the G-d of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money." Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 Then the man brought the men into Joseph's house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder. 25 So they prepared the present for Joseph's coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there. 26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him. 27 Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, "Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?" 28 They said, "Your servant our father is well; he is still alive." They bowed down in homage. 29 As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, he said, "Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?" And he said, "May G-d be gracious to you, my son." 30 Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out; and he controlled himself and said, "Serve the meal." 32 So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians. 33 Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment. 34 He took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin's portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him. 44:1 Then he commanded his house steward, saying, "Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man's money in the mouth of his sack. 2 "Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain." And he did as Joseph had told him. 3 As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys. 4 They had just gone out of the city, and were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, "Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, 'Why have you repaid evil for good? 5 'Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.'" 6 So he overtook them and spoke these words to them. 7 They said to him, "Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing. 8 "Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord's house? 9 "With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord's slaves." 10 So he said, "Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent." 11 Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. 12 He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. 13 Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city. 14 When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph's house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him. 15 Joseph said to them, "What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?" 16 So Judah said, "What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? G-d has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord's slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found." 17 But he said, "Far be it from me to do this. The man in whose possession the cup has been found, he shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father." HAFTARAH PORTION: 1 KINGS 3:15 – 4:1 3:15 Then Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and made peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants. 16 Then two women who were harlots came to the king and stood before him. 17 The one woman said, "Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. 18 "It happened on the third day after I gave birth, that this woman also gave birth to a child, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, only the two of us in the house. 19 "This woman's son died in the night, because she lay on it. 20 "So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead son in my bosom. 21 "When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead; but when I looked at him carefully in the morning, behold, he was not my son, whom I had borne." 22 Then the other woman said, "No! For the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son." But the first woman said, "No! For the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son." Thus they spoke before the king. 23 Then the king said, "The one says, 'This is my son who is living, and your son is the dead one'; and the other says, 'No! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.'" 24 The king said, "Get me a sword." So they brought a sword before the king. 25 The king said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other." 26 Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, "Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him." But the other said, "He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!" 27 Then the king said, "Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother." 28 When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice. 4:1 Now King Solomon was king over all Israel. B’RIT CHADASHAH PORTION: MATTHEW 12:35-42 12:35 "The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." 39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 "The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 "The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.