Parashat Miketz 5782

When we put time and effort into knowing our children, we soon recognize their God-given innate gifts so that they can each fulfill their role in this world. Even when we as parents do not have the time to properly nurture their talents, the Creator will open the right doors for them. They may veer off in other directions for a time and there are many reasons for that, but we pray as parents that they will find their path with the help of the Creator. That can sometimes take a lifetime and some of us may never see it on this side of eternity.  

Joseph’s ability as an administrator was clear to his father Jacob; that was not the problem. It was that Jacob openly preferred Joseph above his other sons. This wrong attitude shows up again in this portion Miketz.  Without going into the whole story of the famine and how the men were sent twice to Egypt for food, which I’m sure you’ve read, here we see Reuben, Jacob’s first-born, offering the life of his two sons to be killed if he didn’t bring Benjamin back to Jacob. This is how his father responded: “my son (Benjamin) shall not go down with you for his brother is dead and only he is left.” If I had heard that as one of his sons, I would have been really hurt and might have answered, “what am I, chopped liver?”  If we as parents are not careful, we will create rivalry even enmity amongst our children.  Also, if we as parents feel bad at how we sometimes blurt things out when we are upset or frustrated, remember these words of Jacob and let’s learn to not repeat this behavior.

The next encounter in relationship to Joseph’s talent was when he was sold as a slave to Potifar, his Egyptian Master. It wasn’t long before Potifar recognized that there was something special about Joseph. We read that “his master saw that the LORD was him and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand”. How could Potifar have known about the LORD? It doesn’t say but I would suppose that Joseph spoke to him about His Creator like he did to Potifar’s wife when she tried to seduce him. Joseph told her, “How can I do this great evil and sin against God.” No matter what happened to Joseph, he knew that God was with him.

An interesting thing to note is that Joseph’s first coat from Jacob got him into trouble with his brothers and here again, the cloak that Potifar’s wife pulled off his back was used to witness against him.  

It was Joseph’s pride that held him back from fully using his natural gifts in service to the Creator. His father did little to curb that sense of self-importance in Joseph, instead he kindled it until the flames of jealousy burnt not only him but those around him. There would be two last trials before this flame was quenched.  Potifar had to do something to save face at home and he obviously knew the treachery of his wife otherwise Joseph would have lost his head. Instead, he placed Joseph into the King’s Prison, where only high officials were sent. It was there, over the next two years, that the remainder of Joseph’s flame of pride would be extinguished.  

Here in this new prison, Joseph innate gifts would again become apparent.  We read in vs 23 “The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.”   Amazing, when we have been given a gift and we know that the LORD is with us, nothing can quench it. We don’t have to be afraid that someone else will come along and usurp our God-given position. They may try, like Korach, but they will not succeed. 

Joseph had another gift that had also shown itself when he was young, that of having prophetic dreams but he was not ready to use this gift because of his pride but we read that “Jacob kept the matter in mind”. Many years later when he was in prison, he was given an opportunity to interpret dreams of the butler and the baker of Pharaoh. Joseph told them, “Do not interpretations belong to God?”  Now he was beginning to understand Who was in control, yet it would take another two years for him to be prepared to take on the role of his life. Why another two years? Because he had asked the chief butler to remember him to Pharaoh. To whom much is given, much is required. The chief butler forgot him, but God didn’t.  It seems that Joseph needed more time to recognize that the only one we can trust is God.  

It takes time for us to give ourselves over completely to trusting the Creator. Some of us are more “stiff-necked” than others and we need to spend more time in the prison of our own making before we are ready to take on the role that God has for us! God was preparing Joseph to step into the role of being second in command to Pharaoh. Now Joseph would receive robes of fine linen like the coat given to him by Jacob, to demonstrate his station of authority. He also received a signet ring which to me symbolized trust as we saw in the story of Judah and Tamar and a gold chain around his neck to replace the chain of bondage given to him by his brothers.

Next, we read that Pharaoh gave Joseph a new name Zafenat-paneach and a wife, Asenat the daughter of Potiphera, the Priest of On, which in Hebrew is written “כֹּהֵן אֹן “Cohen On”.  We may think that the word Cohen is a Jewish word but like the word kadosh, it depends upon the person to whom it is connected.  Joseph could not have had a wife more pagan than the daughter of an Egyptian priest, yet we see that he took his role as a father very seriously.  He must have spent a lot of time instructing them in the ways of his forefathers and the God of his people. This clearly exemplifies that the spiritual education of the children belongs to the father. Judaism sadly has removed this role from the father and given it to the mother. If that was the truth, we would have lost our Hebraic roots with Joseph. God’s Words “Do not add or take away” must not be ignored. 

Joseph’s bitachon, his trust by this time was so strong, that he had no doubt in the power of the Almighty God. He would pass this to his sons Manasseh and Efraim who our sages say broke the curse of hatred and jealousy between the first two sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel which had been passed down throughout the generations. The Second Commandment states: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments. The third and fourth generation symbolizes a finite period until we like Joseph trust in our Creator, when the thousandth generation symbolizes eternity, and the curse is broken.  That is our hope.

The Eternal used a famine which the Torah says was “over the face of the earth” to remind us that He is in control of all things, natural and supernatural.  This chain of events would unite the brothers and bring life back to Jacob who certainly had a life of trials, disappointment and deep sorrow, a life of loss and gain.  Joseph had learned wisdom through all his experiences.  We as parents can teach our children right from wrong; we can teach them God’s principles as tools to use when faced with having to make difficult decisions. But if we make their decisions for them and don’t allow them to go through the depths of disappointment and failure, they will never learn. We must not over-protect our children as difficult as that may be.

Joseph through the wisdom that he had attained over the years put his brothers through a speedier course than what he had experienced but he gave them a taste of their own medicine. When he saw that they were indeed repentant, they were all united and rejoiced together.  With God at our helm, circumstances and time force us to change our way of thinking, our paradigms.  

After I returned to God over 30 years ago when I needed a new start, I took some time to draw a life map of what I had done in my life and was amazed to see a common thread ran through it all. I worked on exercises in a book called “What Colour is Your Parachute” and again found the common thread that linked the events of my life together like the weaving of a tapestry. It led me to what I am doing today. I would never have imagined it.

If you are not sure about your natural gifts or talents; if they went unrecognized by your parents and family, speak to the people around you who know you well. Ask them what they see. 

Our great rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef’s gifts were recognized very early in his life as we read in Luke 2:41-52 “After three days (of his parents searching for him) they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”  Even his parents didn’t understand the depth of his calling. It says, “Yeshua increased in wisdom and in stature and grew in favor with God and man.”  

Our story may not be as grandiose as the story of Yosef, of Yehudah or of Yeshua but it’s our story. Not one of us lacks gifts and talents from God, but it does take time and effort to find them; it takes courage and humility. It takes a step of faith to implement them because we can and will fail over and over but finally, by never giving up, we go through the process of stepping into our role where we build trust in our Creator. There is no greater journey in this life; it is one of fulfillment and joy and gives us life.

Shabbat Shalom

Peggy Pardo