Haftarah: Melachim Alef 3:15-4:1 (all) | Unless it is Shabbat Chanukah
[על-התורה] הפטרה: מלכים א ג טו-ד א (ע”פ כל המנהגים ) | אלא אם כן זו שבת חנוכה)
- Paraoh’s Dreams and Yosef’s Interpretations
- Yosef Appointed Vizier of Egypt
- Seven Years of Abundance
- Birth of Menashe and Efraim
- Seven Years of Famine
- Yosef’s Brothers Go Down to Egypt
- Yosef Recognizes his Brothers
- The Brothers Return to Canaan to get Binyamin
- Yaakov Refuses to Send Binyamin
- The Famine Continues and Yaakov Relents
- The Brothers Return to Egypt with Binyamin
- Yosef’s Banquet
- Yosef’s Goblet Ruse
- Haftarah Summary
Parashat Miketz, very often the parsha of Shabbat Chanukah, is the “middle act” of Yosef’s narrative. We left off in the previous parsha with Yosef languishing in prison; here, we see his dazzling rise to power, the continued significance of his ability to interpret dreams, and the reunification of the brothers—although it is yet one-sided, since Yosef does not reveal to his brothers that the Egyptian vizier that towers before them is none other than their little brother.
Paraoh’s Dreams and Yosef’s Interpretations
Two years have passed since we left Yosef in prison, forgotten. But then, Paraoh has a dream:
וּפַרְעֹה חֹלֵם וְהִנֵּה עֹמֵד עַל הַיְאֹר: וְהִנֵּה מִן הַיְאֹר עֹלֹת שֶׁבַע פָּרוֹת יְפוֹת מַרְאֶה וּבְרִיאֹת בָּשָׂר וַתִּרְעֶינָה בָּאָחוּ: וְהִנֵּה שֶׁבַע פָּרוֹת אֲחֵרוֹת עֹלוֹת אַחֲרֵיהֶן מִן הַיְאֹר רָעוֹת מַרְאֶה וְדַקּוֹת בָּשָׂר וַתַּעֲמֹדְנָה אֵצֶל הַפָּרוֹת עַל שְׂפַת הַיְאֹר: וַתֹּאכַלְנָה הַפָּרוֹת רָעוֹת הַמַּרְאֶה וְדַקֹּת הַבָּשָׂר אֵת שֶׁבַע הַפָּרוֹת יְפֹת הַמַּרְאֶה וְהַבְּרִיאֹת וַיִּיקַץ פַּרְעֹה:
Paraoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, when out of the Nile there came up seven cows, handsome and sturdy, and they grazed in the reed grass. But presently, seven other cows came up from the Nile close behind them, ugly and gaunt, and stood beside the cows on the bank of the Nile; and the ugly gaunt cows ate up the seven handsome sturdy cows. And Paraoh awoke.Bereshit 41:1-4
Paroah falls asleep and has a second evocative dream:
וְהִנֵּה שֶׁבַע שִׁבֳּלִים עֹלוֹת בְּקָנֶה אֶחָד בְּרִיאוֹת וְטֹבוֹת: וְהִנֵּה שֶׁבַע שִׁבֳּלִים דַּקּוֹת וּשְׁדוּפֹת קָדִים צֹמְחוֹת אַחֲרֵיהֶן: וַתִּבְלַעְנָה הַשִּׁבֳּלִים הַדַּקּוֹת אֵת שֶׁבַע הַשִּׁבֳּלִים :הַבְּרִיאוֹת וְהַמְּלֵאוֹת וַיִּיקַץ פַּרְעֹה וְהִנֵּה חֲלוֹם
Seven ears of grain, solid and healthy, grew on a single stalk. But close behind them sprouted seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven solid and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke: it was a dream!Bereshit 41:5-7
Upset by the dreams, Paraoh seeks counsel from the priests of Egypt (חַרְטֻמֵּי מִצְרַיִם) and its sages (חֲכָמֶיהָ), but none can satisfactorily decipher the dreams.
It is now that the head cup-bearer remembers Yosef. He informs Paraoh that when he was in prison, a “Hebrew youth” (נַעַר עִבְרִי) was there with him who could interpret dreams with amazing accuracy. Paraoh immediately order that Yosef be brought before him (but not before Yosef manages to get a haircut and change his clothes).
Yosef answers Paraoh’s charge by saying, “God will see to Paraoh’s welfare” (אֱלֹקים יַעֲנֶה אֶת שְׁלוֹם פַּרְעֹה). Paraoh recounts his two dreams. Yosef interprets:
חֲלוֹם פַּרְעֹה אֶחָד הוּא אֵת אֲשֶׁר הָאֱלֹקים עֹשֶׂה הִגִּיד לְפַרְעֹה: שֶׁבַע פָּרֹת הַטֹּבֹת שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים הֵנָּה וְשֶׁבַע הַשִּׁבֳּלִים הַטֹּבֹת שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים הֵנָּה חֲלוֹם אֶחָד הוּא: וְשֶׁבַע הַפָּרוֹת הָרַקּוֹת וְהָרָעֹת הָעֹלֹת אַחֲרֵיהֶן שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים הֵנָּה וְשֶׁבַע הַשִׁבֳּלִים הָרֵקוֹת שְׁדֻפוֹת הַקָּדִים יִהְיוּ שֶׁבַע שְׁנֵי רָעָב: הוּא הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתִּי אֶל פַּרְעֹה אֲשֶׁר :הָאֱלֹקים עֹשֶׂה הֶרְאָה אֶת פַּרְעֹה
“Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same: Paraoh has been told what G-d is about to do. The seven healthy cows are seven years, and the seven healthy ears are seven years; it is the same dream. The seven lean and ugly cows that followed are seven years, as are also the seven empty ears scorched by the east wind; they are seven years of famine. It is just as I have told Paraoh: Paraoh has been shown what G-d is about to do.”Bereshit 41:25-28
Yosef repeats the interpretation, emphasizing the fact that G-d has chosen to reveal the future to Paroah through his dreams. He suggests to Paraoh that he appoint a suitable overseer to steward Egypt through the coming challenges, organizing the storage of food from the years of abundance for the lean years that will follow. Paraoh is pleased with Yosef’s plans.
Yosef Appointed Vizier of Egypt
Saying, “Could we find another like him—a man with the Divine spirit?” (הֲנִמְצָא כָזֶה אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ אֱלֹקים בּוֹ), Paraoh appoints none other than Yosef as his vizier (later termed הַשַּׁלִּ֣יט עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ—see Bereshit 42:7), second-in-command only to Paraoh himself. Paraoh gives Yosef his signet ring and has him dressed in fine linen with a gold chain around his neck.
In addition, Paraoh gives Yosef the Egyptian name Tzofnat-Paaneach (צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ). Yosef is also given a wife, Osnat (אָסְנַת) the daughter of Potiphera (פּוֹטִי פֶרַע), the priest of the Egyptian god On (כֹּהֵן אֹן).
Seven Years of Abundance
Yosef is thirty years old at the time he enter’s Paraoh’s service. He travels the entirety of Egypt, supervising the grain harvest. There are, indeed, abundant crops; Yosef makes sure to stock the granaries of each city well with grain produced in its vicinity. His efficiency and success were such that Egyptian grain was almost innumerable, “like the sands of the sea” (כְּחוֹל הַיָּם).
Birth of Menashe and Efraim
Before the Divinely-revealed famine hits Egypt, Yosef becomes the father of two sons by his wife Osnat. Yosef names the first Menashe, because “G-d has made me forget (nashani) completely my hardship and my parental home” (כִּי נַשַּׁנִי אֱלֹקים אֶת כָּל עֲמָלִי וְאֵת כָּל בֵּית אָבִי). He names the second son Efraim, “God has made me fertile (hifrani) in the land of my affliction” (כִּי הִפְרַנִי אֱלֹקים בְּאֶרֶץ עָנְיִי).
Seven Years of Famine
The famine sets in, just as Yosef had foretold; it hits surrounding areas as well, but Egypt alone has sufficient bread to feed its populace. Paraoh instructs the people to heed Yosef’s word, and he wisely rations the stored grain such that Egyptians had sustenance. In fact, others from “all the world” (כָל הָאָרֶץ) come to Egypt seeking rations from Yosef.
Yosef’s Brothers Go Down to Egypt
When Yaakov, in Eretz Yisrael, hears that there is food in Egypt, he encourages his sons to go there to seek supplies. However, fearing that Binyamin would be endangered (פֶּן יִקְרָאֶנּוּ אָסוֹן) in the course of the trip, Yaakov keeps him home while the ten remaining brothers travel to Egypt.
Yosef Recognizes his Brothers
When the brothers arrive in Egypt before Yosef, bowing in deference, he recognizes them, but “he acted like a stranger toward them and spoke harshly to them” (וַיִּתְנַכֵּר אֲלֵיהֶם וַיְדַבֵּר אִתָּם קָשׁוֹת). They don’t recognize the vizier (שַּׁלִּיט) as their brother, so the ruse is effective.
Recalling his dreams about his brothers, Yosef insists that they are spies (מְרַגְּלִים); they proclaim their innocence. In the attempt to prove this to Yosef, they relate to him that they are brothers:
וַיֹּאמְרוּ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר עֲבָדֶיךָ אַחִים אֲנַחְנוּ בְּנֵי אִישׁ אֶחָד בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן וְהִנֵּה הַקָּטֹן אֶת :אָבִינוּ הַיּוֹם וְהָאֶחָד אֵינֶנּוּ
“We your servants were twelve brothers, sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.”Bereshit 42:13
Yosef, still insistent, tells them to go get their youngest brother as proof of the veracity of their story. He will imprison nine of the them while one goes to get the youngest. But then Yosef confines them for three days in the guardhouse, after which he informs them that he will send food back to Canaan with nine of the brothers, confining only one.
The ten brothers discuss the situation, recognizing that this situation is an outcome of their treatment of Yosef:
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל אָחִיו אֲבָל אֲשֵׁמִים אֲנַחְנוּ עַל אָחִינוּ אֲשֶׁר רָאִינוּ צָרַת נַפְשׁוֹ בְּהִתְחַנְנוֹ אֵלֵינוּ וְלֹא שָׁמָעְנוּ עַל כֵּן בָּאָה אֵלֵינוּ הַצָּרָה הַזֹּאת: וַיַּעַן רְאוּבֵן אֹתָם לֵאמֹר הֲלוֹא אָמַרְתִּי אֲלֵיכֶם לֵאמֹר אַל תֶּחֶטְאוּ בַיֶּלֶד וְלֹא שְׁמַעְתֶּם וְגַם דָּמוֹ הִנֵּה נִדְרָשׁ:
They said to one another, “Alas, we are being punished on account of our brother, because we looked on at his anguish, yet paid no heed as he pleaded with us. That is why this distress has come upon us.” Then Reuben spoke up and said to them, “Did I not tell you, ‘Do no wrong to the boy’? But you paid no heed. Now comes the reckoning for his blood.”Bereshit 42:21-22
They don’t realize that Yosef can understand them, since he has been using an interpreter to keep up the appearance of being a stranger. But Yosef hears this and turns away to weep (יִּסֹּב מֵעֲלֵיהֶם וַיֵּבְךְּ).
Returning, Yosef has Shimon bound and instructs that the brothers’ bags should be filled with rations—as well as their money.
The Brothers Return to Canaan to get Binyamin
Later, after the embark on the return journey to Canaan, the brothers open their packs to find their money right at the top. One brother exclaims:
הוּשַׁב כַּסְפִּי וְגַם הִנֵּה בְאַמְתַּחְתִּי וַיֵּצֵא לִבָּם וַיֶּחֶרְדוּ אִישׁ אֶל אָחִיו לֵאמֹר מַה זֹּאת :עָשָׂה אֱלֹקים לָנוּ
“My money has been returned! It is here in my bag!” Their hearts sank; and, trembling, they turned to one another, saying, “What is this that G-d has done to us?”Bereshit 42:28
That is, they begin to understand that something is seriously amiss.
Yaakov Refuses to Send Binyamin
Arriving at home, the nine brothers recount to Yaakov what happened to them in Egypt and explain why Shimon is not with them. In response to the requirement to bring Binyamin down to Egypt, Yaakov says:
אֹתִי שִׁכַּלְתֶּם יוֹסֵף אֵינֶנּוּ וְשִׁמְעוֹן אֵינֶנּוּ וְאֶת בִּנְיָמִן תִּקָּחוּ עָלַי הָיוּ כֻלָּנָה
“It is always me that you bereave: Yosef is no more and Shimon is no more, and now you would take away Binyamin. These things always happen to me!”Bereshit 42:36
Reuven pledges to return Binyamin safely, even saying that Yaakov can exchange his life for those of his two sons if he fails in this mission. But Yaakov still refuses:
לֹא יֵרֵד בְּנִי עִמָּכֶם כִּי אָחִיו מֵת וְהוּא לְבַדּוֹ נִשְׁאָר וּקְרָאָהוּ אָסוֹן בַּדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר תֵּלְכוּ :בָהּ וְהוֹרַדְתֶּם אֶת שֵׂיבָתִי בְּיָגוֹן שְׁאוֹלָה
“My son must not go down with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left. If he meets with disaster on the journey you are taking, you will send my white head down to Sheol in grief.”Bereshit 42:38
The Famine Continues and Yaakov Relents
After the family has finished all the rations that Yosef had given the brothers, Yaakov again bids them to go down to Egypt for food. The brothers explain again that they will be killed if they return without Binyamin. Yaakov, in frustration, asks them why they even revealed to the vizier that they have another brother, but they explain that he asked them detailed, insistent questions. Yehuda then pledges his own life for that of Binyamin and assures his father he will take personal responsibility for Binyamin’s welfare.
Yaakov at last relents and also tells the brothers to take gifts for the vizier: “balm and some honey, gum, ladanum, pistachio nuts, and almonds” (מִנְחָה מְעַט צֳרִי וּמְעַט דְּבַשׁ נְכֹאת וָלֹט בָּטְנִים וּשְׁקֵדִים). In addition, he instructs them to bring back double the money that had been returned to them, since it appears to have been a mistake (וְכֶסֶף מִשְׁנֶה קְחוּ בְיֶדְכֶם וְאֶת הַכֶּסֶף הַמּוּשָׁב בְּפִי אַמְתְּחֹתֵיכֶם תָּשִׁיבוּ בְיֶדְכֶם אוּלַי מִשְׁגֶּה הוּא). Yaakov concludes with,
וְקל שַׁדַּי יִתֵּן לָכֶם רַחֲמִים לִפְנֵי הָאִישׁ וְשִׁלַּח לָכֶם אֶת אֲחִיכֶם אַחֵר וְאֶת בִּנְיָמִין :וַאֲנִי כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׁכֹלְתִּי שָׁכָלְתִּי
“And may E-l Shaddai dispose the man to mercy toward you, that he may release to you your other brother, as well as Binyamin. As for me, if I am to be bereaved, I shall be bereaved.”Bereshit 43:14
The Brothers Return to Egypt with Binyamin
As soon as Yosef sees that the brothers have returned with Binyamin, he orders his servants to offer them hospitality and slaughter and prepare an animal, because the approaching men will be dining with him at noon.
Once again, the brothers perceive this move as being too good to be true, and as some kind of pretext for harming them. They try to explain that they have returned the money that was given to them. The steward attempts to assure them and they lay out their gifts.
When Yosef comes to meet them, he peppers them with questions, asking about their (his) father and greeting and blessing Binyamin. Once again, Yosef is overcome with emotion and leaves in order to weep. After washing his face, he returns and commands that the meal be served.
The layout of the banquet is somewhat unique, since Egyptians refuse to dine with Hebrews (“since that would be abhorrent (toeva) to the Egyptians” – כִּי תוֹעֵבָה הִוא לְמִצְרָיִם). Accordingly, the brothers, Yosef, and the Egyptians are all served separately. However, the brothers are arranged in birth order opposite Yosef, so that he can see them. As they are seated, their shock at the ordering is evident. In addition, all are served well, but Binyamin’s portion is five times that of the other brothers.
Yosef’s Goblet Ruse
After the banquet, Yosef orders that each brother’s bag, again, be filled with rations with his money on top. However, he adds a twist this time: Yosef’s own silver goblet is to be placed at the top of Binyamin’s pack.
The brothers depart at first light. When they leave the boundary of the city, Yosef instructs his steward to follow them and say: “Why did you repay good with evil? It is the very one from which my master drinks and which he uses for divination. It was a wicked thing for you to do!” (לָמָּה שִׁלַּמְתֶּם רָעָה תַּחַת טוֹבָה: הֲלוֹא זֶה אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁתֶּה אֲדֹנִי בּוֹ וְהוּא נַחֵשׁ יְנַחֵשׁ בּוֹ הֲרֵעֹתֶם אֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם).
Yosef’s steward does so, but the brothers, naturally, deny the accusation. In fact, they proclaim that anyone found with the goblet will be put to death. The steward says he will accept that, except that rather than put to death, he will take the guilty party as a slave. Having no reason to fear, the brothers hasten to lower their bags, and the steward proceeds to search them.
When he turns up the goblet in Binyamin’s bag, the brothers tear their clothes (a sign of mourning). They then turn around and return to Yosef in the city.
Yosef admonishes them, saying, “Do you not know that a man like me practices divination?” (הֲלוֹא יְדַעְתֶּם כִּי נַחֵשׁ יְנַחֵשׁ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר כָּמֹנִי). The brothers prostrate themselves and pledge to all become his slaves. Yosef, however, insists that they all return to their father in peace—except for Binyamin.
The Haftarah for Miketz
[Melachim Alef 3:15-4:1]
Because Shabbat Chanukah usually falls out on Miketz, the haftarah for Miketz itself is not often read, but it does occur (when Rosh Hashana falls out on Shabbat and the year is chaser – meaning that Cheshvan and Kislev will each have 29 days). The designated haftarah for Miketz tells the famous story of the two mothers who approach Melech Shlomo, both claiming that a baby is hers. In a prophetic dream—the connection to our parsha—Shlomo is granted the solution to the conundrum. He thus tells the woman that he will cut the baby in half in order to satisfy them both. The child’s true mother, of course, immediately refuses the solution, revealing the veracity of her claim and confirming Shlomo’s manifest wisdom.
The Haftarah for Shabbat Chanukah
When Miketz falls on Shabbat Chanukah, as it often does, the maftir is Bemidbar 7:42-47, which describes the dedication (lower-case chanukah) of the Mishkan. (If it is also Rosh Chodesh Tevet, then a third Torah scroll is used to read the maftir for Rosh Chodesh prior to the the maftir for Chanukah.) The haftarah from Zecharia deals with a situation from the time of the prophet, which is the period of Shivat Zion (the return to Eretz Yisrael from the first Babylonian exile following the destruction of the first Beit ha-Mikdash). Then, too, the Jewish people faced a situation in which the destroyed Temple was defiled and the second Beit ha-Mikdash had to be rededicated. Zechariah’s vision details the heavenly purification of a Kohen Gadol named Yehoshua, who served in the first Beit ha-Mikdash and acts as a sanctified “bridge” between them, much like the Maccabee’s miraculous jug of oil.
The Haftarah for a Second Shabbat Chanukah
[Melachim Alef 7:40-50]
When the first day of Chanukah falls on Shabbat, then the eighth day of Chanukah will also be a Shabbat, and the haftarah for a second Shabbat Chanukah is read. It describes in detail, fittingly, the Menorah in the first Beit ha-Mikdash built by Melech Shlomo.
Image: James Tissot, “Joseph Dwelleth in Egypt,” c. 1896-1902.