Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #10: Mikketz (At the end) Genesis 41:1-44:17
Haftarah: Ma’lakhim Aalef (1 Kings) 3:15-4:1
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:9-16
During most years, this parashah coincides with Chanukah. I do not believe this is just a coincidence. I submit there is a deeper meaning that we will explore this morning in the context of Joseph’s attitude toward his success and Yahshua’s attitude during his earthly ministry.
Joseph was called to interpret Pharaoh’s dream when the cupbearer is suddenly reminded that Joseph correctly interpreted his and the baker’s dream. Pharaoh said to Joseph; “I dreamt a dream, but there is no one who can interpret it. Now I heard it said of you that you hear a dream to interpret it.’ “Joseph answered Pharaoh saying, ‘That is beyond me! G-d will respond to Pharaoh’s welfare.” (Genesis 41:15-16).
Joseph has a choice to make at this point. He can take credit for the G-d given revelation that occurred when he interpreted the ministers’ dreams and deceive Pharaoh into thinking Joseph has a talent of his own (yetzer hara), or he can glorify his G-d and express a confidence that G-d will act in Pharaoh’s best interest (yetzer tov). What a temptation this opportunity to grab the glory could present to those who are not G-d-centered! Joseph would be able to request virtually anything. Yet, he immediately responds that G-d is behind his ability to interpret the dreams. Joseph’s obedience to and love for G-d is so ingrained in his heart and mind that he did not have to weigh his possible responses before making the right choice. This brings us to another kabbalistic concept I will briefly address.
There are three rationales or agendas for giving. This would seem contradictory to our discussion of Joseph choosing not to “take” credit for interpreting the dream but it is not. One rationale for giving is to satisfy our animal soul; similar to that exhibited by Esau. This is the part of our soul that is superficial yet instinctive. We may give a gift because we expect” something in return. You know the routine. One year for Chanukkah you give a nice gift with the expectation you will receive a nice gift in return. To your disappointment, you may receive a jar of borsht! The next Chanukkah you give that person something without as much thought put into its choosing as you did the year before. This illustrates a response based on the animal part of our soul.
The second rationale addresses our egos. We may give or do something because we want to be acknowledged, recognized, or revered in some way. Unfortunately, many of us were raised this way. Go potty in the right receptacle, get a prize. There is nothing wrong with reinforcing good behavior but we tend to reward behaviors that should be normal and routine according to G-d’s Torah. We should not expect rewards for doing our jobs, opening doors for others; attending Shabbat services, etc. We all know people who boast about such things unaware they are negating rewards from G-d for what is in reality our reasonable service!
The third rationale for giving brings us back to Joseph. In his refusal to accept (take) credit for interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and giving the credit to G-d to whom it rightly belongs. This behavior illustrates Joseph’s spiritual soul connection, to G-d. That is, Joseph was connecting outside himself; beyond himself to G-d through the highest level of his soul. Viewed from the point of view of man’s service to G‑d, these levels of soul may be described as five ascending levels of awareness of, and communion with, G‑d. They are called (in ascending order) Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and yechida. Regarding these levels of soul, the Zohar states that when a person is born, he is given a Nefesh from the world of Asiya, the lowest world, representing the greatest concealment of G‑d. If, through his divine service and proper action, he makes himself worthy, he is then given Ruach on the plane of Yetzira. With greater effort, he can earn the revelation of Neshama, paralleling the world of Beriya. If he purifies himself greatly, he may be able to attain the level of Chaya paralleling Atzilut, and even yechida — the G‑d consciousness of the level of Adam and beyond. This is the level Joseph exhibited through his humility and love of G-d. This level transcends reality as we know it; it is always connected to G-d. Joseph had a connection to G-d few of us will ever know but is available if we but continue to seek G-d’s ways and humble ourselves in total submission to G-d’s will.
Similarly, Pharaoh could have subsequently sent Joseph back to jail, but he didn’t. However, Joseph was unaware of how Pharaoh would respond. Nevertheless, Joseph stood on his faith and left his fate to G-d no matter the consequences.
This was the attitude of Mattisyahu and the Chashmonaim, otherwise known as the Maccabees, during the time of the Chanukkah victory. They could have told everyone including themselves that their unlikely military victory over the Greeks as a reflection of their brilliant strategy. But like Joseph, the Maccabees understood the true source of their strength and military success. They didn’t establish annual commemorative parades in which they would display their latest technology in weapons. Rather, they lit the Menorah which publicized G-d’s control over the world and rededicated the Temple. They knew only G-d could have allowed them to defeat the Greeks in battle. G-d blessed them by performing the miracle of Chanukkah in which one day’s oil lasted eight days. Of course, we as Messianic Jews also realize the Light of the world, Yahshua, was conceived during this time as a more stunning act of G-d’s kindness and blessings on mankind. The Shamash candle was lit as Yahshua’s human role began in Mary’s womb.
The Greeks were not only physically defeated in the battle resulting in the celebration of Chanukah, they were also defeated spiritually. The Greek philosophy similar to the Hellenistic- based philosophy of the United States today, was to stress the power and wisdom of man. We may now understand this attitude reflects an egotistical, narcissistic paradigm. The Greeks worshipped many gods just as our society encourages each individual to identify G-d in his or her own way, even if he or she considers him or herself a god! The Greeks most emphasized the concept of the perfection of mankind; they believed in a man-centered universe in which the purpose of the gods was to serve the desires of man. They emphasized the beauty of the human body and the domination of human reason over any other form of wisdom. This helps us understand why they forbade the Jewish people from observing circumcision and learning Torah. Circumcision is a reflection of the belief that man must submit to G-d and remove a very personal and sensitive part of his anatomy as part of one of the requirements of participating in one of the covenants of G-d as established with Avraham. The Greeks believed that cutting away part of the body was destructive. Learning Torah involves prayerful and diligent study out of love and obedience to G-d to train his mind to understand how G-d want us to relate to Him and to other humans. IN contrast, the Greeks believed that man’s reason alone was the ultimate source of wisdom and that he should not subjugate it to anything else. Similarly, today people we pay money to have breasts and faces lifted, stomachs and thighs sucked and tucked, wrinkles injected with Botox, and make-up permanently applied. By the way, men are increasingly seeking many of these services. Some people are even paying thousands of dollars to change gender.
Our society is in the process of enacting laws that prevent the placement of anything that relates to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in public places, openly supporting antinomianism and others’ rights to worship other gods. The thorn in their flesh and that of Hasatan is the continued existence of true believers. This is why the Greeks and anti-Semites today want to defeat and eradicate observant Jews, including Messianic Jewish believers and the nation of Israel altogether. Everywhere else, when the Greeks invaded physically or philosophically, he was known as kind to his new citizens. Consider WWII and the love for Americans who rescued those areas ravished by Hitler or the Japanese. The victorious Greeks in the past and Americans in more current history wanted to show new advances, and preach the benefits of democracy, science, sports, and idolatrous obsession with capitalism as the American dream and a perfect epitome of life for everyone. Yet for the Jew or anyone who follows the written and living Torah of YHVH, Greeks and all antinomians saw and still see a people who were and are not interested in attributing their success to themselves or worshipping the latest and greatest toys, celebrating pagan holidays, desecrating Shabbat, eating forbidden foods, or worshipping any man just as Joseph lived. G-d is the center of the observant Jew’s life (See Roams chapters 2-3 for who is a Jew). All glory and honor, praise, supplications, and worship are given to G-d. G-d is the One Who supplies every need including grace, strength, and peace to endure every trial; and provided Yahshua as G-d incarnate to physically show us the way to salvation. The Greeks could not tolerate this approach to life and neither can antinomians today. It threatens the entire modern philosophy of self-centered, self-sufficient existence. So, like the Greeks back then, antinomians today are determined to wipe out Jews and invalidate G-d’s laws, statutes, mandates, and regulations. If you need just one example, take a little time to study Christian doctrine. A little time is all you’ll need to identify the anti-Semitic agenda in the mistranslation of G-d’s Torah and the misunderstanding of Paul’s explanation of the differences in rabbinic law and the continued validity and reliability of G-d’s Torah (2 Pet. 3:16). The battle of Chanukkah, like the meeting between Pharaoh and Joseph, was a clash between two ideologies- one with G-d in the center and the other with man at the center. The humility of Joseph and the Maccabees should teach us that no matter the time on earth’s historical timeline, G-d is in control. All we need to do is internalize G-d’s Torah to the point where we are not afraid to humbly submit ourselves to G-d’s control; even in the most difficult of circumstances. He will provide for His people and he promises to neither leave nor forsake us, just as described in the life of Joseph ( Gen. 39:21-23; 41:39;Deut. 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 3:15-4:1
This week’s haftarah echoes our parashah with the opening words: “And Solomon awoke, and behold it had been a dream.” Pharaoh also experienced dreams. Although not included in this haftarah, it was during one of Solomon’s dreams that YHVH granted Solomon his wisdom greater than that of any other human at the time. The haftarah provides a classic illustration of Solomon’s G-d-given wisdom demonstrated before all of Israel. Keeping with our purpose in life, G-d was glorified through this demonstration of impartial wisdom and G-d orchestrated this event to affirm that Solomon was indeed blessed by G-d with wisdom.
Two prostitutes who were arguing over possession of a child approach King Solomon to settle their argument. They lived together in the same house, and each had given birth to an infant three days apart. One night, one of the infants was accidentally crushed to death by his mother, and one woman accused the other of switching infants in order to have a live baby. Each claimed the living child was hers. King Solomon asks that a sword be brought and orders that the child be cut in half with each woman receiving half. At this point, the real mother of the living child intercedes and exhorts the king to give the child to the other woman so that he would live, while the other woman said: “It will be neither yours nor mine. Divide it up!” We read in 1 Kings 3:27; “Then the king answered, ‘Give the living child to the first woman, don’t kill it, because she is its mother.’ “All Israel heard of the decision the king had made and held the king in awe, for they saw that G-d’s wisdom was in him, enabling him to render justice properly.” Is it not interesting that the people realized G-d’s justice was right and true then, yet forgot it so quickly they chose not to apply it as many choose not to do today to His statutes, commands, mandates, and laws? Even Solomon fell into idolatry later in life. The Kingdom of Israel suffered greatly with G-d scattering the northern kingdom for its rebelliousness and Judah suffered also. Yet, G-d will continue to use these events and the whole of Israel’s history for His ultimate glory.
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:9-16
This is the same passage covered in last week’s parashah and explained in detail last week. I encourage you to read it in the context of this week’s parashah and compare it to last week’s teaching on the comparison between Joseph and Yahshua. Once again the consistency and reliability of G-d’s Torah is revealed. The story of Joseph in the Torah provides us a human example of Yahshua’s life on earth described in the B’rit Chadashah. The similarity between the two described so many years apart should cause people to at least consider this irrefutable evidence that man could not have written the Bible without the authority, wisdom, and Hand of G-d. Once again we get a hint of Yahshua’s character and His life through the description of Joseph’s life to which we as humans can more easily relate and better understand the teachings of Yahshua and the coming Kingdom of G-d. Consider that the Lamb (Yahshua) will be the Temple in the New Jerusalem! There will be no need of a physical structure, and there will be no need for the sun or moon to light it. G-d’s Sh’khinah will give it light and its lamp is the Lamb (Rev. 21:22-23). May we consider these things as we continue to celebrate the miracle of Yahshua’s conception; the Light of the world through a human being, and the miracle of the oil provided to light the Menorah as a sign of the Light to come. May it be soon and in our days.
Shabbat Shalom v’chag sameach,
Rabbi Tamah Davis