There are three different ways that people view the Torah. Some say that the stories in the Torah are merely symbolic and should not be taken as truth, chas v’sholom. The traditional opinion is that every story in the Torah is absolute truth and is an actual record of events. The third view is that of Chassidus. In Chassidus and Kabbalah it says, “The Torah speaks about the upper realms and alludes to the lower realms.”1 In plain English, this means, every story in the Torah records an actual event, but that event is much more significant than the actual physical event. It has ramifications and parallels in the spiritual world. Each event in the Torah, since it transcends the limits of time and space, relates to every Jew, at every stage in history.
Parshas Mikeitz, which is always read during Chanukah, centers on Yosef’s release from prison. According to Chazal, Yosef is representative of the entire Jewish people.2 Yosef’s name means “increase”, which can be explained as an infinite potential for growth3 , as every Jew possesses a neshamah that contains a cheilek Eloka mi’ma’al mamash4 (an actual part of Hashem) and Hashem is not limited.
Yosef’s prison symbolizes the body and our existence in the physical world, which both serve to limit and constrain the limitlessness of our neshamos, concealing the G-dliness that exists in everything. Yosef’s release from prison alludes to the end of limits. He ceases being a prisoner and becomes the second most powerful man in Egypt. Yosef’s rise represents the mission of every Jew in this world. We are all here to reveal the G-dliness inherent in every aspect of the physical world, from the minutiae to the greatest events. Sometimes, there are limits that constrain this ability, but they are always temporary. Just as Yosef rose from prisoner to viceroy, each one of us becomes a beacon of light, showing G-d’s existence and Providence in this world, through our thoughts, speech and actions.
The name of the parsha, Mikeitz, can actually mean “at the end”5 or “at the beginning”6 , which raises the question of whether “mikeitz” is the end of Yosef’s struggles, or the beginning of his triumph. One opinion states that it refers to his challenges, since the darkness is most intense right before the dawn.7 The other opinion states that it is the beginning of Yosef’s triumph. Despite the difference of opinons, both interpretations of “mikeitz’” are connected. Even the darkest moments of golus are G-dly and contain actual sparks of Hashem. Facing and overcoming this darkeness releases the G-dliness and ushers in the first moments of geulah.8
May Yosef’s journey from golus to geulah be a mirror for our own times, as we face these terribly dark and cold moments before the dawning of the brightest lights that will shine forth with the everlasting Geulah Shleimah bimheirah v’yameinu.
1. Asarah Maamaros, Maamar Chakor HaDin, sec. 3, ch. 22; Shaloh, p. 13b, 161a.
2. Therefore the entire Jewish people are at times referred to by the name Yosef, as Psalms 80:2 states: “You lead Yosef as [a shepherd leads] sheep.” See Rashi and Metzudas David to that verse.
3. See Toras Chayim, Bereishis, 87b.
4. Tanya, ch. 2.
5 . Rashi in our Torah reading.
6. See the gloss of Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra to Numbers 13:25, Deuteronomy 15:1, 31:10, Psalms119:96. See also the gloss of the Maharsha to Niddah 58b.
7. Likukutei Diburim, Vol. I, p. 68a, b [English trans. p. 150].
8. This enables us to appreciate the interrelation between the name Mikeitz and the Torah reading which follows. Even according to the interpretation that mikeitz refers to the last two years of Yosef’s imprisonment, it is still appropriate that it serve as the name of the reading dealing with his redemption. For it was the final challenges of his imprisonment that brought about his redemption.