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Torah Portion

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Torah Portion: Miketz
Genesis 41:1
by: Rabbi Stephen M Wylen


After two years time, Pharaoh had a dream that he was standing by the Nile .....

(Genesis 41:1)


After Joseph interpreted the dreams of the butcher and the baker in Pharaoh's dungeon, why did God decree that Joseph would languish in the dungeon for two more years before his opportunity for redemption would arise? Following is one interpretation, based on the symbolism of the number "2".


The author of the Safat Emet has taught us: ever since Adam's first sin in the Garden of Eden, good and evil have been thoroughly mingled in every creature. There is no holy deed that is not also tinged with a bit of the shadow of negation, or which does not contain a shard of the unholy shells of impurity. We find this duality everywhere. All is doubled: "after two years time" - two years, a year of purity and a year of darkness. Only in the future time will this duality be eliminated. At that time, in the words of the prophet Zecharia, "God will be one and God's name will be one." (From the Otzer Hamakhshavah shel haHasidut, in Itture Torah ad loc.)


In judging another person or another person's deeds we should be very careful not to ascribe a single motive, either holy or unholy. Every human deed derives from a mixture of motivations, some selfless and some selfish. Every wrongful deed still contains a spark of the holy, and every good deed contains a taint of personal motive. This does not mean that there is no distinction between good and evil, just that the distinction in practice is never absolute as it is in theory. For this reason we must be subtle and wise in judgment, and never be too quick to utterly condemn or to overly praise any deed or character trait of a person.

We must apply the same criteria in judging ourselves. Knowing that the human psyche is of a composite nature, containing good and evil motives at all times, we must not be too harsh in judging ourselves, and neither should we ever find ourselves utterly innocent.

Joseph our brother is called in Jewish tradition Yosef Ha-Tsaddik, Joseph the Righteous. Even our most righteous brother had to spend years struggling with himself to discover the highest aspect of his nature. He was to need this self-knowledge because, as we see in the rest of this week's Torah portion and next week's, when his brothers reappear before him he has to transform his plans from plotting vengeance to seeking reconciliation, which he eventually accomplishes.

May we all be constantly engaged in the worthy struggle to overcome the kelipah, the shell of impurity, and to discover the source of kedushah, holiness, within our own souls.


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