Thursday, December 14, 2023

Parshas Mikeitz 5784




Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Miketz – Zos Chanukah

3 Teves 5784/ December 15, 2023


On Thursday mornings I have a weekly phone conversation with our older son Shalom, who is learning in Eretz Yisroel. Often our conversation centers on the parsha. Recently he asked me why the Matriarchs named their children after their own experiences? “She called him Reuven because Hashem saw my pain.” “She called him Shimon because Hashem heard that I was hated…” “She said this time my husband will accompany me because I gave birth to three sons. Therefore, she called him Levi” “This time I thank Hashem. Therefore, she called him Yehuda…” 

Does it make sense that for their entire lives the tribes bore a name based on how their mother felt when they were born?

It was an intriguing question that I had never thought about. (There are many things like that, particularly in the stories in Tanach. We learn the stories when we are young and therefore often take the details for granted.) I told Shalom I wanted to think about it.

The following week I came across the Medrash that states that when Shimon and Levi went to rescue their sister Dinah from Shechem, Dinah refused to leave until Shimon promised to marry her.

From when she was abducted by Shechem, Dinah had been objectified and she was afraid to leave after all that happened to her. By promising to marry her, Shimon demonstrated that he did not see her as debased. He recognized her shame and restored her dignity.

After seeing that Medrash, it struck me that when Leah named him Shimon it wasn’t merely because she felt Hashem had heard her own prayers at the time of his birth. Rather, because Leah felt so uplifted and encouraged when Hashem heard her cries, she wanted her child to live his life as one who hears the pain of others. She wanted her child to ensure that others would benefit from being heard, as she did. In other words, she didn’t name him Shimon simply to remember what occurred to her. His name was to become his mission for life - he was to be a listener who heard the pain of others.

That same idea can be applied to all the Shevatim. Leah named her oldest son Reuven, not only because Hashem saw her pain but so that he should live his whole life with a mission to recognize the pain of others and be sensitive to it. It was Reuven who stood up (albeit inappropriately) for the honor of his mother and moved Yaakov’s bed into her tent, and it was Reuven who saved Yosef when the brothers wanted to kill him.

Leah named her third son Levi because being her third son, Yaakov would need to accompany her and help her more. The mission of Shevet Levi are to be those who accompany Klal Yisroel as their spiritual guides and represent the nation in performing the Avodah.

Yehuda was named as an expression of Leah’s gratitude. Monarchy can only be granted to one who can admit to his own mishaps and has sufficient humility that allows him to be grateful to others.

Yissochor was named because Leah felt Hashem granted her reward for her efforts. Yissochor would live his life earning reward for engaging in Torah study.

Zevulon was named because Leah felt Yaakov would now make his main lodging with her since she bore six sons for him. Zevulon provided homes for Yissochor so that Yissochor could learn Torah.

The same can be applied to all the sons of Yaakov. It will also explain the names of Perez and Zorach, the later sons of Yehuda, and Menashe and Ephraim, the sons of Yosef.

When Rochel finally merited the birth of a son, she called him Yosef because Hashem has gathered her disgrace. Rashi explains that she would no longer be shamed for being barren. In addition, from then on when there would be a misdeed in the home, they would attribute it to the infant Yosef, and not to Rochel.

Yosef lived his life always assuaging the guilt of others. Even after the brothers had treated him so harshly and caused him so much pain, years later Yosef repeatedly comforted them and reassured them that he bore no ill feelings. He was always “gathering the guilt of others.”

The pasuk states that she also named him Yosef as a prayer that Hashem add another son.

Yosef also lived his life seeking to add to the welfare of others and increase the betterment of their lives. He was always focused on others and that is what made him worthy of leadership. He was trustworthy in the home of Potiphar, he concerned himself with the anguished appearance of his fellow prisoners - the chief butler and baker, and he offered unsolicited advice to Pharaoh about how to preserve his economy in the face of the impending famine.

Each day of Chanukah we state in Hallel, “Yosef Hashem - may Hashem add upon you and upon your children. Blessed are you to Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth.” We pray that Hashem adds blessings to us, as Yosef did for others.

On Chanukah we follow the practice of being mosef v’holech - adding one candle each night.

As we read the parshios that contain the saga of Yosef we remind ourselves that like Yosef, our task too is to always add blessing to others.

We read the parshios of the story of Yosef on Chanukah and seek to follow his example.

In addition, we seek to live up to the names/mandates/missions of all the tribes as well. We seek to see and hear the pain of others. We try to be there for others spiritually and physically. We seek to admit to our failures and to be grateful to others and to Hashem, to name a few.

We are called b’nei Yisroel. Yisroel refers to Yaakov’s relentless struggle to overcome his challenges. Our greatness lies in our ability to never give up and always maintain our struggle for greatness.

We are also called Jews, Judahs, leaders of the world. Like Yehuda we are worthy of leadership because we are willing to accept responsibility, despite the high cost of doing so, and we are always expressing our gratitude and unwavering allegiance to Hashem.

May we always live up to the example of our lofty ancestors.


Chanukah Sameiach & Freilichen & Lichtig Chanukah

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

         R’ Dani and Chani Staum