Saturday, December 19, 2009

Parshas Mikeitz - Time's Up

Parshas Mikeitz begins with a title that informs us of the passage of time. But while telling us how much time has passed seems an ordinarily reasonable enough thing, the Torah previously and afterward had not been very focused on giving us that kind of information. Instead mostly the details of the passage of time have to be inferred from genealogies and events. Why then the grand pronouncement now of Mikeitz?

Mikeitz marks the departure of Yosef from prison and into ruling Egypt as Pharaoh's viceroy, almost in an instant he is plucked from prison, rushed through, given time only to shave and dress, and then rushed in to stand before Pharaoh. The significance of this is that Yosef had acted prematurely in the past. He had related his dreams to his brothers and father, long before the proper time. He had asked the cupbearer to intervene on his behalf, long before it was time. And now finally the time had arrived.

After 2 years in prison, echoing the 210 years that his descendants would be enslaved in Egypt, and the 2000 of the Great Exile, Yosef's time had finally come. And while another man might have given in to despair and abandoned any notion of a divine plan, on Yosef's first appearance before Pharaoh, he informed the ruler that any interpretation he gave would come from G-d and that the dreams illustrated the divine plan.

His experiences until this point had stripped away Yosef's youthful immaturity enabling him to recognize and take the long view. It was a skill that he would need for though Yosef was no longer a slave in prison, as a viceroy he was effectively the second most powerful man in Egypt, and yet a slave to Pharaoh. He was unable to leave the land of Egypt for more than a brief interval to bury his own father, and he would be forced to pass along a message across the generations to whoever might serve as G-d's messenger when it came time for his descendants and those of his brethren to be taken out of exile, to carry his body out of Egypt and back to the land that he been kidnapped from.

Yosef was effectively the first Hebrew slave of many, and his ability to wait until the Mikeitz arrived, until the time of slavery had ended, was to serve as a template for the Jews who would go on to be enslaved and in exile, in age after age, and land after land. Yet despite his sufferings or rather because of them, Yosef had learned to wait until the time of his redemption had arrived. And even in the darkest prisons, he could wait patiently for the divine plan to be fulfilled.

As the last day of Chanukah ends, we continue on in the cycle of the Hebrew calendar, the days, months and years, the commemorations and observances that mark the passage of time in our exile. Until our own Mikeitz arrives, and we are rushed out of our prisons, into the light, to stand before the Ruler of the World, and to know that at last the time when our dreams and prophecies have been fulfilled has finally arrived.

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