Saturday 28th December 2019 6TH light of Hanukkah 30th Kislev 5780
PARASHAT MIKETZ Herschel
Genesis 41:1-44:17; Zechariah 2:14 – 4:17; John 10:22-28
It happened at the end of two years to the day – vay’hi miketz sh’natayim yamim - Pharaoh was dreaming
The NKJV version begins ‘when two full years had passed…”. The Chumash emphasizes ‘to the day’. Why the precision of the language?
In order to understand why Torah is so accurate with its language, we need to examine the context. Joseph was unfairly imprisoned on trumped up charges of sexual misconduct with Potiphar’s wife. He found himself in prison together with Pharaoh’s baker and butler who both had dreams. Joseph accurately interpreted the dreams; the chief cupbearer would be restored to his position within 3 days while the baker unfortunately, would be put to death. And, it happened exactly as Joseph had predicted. And, Joseph had asked the cupbearer to “remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison” (Gen 40:14). But, he forgot all about Joseph languishing in prison. “The chief cupbearer, however, “did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” (Gen 40:23).
Two years later, to the day, suddenly the cupbearer remembers Joseph when Pharaoh has some troubling dreams that all the wise men of Egypt could not explain.
Why does Torah mention ‘at the end of two years”? There are a few possible reasons for Joseph being imprisoned for the additional 2 years:
A period of further refinement
The work of sanctification was not yet complete. Joseph required a further 2 years of imprisonment before he was ready to become the vessel of redemption for his parents, brothers and their families. Hosea 11:1 says that “out of Egypt, I have called forth my son”. This prophecy still had to be fulfilled. Multiple fulfillments of this single verse. Joseph, Miriam and the baby Yeshua also went down to and came out of Egypt.
An appointed time
Both the Tanach and new covenant speaks about ‘times and seasons’ that are in the hands of God. Daniel 2 says that ‘HaShem changes the times and seasons.’ There is an appointed time when prophesied events are to take place. At the appointed time, not a moment too soon and not a moment too late, Joseph was delivered from the dungeon.
The midrash offers a 3rd possibility
The Midrash explains that this was because Joseph should have placed his trust in G‑d, not the butler. Why was it wrong for Joseph to ask the butler for help? Was he not meant to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity placed in his path?
The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the person who trusts in G‑d, and G‑d will be his security” (Jer 17:7). The Midrash explains that this verse refers to Joseph. Joseph fulfilled the first half of this verse, but not the second. He trusted G‑d to provide an opportunity for salvation. He believed that G‑d had placed the butler in his path. But once the butler arrived, Joseph looked to him for redemption. The butler became his security, not G‑d. This is a possible interpretation.
A fourth possible reason for the additional 2 years in prison
The rabbis offer the explanation that ‘at the end of two full years” indicates the HaShem had appointed an ‘end’ to the number of years that He would allow Joseph to be imprisoned. This corresponds to the final redemption ‘which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7).
The three Torah sections (Vayeishev, Mikeitz and Vayigash) that relate the story of Joseph and his brothers, are always read before, during or immediately after the festival of Hanukkah. Since “to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Hanukkah is essentially the celebration of light overcoming darkness with the menorah at the focus of this supposed miracle. It is therefor not too surprising that we see the linkage between our parasha and Hanukkah in the haftarah portion taken from the book of Zechariah:
1 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.
2 And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.
3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left."
4 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?"
And, the answer to the vision of the Menorah that Zechariah saw is provided in verse 6 of chapter 4: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts”.
There is physical light caused by the sun, the moon and the stars. However, true spiritual light radiates from Yeshua who is the light of the world that exposes all darkness. He is also the light of life! He spoke of this twice in John’s Gospel:
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:4–5)
What does Yeshua mean by these statements? It is often helpful to other Jewish sources that can help us uncover the deeper meaning behind the Apostolic record, especially Yeshua’s teachings. In this instance, the midrash helps to illuminate the implications behind Yeshua’s words.
The Midrash Rabbah comments on a passage in Daniel that says, “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him” (Daniel 2:22). It records an interpretation of this passage that connects it with the Messiah: R. Abba of Serungayya said: “And the light dwells with him” alludes to the royal Messiah. (B’reisheet Rabbah 1:6)
Even more telling is a passage from another midrash that connects the light of Isaiah 60 with the primordial light of Creation, and then links the two passages together as a reference to the Messiah:
What is the meaning of “in your light we see light” (Isaiah 60:1)? For what light is Israel waiting? This is the light of Messiah as it says, “And God saw the light that it was good” (Genesis 1:4). This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, observed Messiah and his deeds before the creation of the world and concealed His Messiah under His throne until his generation.” (Pesikta Rabbati 36).
Over 2000 years ago, Yeshua began the process of this restoration of all things. His light has been spreading throughout the earth and Matthew, quoting from the prophet Isaiah, says that this is an expectation of the Messiah that only Yeshua fulfilled. Yeshua’s light continues to shine upon the nations and individuals who yet dwell in darkness: The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16, quoting Isaiah 60:1)
Family, our calling is simple; we – every single one of us – are called to reflect the light of Messiah who dwells in us by His Ru’ach. And then, Israel as a nation set apart in God’s service is called to be ohr l’goyim – a light shining into the nations.
Now, Miketz generally is read on the on the Shabbat during the 8-day celebration of Hanukkah. Miketz means ‘at the end of’. Of course, its immediate context is Joseph being released from imprisonment. But, when an astute Torah scholar hears and comprehends the word “Mikeitz – “at the end of,” he exclaims, “Aha! This is a reference to the ‘end of days’ – Keitz HaYamim’ - קץ הימים.
More importantly than the miracle of the military victory or the miracle of the oil, is the need for God's people to resist the forces of compromise especially in the midst of darkness and oppression. In the case of the Jewish people of those days, a small group of faithful followers of God, called the Maccabees, resisted the attempt on the part of foreign oppressors to force the Jews to conform to pagan practices.
Many believers seem to think that we can embrace the ways of the prevailing society while not losing touch with God. It seems that we don't understand how incompatible the values and ethics of this world when compared to the values and ethics of God’s Kingdom!
Having mentioned this, allow me to return to the opening verse of our portion: “at the end of two years”. I want to draw your attention to a between Miketz – ‘at the end of two days’ – and two scriptures. The one is from Hosea 6 and the other, from Ephesians chapter 2.
Come, let us return to Adonai. For He has torn, but He will heal us. He has smitten, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us. On the third day He will raise us up, and we will live in His presence. So let us know, let us strive to know Adonai. Like dawn His going forth is certain. He will come to us like the rain, like the latter rain watering the earth.
To correctly interpret Hosea 6, verses 1-3, we have to backtrack to Hosea chapter 5. In chapter 5, HaShem is rebuking Israel for her apostacies and idolatries. Israel had moved so far away from keeping God’s mitzvot that Hosea prophecies that judgment is inevitable. In Hosea 5, Israel acknowledged her sickness but instead of making teshuvah and returning to HaShem, they turned to the king of Assyria and paid taxes to him hoping that he would be able to deliver them! However, the text says that the king was unable to heal them (Hosea 5:13 – Ephraim went to Assyria and sent envoys to a warring king. But he cannot heal you nor will he cure your wound). Then, HaShem responds by saying:
I will go and return to My place until they admit their guilt. Then they will seek My face. In their distress they will seek Me earnestly:
In Hebraic thought, the face of God is linked to the mouth of God i.e. the words that HaShem utters. But, the face of God is also linked to blessing. The Aaronic Benediction in Numbers 6:27-29 declares: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The LORD turn His countenance (i.e. face) toward you and give you peace”. His face is tantamount to His blessing and His peace imparted to you.
“In trouble, they will seek Me earnestly”. In other words, God’s judgment leads us to repentance. “It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance” (Rom 2:4). Most of us do not consider HaShem’s judgment as His goodness.
Now, the Hebrew word for judgment is ‘tsar’, which is also the word for ‘narrow’. God’s judgment constrains man from going off into deeper waters of sin and defilement. It narrows the way and squeezes us into falling on our knees and crying out for HaShem’s mercy! Tsar is an old Hebrew word for ‘pressure’ or ‘stress’.
In 2 Cor 5:14, Sha’ul says that ‘it is the love of Messiah that constrains him’ to preach the Good News. Yeshua said it is a narrow way and Paul experienced this not in the sense of restriction with fewer options to choose from. Rather, it was his fear of God the constrained him to preach the Gospel to the Jew first and also the Greek, no matter the cost. And, what Sha’ul discovered that the narrow way is the way of liberation and true freedom.
Rabbi Baruch Korman suggests that like revival, the judgment of God comes quickly and it often takes us by surprise. Furthermore, says the good rabbi, the only thing that can protect us from this constraining judgment, is the truth of the prophetic scriptures. In other words, being equipped with the knowledge of the prophetic scriptures and thus, forewarned, we can face whatever curve balls life throws at us with confidence, not a confidence in our own abilities, but a confidence that is rooted in God alone. The Father convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgment and therefore, we are quick to recognize God’s times and seasons, so that we can respond by making teshuvah quickly! So, at the conclusion of Hosea chapter 5, HaShem made a very strong case that Israel warranted judgment because they had neglected God’s ways and instructions.
In Hosea 6:1 we find Israel’s response - “Come, let us return to the Lord”. For He has torn, but He will heal us. He has smitten, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us.
When will revival come? At the end of the 2nd day which of course is the dawn of the 3rd day! It is on the 3rd day, that He will raise us up’. Whenever you see ‘two days” or ‘at the end of two days”, it is a reference to the end times.
The number three is used in the Torah to mediate between two seemingly opposing or contradictory values. The third value mediates, reconciles, and connects the two. The number three expresses the connection between what is past and what is future, what is from above and what is from below.
Now, the Father has already manifested his complete victory over sin and death when Yeshua rose from the grave on the 3rd day, the firstfruits of those who were asleep.
It is Yeshua who was struck and brutalized on our behalf (torn) and the evidence is that at the moment of His death, the parochet before the Holy of Holies was torn from heaven to earth (kriah). Isaiah taught that by His stripes, we are healed. So, as Hosea prophesied, the Father has torn and healed, but not us. He applied this to His Son Yeshua, in order that we might be revived, renewed and raised up on the 3rd day! This is what it means to be “in Christ”, a term that Paul uses dozens of times in his writings. To be “in Christ’, is to be assured of the ultimate victory!
The Father will judge our unbelief, our lukewarmness that often leads to compromise with the world system. But take heart, at the end of the 2nd day - at the dawn of the 3rd day - the heavens will release Yeshua to return as Mashiach ben David, the conquering king riding not on a donkey, but on a majestic white horse. We are still living in the period of the 2nd day, but in Messiah, we already have had a foretaste of what the 3rd day will be like. But it is not yet here in fullness.
In Ephesians, chapter 2, Paul wrote that even while we were once dead in our sins,
“God was rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us. Even when we were dead in our trespasses, HaShem accomplished three things on our behalf in and through Yeshua:
He made us alive together with Messiah. (By grace you have been saved!) And
He raised us up with Him and
He seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua— to show in the olam ha-ba the measureless richness of His grace in kindness toward us in Messiah Yeshua” (Eph 2:4-7)
Over 2000 years ago, when Yeshua rose from the grave, all who confessed Him as Mashiach and Lord, were made alive. We are currently in the process of being raised up by choosing to be separate from all that defiles in this world. We will only be seated with Him in heavenly places on His return, when mortality is replaced with immortality and this happens on the 3rd day.
However, while we are still being prepared to reign with Him, we are and will yet face many challenges in this world which are the refining fires of our sanctification. This is a major aspect of life in this world while we are yet living in the 2nd day. So, I want to encourage to hold on to this promise of being seated with Him in heavenly places.
To the Laodicean community - the church which has succumbed to the spirit of secular humanism and compromise – to this end-time community Yeshua speaks!
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. To the one who overcomes I will grant the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I myself overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Ru’ach is saying to Messiah's communities."
This hope and promise should motivate and encourage us at all times and in all seasons to ‘press on to know the Lord’, no matter the challenges that are before us! May you and I be included learn the lessons during this 2nd day so that we will be the overcomers celebrating our risen Lord’s return on that promised 3rd day!
Shabbat shalom and Hanukkah Same’ach!