Looks are Deceiving

5780 Kislev 30 5780 מקץ, ל׳ כסלו תש׳׳פ

In this parashah Miketz, the brothers acknowledge what they did to Joseph when they sold him to Egypt after planning to kill him. They lied to their father and held that secret from him for many years. Joseph had been wrenched from the comfort of his protected life with his father and went from one difficult, even unjust situation to another until he landed once again in prison. Yet even in prison, we see how blessed he was because he was so trustworthy. He had two cellmates from the court of Pharaoh which show us that Joseph was sent to a special prison for the aristocracy. Joseph was able to interpret their dreams and asked the one who was restored to his position to tell the Pharaoh about him. Two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams, and no one was able to interpret them. The cupbearer finally remembered Joseph and he was brought before the Pharaoh. Here we see the process of change that Joseph went through, from being very arrogant to being humble. The Creator works with each of us, allows us to go through difficult experiences in our lives because we have tunnel vision but when we experience these trials, our vision expands. Then we realize that we are not the center of the universe.

The brothers have a very important role to play. The passage in Gen 42:7 that caught my eye, tells us that Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. We live in a society in which our outward appearance is more important than who we are. Everything is a masquerade. We have lost the capacity to understand our substance and instead we play a role. Joseph fell in that trap, but he emerged from it. He had ascended to become Viceroy over all Egypt second only to Pharaoh. The people looked upon him as a god, like they did Pharaoh. Judah and his brothers bowed to him as an important person but certainly not as a god. They understood that he was simply a man who held a lot of power. Today we live in an environment where we make idols of everyone. I know that I won’t be popular when I say this, but there is a 16-year-old girl who travels the world speaking about the environment. Everyone looks at her as a goddess. People are fed and told what to believe but I want to guide you to search out the truth for yourself and not believe it simply because someone told you.

Joseph is a great example never abandoning his trust in the Creator no matter what he went through. He kept his identity and took charge of the spiritual life of his household. Externally he looked and spoke like an Egyptian, but he remained a son of Jacob, of Israel. He wasn’t an Israelite because of his mother Rachel but because of his father Jacob. His other brothers were Israelite also because of Jacob not due to their mothers, Leah, Zilpah and Bilhah. It would have been so easy for Joseph to see himself as a god in that environment, but he guarded who he was in his heart. This shows me that the outer garb doesn’t make the person. Today how we look is more important than who we are. Joseph kept his values even when he could have been vindictive and destroyed his brothers. He remembered his dream in which all eleven brothers bowed down to him. There were only ten here without Benjamin which was why he sent for him. He knew their story, understood their language but it wasn’t the time to reveal who he was. He presented himself to them as an Egyptian and spoke through an interpreter but was listening carefully as they spoke among themselves in Hebrew. He realized that they had grown up, that their hearts had changed when he heard that they were sure that they were receiving this kind of treatment because of what they had done to him. He needed to test them to see if they had changed their attitude not only toward him but toward his brother, Benjamin the other son of his father’s beloved Rachel.

What can we learn from this? Many of us are very gullible and accept whatever people tell us. We need to be able to discern truth from fiction, to not be fooled by externals but to look within the heart of the issues. Most religious people and politicians work for your attention and acceptance. They will tell you whatever you need to hear to make you feel good even if they don’t do it. How many promises do they make which they never fulfill? The Torah teaches us to be true to ourselves whether we are dressed as a king or a pauper, and that our value lies within. Joseph always had the intention of doing the right thing. Even though his wife was a gentile, Joseph taught Torah to his two sons who became his substitutes to form two tribes of Israel.

We are celebrating Hanukkah which is now losing its meaning. Many Jews have a Hanukkah bush instead of a Christmas tree and give gifts for eight days instead of on. We are losing our identity as the Chosen People and choosing once again to assimilate. We need to teach our children the right values not only look to make them feel good. Hanukkah is called the Festival of Lights reminding us that we are to be ohr le goyim, a light to the nations. We are not to accommodate to this world but be steady in giving light. Even if we want to assimilate or disappear, the Creator won’t allow it. There is nothing greater than to do what the Creator has asked us …to enlighten others. How do we do it? We do it by not wearing a mask, by being ourselves wherever we are. We don’t need to perform instead the world needs to see us truly walking and honoring the Bore Olam. Joseph was a Shomer Torah in the most arduous situations and we need to do the same. Even if Joseph was a minority, he never bowed his head to false gods because he knew that there is only One. Let us follow his example.