Miketz – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

The Parasha this week is Miketz which is described as a “conclusion” or “completion”. It is almost as if, when last week, where Joseph is sold into captivity, was the first episode of a serial. This “conclusion” was to take two years whilst Joseph languished in jail. Now we see Joseph moving from captivity to a position of power and status in Egypt.

Pharaoh gives Joseph power, but that gift comes at a price. He will have an Egyptian name, Tsafenat Pane’ah and an Egyptian wife, Asenat, the daughter of Poti Phera the priest of On (His name means "he whom Ra has given", On was the old name for Heliopolos which followed the cult of the Sun God). Joseph was being forced to integrate with Egyptian culture. He names his two sons, the first-born Menasheh, because:

God has made me forget completely my hardship and the house of my father

and he names his second son Ephraim, because:

God has made me fertile in the land of my affliction

Joseph appears to have assimilated. Underlying the superficial appearance, he remained a Jew. Even Pharaoh understood that the interpretation of dreams came not just from a man, a “diviner of dreams”. He could see:

a man in whom there is the spirit of God?

Assimilation is a continuing challenge to this day. Joseph is one of the first examples of an assimilated Jew coming to the rescue of his brethren. It is always tempting to assume the culture of the society around us. It can be for selfish reasons, hiding identity to acquire advantage. It can be an effort to try to unite our true identity with the world around us. Joseph understood the covenant and the promise of return.

In the future it would be another Jew, Moses, also married to a gentile, who would lead us out of slavery.

We retain a unique relationship to the covenant and the land. Most of all we need to remember who we are and to keep our families close.

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