Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Parshat Miketz

The Silence of God

God remains silent throughout the whole of the Joseph narrative. In fact, the Divine voice has not spoken since God ordered Yaakov to Bet El to fulfill his vow (Bereshit Ch. 35) and was not heard until He appeared to Moshe at the Burning Bus (Shemot Ch. 3) over 400 years later.

However, not only was God silent this whole period, He is absent throughout the latter part of Sefer Bereshit. That is correct. God does not appear in the Torah between Bereshit 35:13 and Shemot 2:34 (except for the killing of Er and Onen, in an episode set apart from the Yoseph narrative and God reassuring Yaakov over his descent to Egypt). Yoseph was sold, because his brothers hated him, he ended up in a dungeon in Egypt because of his mistresses rape allegations and he becomes grand vizier in Egypt because of his dream reading abilities. The Torah does tell us that God was the cause of all these events, as it does with Rachel's childlessness and eventual labor etc.

Nevertheless, these stories do not have a secular feel, for while the narrator does not explain God's actions, the characters all feel presence.

In these week's parsha alone, the main character's, even the Egyptians, utter God's ten times:

· Joseph replied to Pharaoh, saying, "Not I; God will give an answer (Bereshit 41:16)
· God is about to do He has shown Pharaoh (ibid 28)
· Pharaoh said to his servants, "Will we find [anyone] like this, a man in whom there is the spirit of God?" (ibid 38)
· Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, for "God has caused me to forget all my toil and all my father's house" (ibid 51)
· The second one he named Ephraim, for "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction" (ibid 52)
· On the third day, Joseph said to them: "Do this and live I fear God" (ibid 42:18)
· They turned to one another, saying, "What is this that God has done to us?" (ibid 28)
· May the Almighty God grant you compassion before the man (43:14)
· Fear not. Your God and the God of your father gave you a treasure in your sacks (ibid 23)
· God has found your servants' iniquity (ibid 44:16)

All the protagonists see God's hand, for both the good and the bad, working behind the scene. The most important claim will come in next week's parsha, when Yoseph placates his brothers by saying: "But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you" (ibid 45:5).

In the modern world we find it hard to see the actions of the living God. Many have therefore, concluded that He does not existed. From this narrative, we learn that God was silent even in the early biblical period. The conclusion to be drawn is not that He does not exist, but to find the way to see Him through the occurrences in our lives.

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat Miketz entitled: "Measure for Measure" appears at

Another Sedra Short on Parshat Miketz entitled "One Dream or Two?" appears at:

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