…וַיְהִ֕י מִקֵּ֖ץ שְׁנָתַ֣יִם יָמִ֑ים
The parsha starts out with the phrase, “It happened at the end of two years…” as Yoseph is finally released from his Egyptian prison. From here everything turns around for him.
After interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, predicting that Egypt will have seven years of plenty followed by seven years of severe famine, Yoseph is promoted to 2nd in command over all of Egypt and it’s the sweet life. Then things get interesting when Yoseph’s brothers show up in town looking to buy food. They don’t recognize their younger brother and so Yoseph takes advantage of this, putting them through somewhat of a mind game in an effort to get them to do teshuvah (repentance). It’s such a dramatic story that it even ends in a cliffhanger. (For more on this moment from a previous post click here.)
But for this blog I want to focus on the parsha’s title, מִקֵּ֖ץ Mikeitz.
The Turning Point of Turning Points
The word mikeitz literally means at the end, referring to the end of the additional two years in prison Yoseph had to endure. But as I thought about the entirety of the parsha, I realized this turning point encompasses more than Yoseph’s freedom. Not only does Yoseph get out of prison, not only does he go from rags to ruler practically over night, but he gets to confront his brothers and see his dreams come true before his eyes. Yoseph has been waiting over 20 years for this. It’s actually the turning point of his whole life. As I mentioned before about the word keitz קֵּ֖ץ (same word just no mem) means an end. But in the sense of an end of an era, a culmination. When moshiach comes, it is referred as keitz hamoshiach. And I don’t think this parsha could deliver a more impactful culmination for Yoseph.
What’s interesting is that the Torah doesn’t actually say “it happened at the end of two years” but שְׁנָתַ֣יִם יָמִ֑ים, “at the end of two years of days.” As if each day during these two years Yoseph had a bigger expectation of getting out. Like after a big job interview, you keep checking your email every five minutes in a heightened state of anticipation. Whether it is marriage, a child, passing some test, getting the right job, or whatever, many of us live life waiting for our lives to begin. We’re waiting for our own קֵּ֖ץ. And that wait can be debilitating if not shattering. Some of us feel we’re in a state of arrested development, praying for that next stage of life to finally present itself. When we’re lucky enough to get it, unfortunately instead of enjoying the “salvation”, we move onto waiting for the next thing.
What Do We Do While We Are Waiting For Our Keitz?
The first thing to realize is that life is happening now. You don’t need permission from anyone to be doing the things you want to do. I have a friend who came very close to being cast in a major motion picture. He didn’t get the part and it was a big heart break. But he decided to write an awesome script with a friend, raised $150,000, and they are filming it next month. Sure you may not be able to raise a family by yourself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a family to be a part of. Identify what you really want and do it yourself.
Next, always remember that life can change on a dime. At any moment, opportunity can present itself. In fact, opportunities present themselves all the time. It is whether we are being optimistic or pessimistic which colors how we view those opportunities. If we welcome that opportunity with passion and positivity, it resonates with others. If we think the opportunity is just going to fail or be a waste of time, then things will stay the same. Stay positive. The expectation of the good creates the good.
Lastly, it is important to know that real growth starts with a shift in perspective. Whether it’s an inspirational lecture or life changing scare, there are times that we are moved to drive change ourselves. To make it happen. However, though we may have been given an emotional push for that change, it is really up to us to see it through to the end. It’s actually an extension of our will and not much else. But that also means that if we simply decide to change and commit to it, we can foster the same results through our determination and persistence (along with some guidance).
Climax of the First Book
As much as Mikeitz is a turning point for Yoseph, if you step back you come to realize it’s not only a climax for his story. It’s the climax for the whole first book of the Torah, Bereishis. If you know screenwriting or story structure, you’ll know that your rising action mounts until it comes to a head in the climax. After that climactic moment (Luke blows up the Death Star, The Ghostbusters cross the streams and blow up the Stay Puff Marshmallow man) the major conflict has been resolved and now the story is in falling action and resolution. After this face off between Yoseph and the brothers (which gets resolved at the beginning of next week’s parsha), there’s not much left in the way of conflict until the book of Shemos.
So what is it about this stand off that makes it the thematic clash of Bereishis? Since the beginning of the Torah, it has been brother vs brother time and again. Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Esav and Yaakov, and here, the brothers and Yoseph. It’s from the resolution of Yehuda standing up for Binyamin (in next week’s parsha) that the son’s of Yaakov as a family can finally become the unit that is fit to become the Jewish people. One of the reasons Yaakov was so distraught when he thought Yoseph died was that he believed it was an indication that he had failed in that mission. But as we can see, that wasn’t the case and the book of Bereishis ends soon after.
With that idea of unity among the brothers, it is fitting that we read this parsha over Chanukah where the Jews were divided so fundamentally. But with that unity, both in Mikeitz and in Chanukah, we see that ushering in of a new era as the older one culminates. But remember, from the point of view of the brothers, it looked like their darkest hour as Binyamin was to be taken away forever. Little did they know, it was Yoseph at the helm and everything was going to be okay. They couldn’t see the hidden light. For us, that’s what the chanukia is for. To make us see the light in what appears to be the darkest time. But in truth, salvation is right in front of us. Be sure to let the Chanukah lights help you see it and then be open to finding your own mikeitz.
This post is dedicated to the refuah shlema of Dorit Shulamit bas Reiza Chaya.