With God’s help – Parshat Mikeitz
Last week’s parsha concludes with Yosef in prison after having been accused of assaulting Potiphar’s wife. Placed with the Sar Ha’mashkim and the Sar Ha’ofim, he successfully interprets their dreams. Yosef requests of the Sar Ha’mashkim to remember him and mention his name to Pharaoh to be released. However, the Sar Ha’mashkim forgets, and Chazal say that as a punishment for putting faith in the wrong place, Yosef remained confined for an extra two years. Next, Pharaoh is stricken with dreams for which he cannot find a meaningful interpretation. Finally, the Sar Ha’mashkim recalls Yosef and suggests that he be summoned to interpret the dreams.
Pharaoh sends for Yosef, and in a flash he is brought before Pharaoh. Pharaoh gives great honor to Yosef saying: חלום חלמתי – “I have dreamt a dream, but no one can interpret it. Now I heard it said of you that you comprehend a dream to interpret it.” Pharoah ascribes a tremendous amount of power to Yosef, that he alone can interpret the dream. Yet Yosef responds: ״בלעדי אלוקים יענה את שלום פרעה״ – “That is beyond me; G-d will respond to Pharoah’s welfare.” Rashi explains Yosef’s response, “That is beyond me” as: “The wisdom to interpret dreams is not mine, rather ‘G-d will respond’ that is, He will put a response in my mouth ‘for Pharoah’s welfare’” (Bereishit 41:15-16).
The Mesiach Ilmim (רבי יהודה כלץ), a commentary on Rashi, expounds on this as follows: The word בלעדי does not mean “׳without me”; Yoseph did not tell Pharaoh, “I will not answer. for G-d is the one who will respond instead.” Yosef was actually saying that although the capability of interpretation comes from G-d alone, Yosef would act as the conduit in relaying G-d’s message. Rather than remove himself from something he was incapable of doing, he recognized his position as G-d’s messenger.
The Malbim as well says that Yosef told Pharoah that the ability to interpret the dream was not dependent on him alone. And that if G-d wanted Pharoah to know the meaning of his dream, He would he send the answer through some other avenue, including another person. Again, Yosef is minizmig his role as the sole, and correct interpreter of Pharaoh’s dream. Yet Yosef listens to dreams and indeed offers his own interpretation.
Why does Yosef do this? Why does he first attribute all credit to G-d, thereby lowering his own importance, but yet continue to interpret the dreams
Yosef understood inherently, that although he was not G-d who carried the power of interpretation. He still understood his unique position in world history. That he was placed in this situation to be a messenger for G-d’s word. Despite knowing that something was beyond him, he nevertheless stepped into the role that Hashem ordained for him.
And because Yosef did this, ascribing everything to G-d alone, the Midrash Tanchuma (4) tells us that G-d proclaimed: “Since you did not seek to exalt yourself, be assured you will be elevated to greatness and leadership by Me”. Yosef, in lowering himself, was really the catalyst to his being raised up.
This is such a powerful idea for us, for so often we are confronted with challenges that may seem impossible, which feel like they can only be overcome by G-d himself! Or perhaps we have lofty goals that we feel incapable of accomplishing. We learn from Yosef, that if we let go of our fears and recognize that the results are ultimately decided by G-d alone and accept that we are merely His messengers, we can overcome any challenge and reach heights of wisdom that we could not fathom to have reached on our own.
Yosef shows us, that we should not cower in the face of daunting tasks, but rather we view ourselves as agents able to channel the energy of the All-powerful King, for Whom no challenge is too great. In that light, we can do anything with His help.
This is a fitting message for the holiday of חנוכה, when Hashem “delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few…” Rather than capitulate when faced with the sheer absurdity of the imbalance, both in numbers and strength, the חשמונאים trusted in G-d. Their shortcomings did not cause them to fear, but instead to submit themselves to Hashem’s mission, and they emerged victorious.
This should give us chizzuk in all our endeavors, small and great. With G-d’s help, may we grow and accomplish the so called “un-achievable”.