Parshat Mikeitz: Yosef the jumping man

Adapted and translated from Ohr HaDaat, Newsletter #107.

Bezrat Hashem, let’s continue to discuss the subject of Chanuka. Previously, we discussed how the main point of Chanuka concerns the revelation of the or haganuz, the hidden light, as brought down in many holy books.

The Rokeach was one of the Rishonim and also one of the Tosafists. The Chida once wrote about him that he received all of the chiddushim (Torah insights) contained in his holy works directly from Elijah the Prophet. The Rokeach wrote that all the light of Chanuka was called the ‘secret’ of the hidden light that is revealed during the half an hour after we light our candles, and that this residue then remains for some time afterwards. Unless we have a good reason for not doing this, the very best time to light the Chanuka candles is at 16.55 [in Eretz Yisrael].

How Yosef revealed the hidden light

Parshat Mikeitz always falls out on Chanuka, and this parsha tells us about Yosef HaTzaddik, and how he revealed the hidden light. The holy Zohar writes that every spiritual matter is hinted to by way of the vowels used beneath the letters.

The vowel used for the or haganuz is the kamatz. In Hebrew, kamatz also means to make a fist. When we close our hand so that no-one else can see what we have in our hand, this is called kamatz. In other words, when we close something up and we don’t want to show it to others, this is the secret of kamatz. This is why the kamatz hints to the or haganuz, and this is what’s written in our parsha, that Mikeitz has the same letters as kamatz.

Yosef HaTzaddik merited to obtain the hidden light. In truth, Yosef HaTzaddik managed to obtain a great many things. Even Pharoah said about him that: “There is no other person as wise or understanding as he.” The or haganuz was revealed to Yosef HaTzaddik, so he obtained tremendous wisdom.

Yosef was betrayed by so many of the people closest to him

Let us focus on one point that Yosef managed to obtain via the or haganuz: In truth, Yosef endured so many difficulties, and some of those difficulties were that apparently, people who he’d loved and been good to betrayed him.  At the beginning: ‘He was a youth with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah’ – i.e. he worried about his brothers loved them, but at the beginning of the story they threw him into a pit filled with snakes and scorpions, and then afterwards sold him to be a slave in Egypt.

The first year that he was in Egypt we saw what sort of self-sacrifice Yosef made for his Egyptian master: Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him and he told her: “How could I do such a terrible thing [to his master]?” He was very loyal towards Potiphar, his non-Jewish Egyptian master.

And what did he get in return, after a year of self-sacrifice where he wasn’t willing to betray his master? 12 years in prison. We have to remember that Yosef was just 18 years old when he was sent to prison. Usually, when something much smaller happens to us – if just two people don’t treat us so nicely we immediately start believing that everyone’s a liar, everyone’s a fraud and there’s no such thing as a good person – i.e. we immediately lose our faith in humanity, and become bitter, angry and harshly judgmental of others.

How Yosef merited to become ‘Yosef HaTzaddik’

After a whole year in Potipher’s house, where he endured enormous tests in the areas of kedusha (personal holiness) and tikkun habrit (the rectification of the covenant), Yosef merited to become ‘Yosef HaTzaddik’…

Pay attention, that he spent a whole year being tested in the matter of holiness and the brit, but 12 whole years working on his emuna, in the prison. It’s written in the Midrash Rabba that during each of the 12 years that Yosef was in the prison, he was a ‘jumping man’. The commentators tell us that Yosef used to dance each day in prison. He used to dance, in order to lift his feet off the floor. The meaning of this is that he used to ‘rise up’ against the heaviness of his sad feelings, so that he wouldn’t fall into depression and bitterness, which is the characteristic of dust (i.e. earth).

How was it possible not to fall into depression, after all these things had happened? So many things happened to Yosef HaTzaddik, how was it possible that he didn’t fall into depression from it all? For 12 whole years, Yosef worked on this point, that he shouldn’t become angry, bitter and harshly judgmental against other people, inasmuch as everything came from Hashem, and was ultimately for his good.

The brothers had no idea of Yosef’s true spiritual level

Afterwards, when his brothers suspected that Yosef might try to hurt them [in revenge for what they’d done to him], they had no idea what spiritual level he was really holding at. They thought that he still held a grudge against them, or was still angry with them, so they tried to appease him…

But Yosef HaTzaddik told his brothers: “Don’t be distressed or reproach yourselves for selling me, because God sent me on ahead as a provider” – I know that everything is from Hashem, and for the good. Yosef told them: I never judged you harshly. Yosef went through 13 years of terrible suffering. How can a person merit to avoid any trace of harsh judgment and anger? This is called the secret of dancing.

We need to know that if people are making us angry, or hurting us, then just doing hitbodedut (personal prayer) isn’t going to be enough. We also need to dance during our hitbodedut, and to do at least 8 minutes of dancing – but we also need to know how to dance. If we play some music and walk around in a circle, that’s great – but that’s not really ‘dancing’.

Walking around in a circle is not ‘dancing’

The late Rav Ovadia Yosef, z’tl, poskened (made a halachic decision) in his work ‘Yahaveh Daat’ that walking around in a circle is not called ‘dancing’. Rav Ovadia held that it was forbidden to dance on Shabbat, but Rav Ovadia also ruled that ‘dancing’ only occurs if both feet leave the floor. If someone walks around in a circle at a slow pace, that’s not called ‘dancing’.

This chumra (stringency) about Shabbat reminds us of Rabbenu’s words. According to Rabbenu, if someone wants to be considered as ‘dancing’, it’s not enough just to go around in a circle, rather he’s obligated to lift both his legs off the floor – and this is what Yosef did for 12 years. And consequently, he merited to avoid falling into any trace of anger or harsh judgment against anyone else. He wasn’t angry at Potipher, and he certainly wasn’t angry at his brothers, either.

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