It happened at the end (mikeitz) of two years to the day… (Bereishis 41:1)
So begins this week’s parshah, as history begins to accelerate in order to propel Yosef from the depths of enslavement to the height of empowerment. However, the word “keitz” is a special word, often denoting the historic arrival at a certain pre-destined time by which something is meant to happen, specifically with respect to redemption.
For example, the Talmud uses this term with respect to the Final Redemption:
Rav said, “All the dates of redemption (hakeitzin) have already passed, and now it depends upon repentance and good deeds.” (Sanhedrin 97b)
Thus, when the Torah employs the term “keitz,” it is not merely informing us that twelve years have passed since Yosef was first thrown into prison, and he just “happened” to earn his release at that time. Rather, Yosef HaTzaddik earned his release from jail then, because history reached a moment in time, a moment that was pre-designated long before Yosef was even born, with the ultimate redemption in mind.
Call them spiritual milestones, it is the keitzin that dictate the “beat” of history at any given point in time. Thus, Yosef did not find release from prison because of Pharaoh’s dreams, but rather, Pharaoh was made to dream as he did because Yosef was meant to be released precisely at that time. Thus, the Arizal taught:
However, Yosef did not merit this until the night of the “end of two years” (Bereishis 41:1), when it was decreed that he should leave jail; that day he rose to greatness. Therefore, it is what is written, “(He appointed it as a testimony to Yosef) when He went out over the land of Egypt, when I heard a language unknown to me” (Tehillim 81:6). That night, Gavriel came and taught him seventy languages (Sotah 36b). (Sha’ar HaGilgulim, Chapter 31)
How many keitzin are there throughout history? The Vilna Gaon speaks about 1,000 of them to be exact:
The beginning of anything large or small that can be performed during the Period of Moshiach is through the “me’yudim” – designated “emissaries” – Heaven-sent messengers at the beginning of the redemption. They initiate the “ye’udim” – specific “events” – and the two of them together result in the “moadim” – the “appointed times” – the end-times (hakeitzim) of the levels of the footsteps which are initiated from Below, in order to achieve the number 999 in [the sefirah of] Yesod. (Kol HaTor, Chapter 4:3)
Nine hundred and ninety-nine (999)? What happened to 1,000? The GR”A explains: Every rectification must reach the final level of initiation from Below, which is 1000 less one, that is, 999 of [the sefirah] Yesod. This is the largest number of Moshiach ben Yosef, based upon the verse, “the smallest will be for a thousand” (Yeshayahu 60:22). (Kol HaTor, Chapter 5:1)
In other words, the Gaon is teaching, Moshiach ben Yosef is both a process and a leader. The sefirah that corresponds to Yosef HaTzaddik, and therefore his descendant, Moshiach ben Yosef, is the sixth sefirah, Yesod, which is also the cosmic DNA for the Sixth Millennium in which we are living. There have been many keitzin throughout Jewish history, but there are 1,000 in the Sixth Millennium alone, 999 of which we can achieve from Below, the last of which is completed by Heaven (through Moshiach himself) to finalize the redemption.
Exactly what all these “ends” are, the Gaon does not explain, at least not here. And, though it may not be clear exactly what each of these levels represent, the Vilna Gaon does warn that as we approach the final and 999th level, the Sitra Achra – the Opposing Angel – will be at his strongest, and for two reasons. First, knowing that his end is imminent with the coming of the Final Redemption (Succah 52a), he will need to fight for survival like never before; and second, for the added strength of the yetzer hara, because free will – the overall purpose of creation – demands a balanced choice. Therefore, as clarity of truth increases, so must the temptation to reject it increase as well. The trick, and source of one’s spiritual survival will be knowing whether or not our rejection of information is rooted in our yetzer tov, or our yetzer hara, something that is a lot easier to do on paper than in practice.
Can we recognize when we have reached a new “keitz” along the path to number 999, and more importantly, do we know how many we have left to achieve to reach the final one? Not very likely. After all, did Yosef, his father, or his brothers, realize back then how each of their actions Below triggered something Above, bringing about a new result along the path to Yosef’s redemption and promotion? It doesn’t seem so.
Yet, as we will see, there is something important to be learned from the process itself, as part of our own preparation for redemption.
So the sons of Yisroel came to buy provisions among the arrivals, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. (Bereishis 42:5)
We can and must learn much from the story of Yosef and his brothers, particularly something very important. Though many of the steps along the path to redemption may be hidden and even disguised as negative events, all paths must, by definition, eventually lead to redemption.
Until this point in the story, there was no way to know (except through prophecy) that the entire famine was just to draw the family of Yisroel down to Egypt, and set up the eventual redemption from Egypt. Thus, the brothers HAD to sell Yosef into slavery, for had they not sold him then, there would have been no reason to go down to Egypt in search of food, for Egypt would have been as barren of food as any other country at the time.
This is implied by the following Midrash:
“Go and see the works of G-d, awesome in deed toward mankind.” (Tehillim 66:5). Go and see how when The Holy One, Blessed is He, created the world, from the first day He created the Angel of Death as well . . . Man was made on the sixth day, yet death was blamed on him. What is this similar to? To a man who decided that he wanted to divorce his wife and then wrote her a Get (divorce document), after which he went home holding the Get looking for a pretext to give it to her. He asked her, “prepare me something to drink.” She did, and taking it, he said, “here is your Get (divorce document).” She asked him, “what did I do wrong?” He told her, “leave my house, because you made me a warm drink.” She answered him, “were you able to know that I would prepare you a warm drink in the future, that you wrote a Get in advance and came home with it?”
So too did Adam say to The Holy One, Blessed is He, “Master of the Universe! Before You created the world, Torah was with You for 2,000 years … and what is written in it, ‘This is the law when a man will die in a tent’ (Bamidbar 19:14). If You had not established death for Your creations, would You have written this?! Rather, You just wanted to blame death on me…. ” It also says the same thing with respect to Yosef… Rav Yudan said, “The Holy One, Blessed is He, wanted to carry out the decree of ‘Know that you shall surely be (strangers),’ and therefore set it up in such a way that Ya’akov would love Yosef, and that the brothers would hate him and sell him to the Arabs, and that they would all go down to Egypt.” This is what is meant by “awesome in deed.” (Tanchuma, Vayaishev 4)
On a more Kabbalistic level, one of the main reasons why Jews are exiled is to do that which they failed to do while living in Eretz Yisroel. History is about drawing the Holy Sparks from the Depths of Spiritual Impurity, which is done primarily through learning Torah and performing mitzvos. Until ALL the sparks have been “redeemed” and purified, Moshiach cannot come, and come he must.
In the best of times, when the Jewish people were close to perfect servants of G-d, the sparks from around the world came to Eretz Yisroel, usually in the form of gifts and other things brought with foreign visitors who came to witness first hand the wisdom and greatness of the Torah nation. However, as the Jewish people strayed from this path, the foreign “visitors” came only to attack the Jewish people, greatly slowing down the process of rectifying creation.
Lacking the spiritual power to “draw” distant sparks to Eretz Yisroel, the Jewish people were sent out to the sparks themselves, in order to redeem them. They did this by living amongst the gentile nations, by drawing on their local resources for survival, and the performance of mitzvos.
The only “flaw” in the system is that, everywhere Jews have ever gone, over time we seem to be more affected than effective. Rather than elevate the gentile world into which we have been exiled to the level of “B’nei Noach,” we are instead drawn down, usually en masse, away from Torah and mitzvos. If so, then what was accomplished besides spiritual, and eventually physical, annihilation (as the latest survey of American Jewry seems to be confirming)?
As in all cases concerning Jewish exile and redemption, we can answer our question by examining the prototype.
And they emptied out Egypt. (Shemos 12:36)
Rav Ami said: We learn from this that they left her (Egypt) like a net without grain. Raish Lakish said: They left her like a depth without fishes. (Brochos 9b)
According to Kabbalah, this was no simple plunder of an enemy country. Embodied in all the booty the Jews of Egypt had been commanded to take with them on their way out of Egypt, were all the Holy Sparks that they had been sent down to Egypt to redeem 210 years earlier. The physical reality is merely a reflection of the spiritual realm.
It had not been an overnight process either. It took 210 years and could have taken up to 400 years, had the Jewish people been up to the task. In the course of that time, the Jewish people had settled in Goshen, built a life for themselves, prospered, moved out of Goshen, assimilated into Egyptian society, been stripped of their rights, and finally, persecuted and enslaved. By the time Moshe Rabbeinu had shown up on the scene to kick-start the redemption, the Jewish people had been in bad shape, to say the least.
So bad, in fact, that when the Sitra Achra looked on (see last week’s parshah sheet), he could only slap his knee with joy and burst with laughter. Crossing his legs on his desktop and placing his hands behind his head as he leaned back, he could be heard saying with glee and confidence, “Nothing to redeem here!” If it looked bad to us, then you can just imagine how good it looked to him.
Within a few months, after the miraculous plagues had begun to inflict the Egyptian oppressors, things began to turn around, and the relaxed look of the Sitra Achra quickly turned into one of panic. How quickly things had turned around, and now that the keitz had come, which meant that the “Light of Redemption” emanated down – thanks to Moshe Rabbeinu – into the depths of spiritual impurity – Egypt – he was powerless to do anything to interfere in the process of redemption.
Down, but not out, the Sitra Achra was forced to bide his time until that special light was withdrawn once again, leaving the newly redeemed Jewish people vulnerable to the wiles of the yetzer hara. He had lost the battle, but not yet the war, and he fought hard with weapons such as the golden calf, the spies, and eventually, rebellion against G-d just prior to the destruction of the First Temple.
As the Talmud says, the Final Redemption will mirror the exodus from Egypt (Sanhedrin 111a). Thus, it can be assumed, that when the Redeemer finally appears and is a vehicle for the same Light of Redemption that Moshe Rabbeinu reflected, there will be a great and dramatic change in the Jewish people, and all the years of assimilation will give way to masses of Jews repenting, ready to return to Eretz Yisroel, with the Holy Sparks that we had been exiled to redeem, way back when.
However, there is only one thing to remember: Only ONE-FIFTH of the Jewish people left Egypt (Rashi, Shemos 13:18). This was because, in spite of the seven plagues that had already revealed G-d’s intention to redeem the Jewish people, four-fifths of the population had little, if any, desire at all to leave Egypt:
The exodus from Egypt liberated only one out of five Jews – and some say one out of every fifty – because all those who were bound to Egypt and did not want to depart, died in the three days of darkness and were not privileged to leave. That is, only those who desired redemption with all their hearts were redeemed. The Final Redemption, likewise, depends upon our yearning. (Ohr Yechezkel, Emunas HaGeulah, p. 288)
Negative prophecies don’t have to come true. However, only we, by making the correct free-will choices, can invalidate them.
Kislev & Chanukah, Part 4
The lighting of the Chanukah candles should not be before the setting of the sun (shkias hachamah), and they should burn until people leave the marketplace. How long is this? About 30 minutes or more. If the time passed, do not light. (Yad Chazakah, Hilchos Chanukah 4:5)
As the Rambam implies, the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah menorah is not simply to light it, but to do so in such a way that its lights can proclaim the miracles of yesteryear to others, what the Talmud refers to as “pirsumi nissah” – “proclaiming the miracle.” This is why there are so many details as to exactly just how to light the menorah, when to light it, and where to place it before lighting it.
In the process of trying to fulfill all the minutiae of the laws of the menorah, one of the main messages should not be lost, and that is, what the Jewish people are doing here in the first place.
The prophet Yeshayahu summed up the Jewish mission in history when he prophesized:
I am G-d; I called you for righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people’s covenant, for a light to nations. (Yeshayahu 42:6)
But what kind of light? What is the light for? On Shabbos, we light candles to provide light in the home, so that arguments should not arise due to the limitations and confusion of darkness (Mishnah Brurah, 263:6:30). On Chanukah we light the menorah to proclaim the hand of G-d in history, and His willingness to save His people from destruction. To which category is the “light” of the Jewish people supposed to belong?
Obviously, both purposes can apply to the role of the Jewish people in history, but the following halachah may emphasize one role over the other:
If a person cannot afford to purchase both, Chanukah lights and Shabbos lights, he should buy Shabbos lights, because they are for the sake of “shalom bayis” (peace in the house). (Orach Chaim, 678:1)
There is no way to measure the damage that profaning G-d’s Name does, the only sin for which, according to the Talmud, death is the only atonement (Yoma 86a). In fact, according to Yechezkel, G-d will be “forced” to bring the Final Redemption, if only just to end the profanation of His holy Name (Yechezkel 36:23). Certainly proclaiming the miracles of G-d is a crucial way for limiting and even reversing the profanation of G-d’s Name.
However, let’s not forget that about TWENTY-FIVE years after the Chanukah miracle (3622/139 BCE), the Romans reneged on their alliance with the Chashmonaim (3648/113 BCE). The cause: Bitter internecine fighting amongst the surviving Jews of that time, probably one of the greatest sources of “Chillul Hashem” possible. It was, without a doubt, the catalyst for this last, longest, and bitterest of all exiles, during which the Second Temple was destroyed for the same reason: Sinnus chinam – wanton hatred of Jew for Jew. (Yoma 9b)
Next week, b’ezras Hashem, we’ll discuss how pirsumi nissah is, in fact, both the result and cause of shalom bayis.
Once again, have both, a great Shabbos and freilechen Chanukah,
Copyright © by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Winston has authored many books on Jewish philosophy (Hashkofa). If you enjoy Rabbi Winston’s Perceptions on the Parsha, you may enjoy his books. Visit Rabbi Winston’s online book store for more details! www.thirtysix.org