The word miketz or keitz signifies “end” or “conclusion.” It is usually used to denote the end of an era, the defining moment of the passage of time. It also denotes that a great change of circumstances is about to occur. What was before will be no longer. The end of the past will give way to a new reality. In this week’s parsha the word introduces us to the radical change in the circumstances of Yosef – from dungeon inmate to viceroy of Egypt.
In Jewish tradition, the word is employed to describe the end of the period of exile and trials of Israel and the beginning of the longed for redemption and messianic era. Implicit in our understanding of the word as it appears in the Torah and Jewish tradition is the understanding that nothing is certain and what may appear to be long lasting and immovable is always only temporary and given to change.
Only uncertainty is certain in our lives and in all human affairs. There is always an end to the present and a new future, for good or for better, always is present just over the horizon of time. This short Hebrew word mocks all of the predictions of experts in any field of endeavor. All such statements are based upon the known past and present but these come to an eventual end and the future remains as inscrutable as ever. We are experts in hindsight. We rarely achieve meaningful foresight in any field of human endeavor, and in national and personal living.
All of this is true regarding humankind generally. It is doubly true regarding the future of the Jewish people and Israel. Only the diehards stubbornly insist that somehow the path of the Oslo Agreements has not yet come to an end. Only the hardened and Jewishly Torah ignorant secularist believe that somehow theirs is the solution to the “Jewish problem,” both internally and externally.
In our generation, the end has come to many ideas, ideologies and circumstances that were supposed to carry on for future centuries. The whole world’s economic structure is now threatened by the unthinkable, something that economic experts told us could never happen and that there never would be an end to consumer and debt driven prosperity.
Hitler’s Reich was to have lasted one thousand years and Marx’s economic theories were to have produced eternal peace, fairness and a certain and easily predictable future. The world operates as though the word miketz is not present in the human lexicon. That is the main tragic error in human society for it allows for faulty planning, a sense of overconfidence, and a pompous certainty of rectitude that is based on the false assumption that circumstances and eras do not change or end.
This week’s parsha reiterates this true fact of our existence, uncomfortable as that may be to our psyche. The Midrash introduces its commentary to our parsha with the verse “keitz – an end has the Lord brought to our darkness.” May that be the keitz to our era as well.
Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com