The portion of Miketz is full of secrets and lessons for our lives, but I will just share just a few points.
The literal story is about Yosef Hatzadik (Joseph the Righteous). As a young man, Joseph is sold as a slave by his brothers and ends up in the house of Potiphar. When Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph, he resists her advances, making her so angry that she accuses him of rape and sends him to jail. In jail, Joseph becomes a consultant and a dream interpreter, which eventually leads him to be the advisor of Pharaoh.
Our teacher, Karen Berg, makes the point that Joseph was a king in every place he went; this is why he is called Yosef Hu Hashalit, or “Joseph the Ruler”. In the house of Potiphar, Joseph became the head of all of the slaves. In jail, he became a consultant and dream interpreter for the other prisoners. With Pharaoh, he came to control all of the money of Egypt, the richest and most abundant country in the whole world.
From the beginning of this ordeal, Joseph had every reason in the world to be a victim. But he wasn’t. In all of his circumstances, he never chose to merely exist or to blame anyone else. Instead of falling to the difficulties he encountered in his life, Joseph took advantage of them and was able to achieve the highest spiritual levels in each situation.
There are three specific points in this portion that create a formula for us, as human beings, to control our destiny.
The first point, from our teacher Rav Berg, is about restriction. Joseph chose to resist the temptation of Potiphar’s wife, knowing full well that by doing so he would end up in prison. If he had given in to the advances of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph could have lived a comfortable life as a favored slave. But Joseph didn’t choose the comfort; he chose restriction, because he knew that real greatness is in growth. By choosing to go through the pain and suffering his restriction would bring, Joseph shortened the process for the whole world.
The second part of the formula is joy and happiness in the process. Most of us say, “I will restrict as long as I don’t need to suffer.” But when we say this, we limit the joy and happiness we can experience. Because Joseph chose to restrict and go through pain, he could also choose to apply joy and happiness to his process. Joseph had 100% certainty that his process was from the Light, so he didn’t care what he had to go through, or that it took 12 years for him to move through it. As the Zohar says in Miketz verse 55:
Of this, it is written: “I know that there is nothing good in them but to rejoice and do good in this life.” “I know there is nothing good in them”—in the deeds that are not properly performed WITH THE PURPOSE OF CORRECTING –“but to rejoice” at whatever comes upon him, EITHER GOOD OR BAD, to thank the Holy One, blessed be He, “and to do good in his life.”
The third and final part of the formula is sharing. While Joseph was in prison, he didn’t spend his days thinking about himself and his problems and woes. Instead, he was focused on other people’s problems. Eventually, his concern for others brought him to the wine steward and the chief baker, who were a part of his ticket to freedom. Karen Berg always says that when you feel sadness or pain, the best medicine is to do something for others or think about someone else, because there is no better painkiller in the world than true sharing.
To make the most out of this week, we can connect to the power of Yosef Hatzadik and apply this formula to our own lives. First off, we can restrict on things that are the most difficult for us, those things that we are addicted to. Second, we can inject joy and happiness into the process, knowing that after any kind of restriction, we need to go through a process of darkness or challenges in order to receive a new vessel. Third, we can remember that the best medicine for pain is to find a way to think or care about someone else.