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The portion Miketz begins with the discussion of the time after the two additional years that Joseph was in jail, for a total of twelve years, for a crime he didn’t commit. So, Joseph is finally getting out, and it should be a happy time. However, the portion begins with the word vayehi, which connotes something negative. Why?
The reason, kabbalists explain, and there are a few understandings of this, is that Joseph, for his own spiritual process, purification, and correction, was supposed to be in jail for only ten years, not twelve. Miketz begins at the end of those two years; what is special about them?
At the end of the previous portion Vayeshev, Joseph is in jail with the Pharaoh’s wine steward and baker, and they have dreams, which he interprets. He interprets for the baker that he is going to be hanged, and for the wine steward that he is going to go back to his position. Joseph asks the wine steward to please remember him to Pharaoh when he goes back to his position, so as to help him be released from jail. However, in the last verse of the previous portion Vayeshev, the wine steward does not remember Joseph.
The literal understanding of this story, therefore, is that Joseph made a mistake and he should not have asked the wine steward to assist him. And because he made that mistake and put his trust and certainty in the assistance of the wine steward, it’s therefore as if he was punished, and got two more years of jail. And so the portion Miketz begins with the word vayehi, because the last two years are a shame due to the fact that Joseph didn’t need to be in jail for those two years.
Joseph, it seems, made a mistake for which he was punished, and was given an additional two years in jail. But that’s not the way it should be understood. There’s a concept the kabbalists teach which says that a person is directed and allowed to be led in the path he wants to or decides to go on. However, the danger in doing this, in putting our trust and certainty in people, whether it be a doctor, lawyer, friend, consultant, or ourselves, is that once we choose and decide that our assistance is going to come from a person, situation, or from ourselves, that’s what is going to happen. And this is usually an unconscious choice.
Joseph didn’t know this, but the Creator was ready on the last day of his tenth year in jail to release him. The Creator had it all prepared. And there’s nothing wrong with Joseph asking the wine steward to remember him to Pharaoh; the mistake wasn’t that he asked for the assistance of the wine steward. It was that he, either consciously or unconsciously, decided the wine steward was going to be the way he got released. Once Joseph decided the wine steward was going to help him and mention him in front of Pharaoh, and that the way he was going to get out of jail was through the steward, then the Creator says, “I wanted to help you today, but you don’t want me to. And through your decision that the wine steward is going to help you, you’ve made that your path. Now, I don’t know how many years it’s going to take.” It happened to take two years, through the wine steward's abilities; however, the Creator’s ability would have brought it about in one day.
I want to make clear that Joseph wasn’t being punished. It wasn’t that the Creator was saying, “Because you didn’t trust in Me and you trusted in him I’m going to punish you and leave you there for another two years.” No, the Creator was saying, “I really want to help you, but you decided that the wine steward’s assistance is your path to freedom, and I have to abide by your choice. Therefore, I want to help you today, but it happens to be that this path is going to take two years.”
There are many times, even in our own lives, when there are people who come to us for assistance, but we know that we can’t help them right now, that they have to go on their own path, and maybe they’ll come back. It happens, unfortunately, more often than not, that a person can come to you and you know that for them to get better and succeed, they have to do certain things. But for them, there’s no way they are open to hearing it from you, so you’re not going to punish them by not telling them. You just know that telling them or not telling them will make no difference. They have made their choice, and you have to abide by their choice, and now their process might take them five, ten, or twenty years.
Again, to be clear, there was nothing wrong with Joseph speaking to the wine steward and thinking it wasn’t a coincidence that he was coming into his life, and then asking him to speak to Pharaoh. The problem was in what Joseph was thinking when he made that request. What he should have been thinking was, “I don’t know if you are going to help me. I don’t know if it’s going to happen some other way. I just want the Light of the Creator to help. I don’t want my wisdom, brains, logic, or you. If the Creator wants this person to be my path, let him be it. And if not, let it be somebody else. Because I only want the Creator’s assistance - not my logic, and not this person.”
If Joseph had maintained that clarity, he would have been freed from jail on the last day of his tenth year. But because he decided that the wine steward was going to help him, the Creator says, “I want to give it to you faster. But you’ve got to go through this path.” Two years was not a punishment. It was just a process that Joseph chose. And every single one of us, every day of our lives, chooses a process every time we decide on a path, whether consciously or unconsciously.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan, and it doesn’t mean we don’t ask for assistance from other people. But we should do it with the clarity of consciousness that we don’t want our own logic, that person, or this situation to be where we get our blessings and assistance from. Yes, we will use the assistance as it comes, because this might be the way the Creator wants to do it, but we only want the Creator’s assistance. We don’t put our trust in that person, this situation, or in ourselves; rather, we say, “Yes, I will do these things because maybe this is the way the Creator wants it to happen. I maintain my certainty in the Light of the Creator. I only want the Creator’s assistance.” The Creator never punishes us by giving us longer processes; He abides by our decision. Once we make a decision that a person, our self, or our logic is what’s going to bring us to where we want to be – either spiritually or physically, in business, health, and so forth - the Creator has to abide by it.
The Creator may want to give us our blessing today, but if we choose for a certain person to give us the blessing, then that’s the path we follow, and it might take us five years, ten years, or never come through that person at all… but we’ve made our choice and the Creator has to abide by it. And again, with Joseph, the Creator did not punish him by adding two years; it’s simply that Joseph put his trust in the wine steward, and the Creator had to abide by that decision.
The gift and understanding that we want to receive from this Shabbat is to never put our trust in anything except the Light of the Creator. And again, it does not mean that we don’t use logic, it does not mean that we do not go to a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or consultant. But we have to be careful, because it is our nature to say, “This is what I’m going to trust. This makes sense. This is the process that I choose,” whether consciously or unconsciously. But once we make that choice, we are saying to the Light of the Creator, “Don’t come in here. This is how it’s going to work.” And the Creator says, “I’d love to give you the blessing today. I’d love to give you a much greater blessing right now. But you have chosen this path. You have to follow it. And this path might lead you to a blessing in five years, or in ten years, or never. But I can’t interfere with the choice and the process that you’ve chosen.”
One of the things we want to receive on this Shabbat, therefore, is to make sure that we are not blocking the Light of the Creator through our choices. And what this means is that in every decision and choice that we make, we maintain clarity; “I am not choosing that this is my path to healing. I am not choosing that this is my path to success in business. I am not choosing that this is my path to spiritual growth. I think this might be the way the Creator wants to manifest now, but I only want the Creator’s assistance. I don’t want anybody else’s, not even my own.” And when we maintain that clarity, the Creator can pour his blessings down to us all the time, much more quickly and greater than any process that we will choose.
Our nature will lead us to choices and paths. Every day we make choices, every day we fall to this trap of putting our trust in another person, or putting our full trust in ourselves, our decisions, or our logic. What that does is tell the Creator, “You can’t help me now. I’ve chosen this path,” and the process may then take one year, ten years, or be never-ending. We need to fight against that and consistently say we only want the Light of the Creator. Yes, we will use the tools that are available to us. But when we don’t put our trust in another person, situation, or ourselves, we allow the Light of the Creator to come in all the time, immediately, with greater and greater blessings.
And with the assistance of Shabbat Miketz, we receive this gift of clarity to not choose our path or process by putting our trust in people or situations, and thereby, do not block the Light of the Creator.