Mikketz: At the
41, 1 - 44, 17
True trust, bitahon
1. Themes of parasha Mikketz
2. Themes of parasha Vayigash
3. Who is trustable?
4. Levels of trust
5. Our level of trust
6. Yosef and trust
7. The basis of Yosef's skill
8. Internalization exercise
9. Recommended reading
10. 2nd level: study the Hebrew
vocabulary of this parasha
11. The concept of bitahon in Hebrew
Listen to the parasha chanted
(Ort link) teamim Ashkenazim
Listen to the haftara chanted
(Ort link) teamim Ashkenazim
The festival of Hanukka
Rosh Hodesh Tevet
and the customs of
Rosh Hodesh labanot
Note: Do not forget to read aloud and repeat the
Hebrew words cited in this commentary. This is the
best way to learn and remember them.
Themes of parasha Mikketz
" Pharaoh's dream (halom) (7 fat cows, parot, devoured
by 7 lean cows; then 7 full ears of corn, shibolim, devoured
by 7 lean ears. The failure of the magicians to understand
" Yosef is released from prison; he interprets (poter)
the dream and counsels Pharaoh. He is named Pharaoh's viceroy
(mishne) and is given authority over all of Egypt.
" Birth of Menashe and Ephraim
" The famine (raav) in Egypt and the region
" Yosef's brothers (ahim) come before him. He recognizes
them (vayaker) but they do not recognize him. Yosef remembers
the dreams he had about them and tests their loyalty and
feelings of guilt and remorse. .
" He accuses them of being spies (meraglim), takes
one brother (Shimon) and sends them to bring Binyamin, the
son of his mother Rahel and the only son who stayed behind
with his father and whom his father cherishes.
" Yaakov cannot bear to part from his son, but finally
concedes and sends Binyamin and presents to the Egyptian
" Yosef invites his brothers to dine with him, and
frees the brother he took captive. He asks for news of his
father, and meets his youngest brother Binyamin. He then
sends them away, but meantime he has hidden a silver goblet
in Binyamin's sack. The brothers find it and return to Yosef,
" Yosef takes Binyamin captive.
I shall now also list the themes of Vayigash because, as
notes the Shla, it is impossible to separate them and the
two parashiot, (together with parasha Vayeshev) deal with
problems between brothers.
of parasha Vayigash
" Yehuda pleads eloquently and tells Yosef that if
his father does not see Binyamin again, he will die.
" Yosef can no longer refrain himself (ve lo yakhol
Yosef lehitapek) and reveals his identity to his brothers.
He tells them he believes God allowed them to sell him in
order that he would save later his family (see 45, 7).
" Pharaoh invites Yosef's family to settle in Egypt.
" Yosef's brothers return to Yaakov and tell him that
Yosef is now viceroy of Egypt. Yaakov/Yisrael takes all
his possessions and departs for Egypt.
" The list of Yaakov's descendants (46, 7...), who
total 70 members (46, 27) which is an important number.
" Yosef settles his family as shepherds (roe tzon)
in the region of Goshen and presents 5 of his brothers to
Pharaoh; then Yaakov blesses Pharaoh (47, 10).
" During the famine, Yosef puts all the wealth of Egypt
in Pharaoh's hands, except for that of the priests. The
entire population become slaves of Pharaoh (avadim le Faro,
47, 19) and must give him 1/5 of their harvest, except for
" Yaakov's family grow and flourish (va yirbu meod)
in Egypt (47, 27).
Who is trustable?
Rabbenu Bahya find the meaning of the parasha in Mishle
(Proverbs) 3, 5:
Betah el Hashem bekhol libekha, ve el-binatekha al-tishaen
"Trust in Hashem with all thine heart, and lean not
unto thine own understanding."
We saw, in the last parasha,
numerous betrayals of Yaakov by those closest to him: who
can one trust? What is trustable? Who will help in times
of hardship? In whom can we have what tradition calls bitahon?
What can we learn from Yosef?
How did he conduct himself? And what type of trust made
such a happy ending possible both on a personal and collective
Let us examine this question.
Rabbenu Bahya show us that we
can achieve different levels of trust.
(It follows that:
" we must educate children to progress from one level
" adults can correct later on what they did not learn
The levels of trust
Rabbenu Bahya says that the first level of trust consists
Stages 1 and 2. The first trust
shown by a child is towards its mother, on whom life depends,
for food and for affection (this mixture of nourishment
and affection creates in all human beings great "thirst"
and "hunger" for affection. This is the prototype
of all relationships.)
Stage 3. At this stage, a child begins to show trust towards
the father, and he has to provide it with bitahon.
Stage 4. Then a child must develop trust in itself, in its
own strengths and abilities in order to survive independently.
Then one arrives at level two:
Stage 5. The adult is now capable of reflection and knows
and trusts his own strengths. He reflects on his experiences
and understands that, despite his abilities, he is not all-powerful
and he is aware of his vulnerability. He now places the
trust, which he had put in himself and in his parents, in
Hakadosh Barukh Hu. He has understood that what governs
life (nature, rain, storms, etc.) does not depend on him.
This level of trust (bitahon)
rests on a feeling of self-interest. It is an advanced level
but it is still imperfect.
Stage 6. Man puts his trust
in Hakadosh Barukh Hu, and not in himself, even in areas
where he knows he is competent and which depend on him (work,
earning a living, etc.) and credits Hakadosh Barukh Hu for
any success that he reaps. This is the trust of gratitude.
Stage 7. Man has complete trust
in Hakadosh Barukh Hu, whether the results are good or bad.
This is total trust.
Stage 8. Man places his trust
in Hakadosh Barukh Hu, with all his heart, without taking
into consideration the results, good or bad, or the difficulties
of life. He simply sees in everything His will, His ratzon
-- whether he is rich or poor, sick or healthy, free or
imprisoned - everything is seen as "ratzon Hakadosh
Barukh Hu" and he does not seek any reasons or answers.
This is called to be "shalem bemidat habitahon,"
to have complete trust.
This is why the verse from Proverbs
says: "trust towards Hashem" (el-Hashem) and not
in Hashem. This complete trust means that man directs his
every thought towards Hashem.
This is why Psalm 25, 15 says:
einai tamid el Hashem, "my eyes are every toward Hashem."
The tzaddik, he who is totally righteous, does not ask Hashem
or himself the reasons for why something has happened, or
for accounts, even in the positive sense. This is the highest
level of bitahon, of trust.
Our level of trust
Let us try
" to assess our own level of bitahon,
" to achieve these stages, which are both psychological
and spiritual, in the trust we place in Hashem and in those
This will certainly result in
a lessening of fears, of feelings of abandonment, frustration,
bitterness, suffering, vulnerability, panic, suspicion,
anger and recrimination. This should not be done out of
self-interest, but purely out of love and trust in the ratzon
of others and of Hakadosh Barukh Hu. Unconditionally.
Rabbenu Bahya applies this concept to Yosef when he is in
prison. He notes that Yosef believed he would be freed because
he had correctly interpreted the dream of his co-prisoners
(this is trust in one's own abilities). This is not the
highest level of trust and is the reason why he was punished
and spend two more years in prison.
This is why the first verse
of the parasha says:
vayehi miketz shenatayim yamim
and it came to pass at the end of two years in days
It took Yosef two years to move from the level where one
trusts in oneself and in human recognition, to trusting
in Hakadosh Barukh Hu. Then men remembered him and set him
After his liberation, we see how Yosef trusts completely
in Hakadosh Barukh Hu when he interprets Pharaoh's dream.
But Yosef's relationship with
his brothers is marked by allusions to their guilt, and
even the suffering of his aged father is not spared and
he is subjected to the pain of thinking he will lose his
We are witnessing a long, difficult
process of purification necessary before attaining hessed,
and the ability to efface painful memories.
Yaakov is one who showed complete
trust: the years he waited for Rahel seemed like one day,
for such was his love for her and they were as one throughout
their lives. He also showed complete trust when he struggled
with the angel throughout the night, his head on the stones,
but never losing trust.
Yosef is a son of Yaakov-Israel.
We are not the children of Yosef, but the children of Israel,
the bene Yisrael. Like a child, Yosef must learn the stages
of trust. We too. He showed us the way, the trials and errors.
What is the source of Yosef's
We could protest and say that Yosef was an extraordinary
man and an extraordinary interpreter of dreams, and that
such trust and skill only belongs to the greatest of men.
If this were so, he would not be an example to us. And if
he is an example, it means that his skill and his trust
can be ours too and that of all the people. Which does not
lessen his genius.
Ribbi Yaakov Abuhatzera (basing himself on the masters of
remez and sod) will enlighten us more.
Pharaoh interpreted his dream as the forces of evil vanquishing
the forces of good.
But Yosef, who lives according to the Torah and with the
inner presence of the shekhina, was able to see an extra
dimension - one that Pharaoh could not see for he wished
to persist in his brutal reign. This dimension may seem
insignificant. The dream speaks of "7" ears of
corn and "7" cows. What is the meaning of the
7? Seven represents the structure of the world, which is
organized in weeks of 7 days like the 7 emanations of divine
life which are called sefirot.
This tells Yosef that it is the victory of evil is only
external. Egyptian civilization, with its great political,
scientific, economic and religious advances, used negative
forces to dominate, just like western civilization is dominated
by American culture today. Good is integrated into evil,
and to the service of evil. Knowledge, moral values and
freedom are only a pretext for the cultural domination and
economic exploitation of minorities, which has resulted
in great hardship and suffering for masses of people.
Yosef told Pharaoh that the
domination of good by evil, which is a fact, cannot destroy
the unity of the world which is based on the order of 7,
as demonstrated in the dream.
The number 7 does not represent a physical trait in the
world; it represents the process of divine love which is
present in everything, in order for man to use it. This
is what Avraham discovered when he understood that olam
hessed yibane (Psalm 89, 3), the world is built on goodness
and not on destructive or dominating forces. There are 7
stages in the list of sefirot, which begin with hessed (goodness).
Yosef understands that the dream represents years because
the gematria (numerical value) of shana (year) is the same
as that of sefira. A Jew who knows the Torah is therefore
not an ascete who has fled from the real world: he lives
in the real world and his understanding of human nature
allows him to do good in the world and ensure that goodness,
and not evil, prevails. This is what Psalm 20, 8 says:
elle barekhev, some trust in chariots
veelle vasusim, and some in horces
vaanahnu be shem Hashem elokenu nazkir, but we will remember
the name of Hashem our God.
The Psalm goes on: they are brought down and fallen, but
we are risen and stand upright.
Hashem created good and evil,
face to face. Psalm 91, 14-16 tells us that there is only
one solution to avoid the victory of evil and brutal force:
it is to know the name of Hashem and understand the divine
process of life. This cannot be achieved by any abstract
or theological beliefs, but only through exact knowledge
of the word of Hashem. This is what Yosef does. He knew
the Torah better than his brothers and this is why his father
loved him most. He knew the shekhina, the presence of Hashem
in the world, and because of this, he was able to endure
the most difficult trials (prison, hatred, rejection, slander,
sexual attacks, banishment, etc.) and to help bring about
yehua, salvation. He does not claim that his kingdom is
not of this world: on the contrary, his kingdom malkhut
is very much of this world and one where goodness prevails
through the shekhina. This is also the role of the Jewish
Yosef teaches us:
" to live always according to the Torah,
" to make good judgments based on our own abilities
and the knowledge of the Torah,
" to know the teachings of the Torah, which can only
be done in Hebrew and by painstaking study,
" not to fear the power of those who reject the Torah,
" to wait patiently for the victory of goodness over
" not to pay too much attention to our own failings.
Examine your own level of trust and see how you can elevate
" towards Hakadosh Barukh Hu
" towards those you love.
Examine how you deal with trust
in the education of your children.
Observe how you and others can correct what was not fully
acquired in childhood.
" For more on bitahon, trust towards Hashem, read the
relevant sections in Hovot Halevavot (The Duties of the
Hearts) and in Reshit Hochma.
Study the Hebrew in this parasha
Study the concept of bitahon in Hebrew
This is found in Kohelet 9, 4 (Lamentations), II Kings 18,
19 and Isaiah 36, 4.
It also appears 150 times in the Torah, in the verb batah
or in the noun betah (calm interior, absence of fear, physical
and mental security).
The meaning of the root of bitahon
The word bitahon comes from the root bth, and the three
letters beit teit heit, like the verb batah, he trusts.
(Verbs in Hebrew are designated by the 3rd person in the
past tense, and not by the infinitive.)
The root batah can also mean:
1. to have trust in oneself
and in what is. ("of course, that's the way it is,
it is evident": betah! as we say today in modern Hebrew.)
See Rashi on Bereshit 34, 25.
2. at the moral, affective, religious level, to have faith
in someone, in the knowledge that he or she is trustable
and will not abandon you at the moment of crisis and will
always act with kindness. Happy is the man who trusts in
Hashem (Psalm 84, 13).
3. to be confident, to feel safe, calm. See Rashi on Psalms
4. to reassure someone in respect of something. See Rashi
on Psalms 130, 4.
5. to make someone feel safe, secure. See Rashi on Ezekiel
Thus one says:
" to have trust in
" to have trust on
. batah al
" to have trust towards
The type of word
The sound "on," when added to the root, creates
the word bitahon. It is a suffix that designates something
abstract and general. Many nouns are constructed in the
ratzon, will, from the root "to want"
zikaron, memory, from the root "to remember"
yitron, advantage, from the root "more"
However, many nouns designating
concrete objects or plants also end with the suffix "on"
Many words in modern Hebrew
are constructed the same way:
tikhon, high school
The plural form
The plural of words that end in "on" can be im,
or ot, as in:
aron, cupboard; aronot, cupboards
rimon, grenade; rimonim, grenades
For more on trust in Hashem
Psalms 12, 21, 23, 25, 26, 27, 31, 32, 41, 52, 86