Parashat Miketz Erev Shabbat 19 December 2020
Week of 13-19 December 2020
Torah portion: Genesis 41:1-44:17   Haftarah: 1 Kings 3 :15 – 4 :1
Theme: Wisdom in Crisis

In this week’s parasha and haftarah, we are presented with two known figures in the Hebrew Scripture: Joseph and Solomon. The readings present an almost similar pattern between the two pericopes: dream-crisis-judgment-resolution-leadership. First, the scene opens with a dream. In the parasha, the dream is not Joseph’s but Pharaoh’s. In the haftarah, Solomon wakes up from his dream or vision. The scene of the dream is then followed by a crisis. In the parasha, they were faced with a crisis of a massive scale, a famine; while in the haftarah, Solomon is faced with a crisis of a legal nature, a dispute between two mothers. The crisis is then resolved largely because of the prudent and wise judgment of the protagonist. Egypt became prepared for the famine because of Joseph’s wise counsel. An injustice was averted because of Solomon’s keen judgment. Lastly, both Joseph and Solomon were established as rightful leaders, or that their leadership was affirmed by others (Pharaoh, Solomon’s subjects) because of the wise judgment they delivered.

Fishbane notes that “we thus have two models whereby a mediator is solicited to resolve a problematic case.” However, it is important to note a significant similarity besides the pattern being followed. In both the parasha and the haftarah, the pattern dream-crisis-judgment-resolution-leadership is brought to fruition, not because of the inherent wisdom of the protagonists but ultimately because of G-d bestowing upon them divine wisdom. In the parasha, Joseph repeatedly ascribes to G-d the marvelous counsel he delivered to the Pharaoh “not I – it is G-d…” (Gen 41:3; Cf. 41:25; 41; 28) Pharaoh affirms this when he appoints Joseph as regent of all Egypt: “Since G-d has made known this to you, there is no one as discerning and wise as you.” (41:39) In the haftarah, the people are in awe of Solomon’s judgment “for they saw that he possessed divine wisdom to execute justice.” (1 Kings 3: 28)

We should remember that in the previous scenes, Wisdom, or the spirit of God was given freely to Joseph while Solomon sought after it. Joseph rose to the ranks, while Solomon was already on the throne. On Joseph’s judgment and interpretation of dreams, hangs the fate of an entire nation and even of an entire region facing a climate crisis; while Solomon’s judgment ensured that justice is done in a conflict between two individuals. No matter what the circumstances, both Joseph and Solomon, neither act nor decide out of human wisdom or prudence. These decisions were carried out because G-d bestowed on them wisdom. Notice how in the text, G-d did not directly intervene in bringing about the resolution to the crises (as in many other instances). Divine wisdom, it seems, works when human beings too, act neither independently from nor despite this divine wisdom. Joseph, the Pharaoh, and the subjects of Solomon recognized this.

In the current crises brought by the pandemic, people in various positions and leaders, find themselves having to be ‘mediators to resolve a problem.’ Even we are faced with decisions in which hang the fate and even the lives of individuals, communities, and societies. These decisions either lead to the resolution of the crises or their worsening. We believe that G-d has already bestowed on us his Spirit/Wisdom. We hope that we act, individually and collectively, in cooperation with this wisdom G-d has already bestowed upon us.

For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Which of the current crises have called for (a) prudent and wise judgment (s) from us as individuals or as a community? 2. How have we recognized and acted in cooperation with the wisdom G-d bestowed upon us to respond to these crises?

Bibliography: Fishbane, M., The JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2002), 70-71.

This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
John Paul A. Bolano, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumnus 2017


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