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Light from the Sidra

Mikeitz ('At the end...')

Torah: Genesis 41:1-44:17. Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7

Please note that unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from Tanach (The Artscroll™ Series/Stone Edition, April 2013. Published and Distributed by Mesorah Publications, Ltd, 4401 Second Avenue / Brooklyn, New York 11232)

Thanksgivukkah!

In the USA, for the first time in 95 years, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fell on the same day. The next time the two celebrations coincide will be in 2070. So, a belated ‘Happy Thanksgivukkah!’ to our US readers, both Jews and Gentiles!

The victory Judah the Maccabee won over the numerically superior Syrian forces of Antiochus IV after three years of guerrilla warfare remains one of the great events in military history. To this day the Maccabees’ tactics are studied by guerrilla fighters and are commemorated every year by the Jewish people at Hanukkah. For Jewish people Hanukkah, the festival of ‘Dedication,’ commemorates not simply the victory of the few over the many but the rededication of the temple in 167BCE, three years to the day after Antiochus defiled it by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificed a pig on it.

After defeating the pagan armies of Antiochus, Judah the Maccabee became a national hero. When he entered Jerusalem, according to some sources, the crowds waved palm branches and a dynasty began that lasted a hundred years. But Judah was unusual among Jewish heroes in that he was accepted and acclaimed by the entire nation.

It is fair to say that, by and large, the greatest figures in Jewish history, God’s ‘messiahs,’ were rejected by their contemporaries. They came to their own and their own received them not, to use a New Testament term (Gospel of John 1:11). Moses, who is revered as Israel’s greatest prophet, was at first opposed by his own people, so much so that he had to spend forty years as a shepherd in exile in Midian. And when he returned to deliver Israel from the power of the Egyptian Pharaoh he faced resentment, opposition and ingratitude throughout the forty years he led God’s people from bondage in Egypt to freedom in Canaan.

Samuel, one of Israel’s greatest leaders, after judging the people blamelessly all his life, was rejected by the people in favour of a king: ‘All the elders of Israel then gathered together and came to Samuel, to Ramah. They said to him. . . ‘now appoint us a king to judge us, like all the nations.’ . . . HASHEM said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for it is not you whom they have rejected, but it is Me whom they have rejected from reigning over them. Like all their deeds that they have done from the day that I brought them up from Egypt until this day — they forsook Me and worshiped the gods of others. So are they doing to you as well”’ (1 Samuel 8:4-8).

According to Rashi, Israel wanted to be ‘like all the nations,’ therefore their rejection of righteous Samuel was a symptom of their rejection of their God. If a people reject their God, it follows that they will reject his servants too because, to quote the Messiah, ‘a servant is not greater than his master’ (Gospel of John 13:16; 15:20).

David, Israel’s greatest king, was a fugitive from his own land on at least two occasions; the first time was when Saul wanted to kill him and the second was when his son Absalom raised an army to overthrow and kill him. Many of David’s psalms relate to his experiences of being opposed by numerous enemies.

Many of Israel’s greatest prophets during their own lifetimes were rejected by the very people to whom they were sent by God. According to tradition, Isaiah was sawn in two by Manasseh king of Judah and we know that during his lifetime Jeremiah suffered at the hands of the king of Judah and also at the hands of his rival prophets who were speaking peace to the nation. According to one tradition, Jeremiah suffered the fate of false prophets by being stoned to death.

All these men – prophets, priests and kings – were ‘messiahs,’ anointed by God.

And, it seems, Joseph was the first of these righteous men who suffered at the hands of their own people. Joseph’s brothers hated and rejected him because their father loved him more than them, because of the ‘evil reports’ he made to his father about them and for prophesying that they would bow to him. We might be able to understand Joseph’s brothers being annoyed at the tell-tale, know-it-all kid who was dad’s favourite but we find it difficult to relate to them selling him into slavery after plotting to kill him.

There is a Jewish tradition about ‘Messiah the Son of Joseph.’ Some of Israel’s sages could not reconcile prophecies of a Messiah who suffers and dies with a Messiah who rules over his enemies so they theorised that there would be two Messiahs: ‘Messiah ben David’ and ‘Messiah ben Joseph.’ Messiah the son of David is referred to explicitly in the Tanakh, notably by the later prophets, but there is no mention in the Bible of a descendant of Joseph who would fulfil the role of Messiah.

According to rabbinic tradition, the Son of Joseph would die fighting Israel’s enemies at the end of days. But Joseph suffered not only at the hands of the Egyptians but also at the hands of his own brothers, who later prostrated themselves at his feet. In fact both David and Joseph both suffered at the hands of not only Gentiles but also their own people before finally reigning over their enemies. David was pursued by Saul and, in his later years, by his own son Absalom. But he reigned as king nevertheless. Joseph, too, suffered at the hands of family but eventually rules over both his family and over the ancient Middle East.

A celebrated trial took place in Israel at the period of the second temple in which Stephanos, a Greek Jew who believed Jesus was the Messiah. Stephanos was charged with speaking evil against the temple and against the Torah, which angered both the Sadducees who were custodians of the temple, and the Pharisees who were the authorities when it came to the Torah. Stephanos answered the trumped up charges of both sides by pointing out that the people had always rejected their greatest men, their messiahs in the past so it was no surprise that they rejected Jesus as their rightful Messianic King.

I once heard two anti-missionary rabbis –Emmanuel Shochet and Shmuel Arkush – state publicly that the Jewish rejection of Jesus proves he was not the Messiah. The Jewish people, they said ‘invented’ the Messiah and have the ‘copyright’ on him so they alone will recognise the Messiah when he finally arrives.

At the same event, however, Rabbi Shochet blithely stated that the Jewish people have always persecuted the prophets, the men sent by God, which, he said, was probably why God ‘liked’ the Jewish people so much because they were a challenge to him. Although Rabbi Shochet meant it light-heartedly, the Jewish people have been in Galut (exile) for two-and-half millennia for rejecting the voices of God anointed prophets.

Since the era of the first temple, there has hardly been a generation in which a ‘messiah’ has not risen. And each time the hopes of thousands of sincere Jews have been dashed, often with tragic consequences. Just as Joseph’s brothers should have at least considered that their brother’s dreams were divinely inspired, so the Jewish people should seriously consider the possibility that Jesus is the Son of Joseph.

The parallels between Joseph and Jesus are striking:

Joseph was the beloved son of his earthly father (Genesis 37:3); Jesus was the beloved son of his heavenly Father (Matthew 3:17).

Joseph was the obedient son of his earthly father (Genesis 37:14); Jesus was the obedient son of his Father (John 4:34; Philippians 2:5-7).

Joseph’s brothers hated him (Genesis 37:5); Jesus was hated by His brothers. (John 15:18-19).

Joseph foretold that he would rule (Genesis 37:7); Jesus foretold that he would rule. (Matthew 26:64).

Joseph was tempted and resisted (Genesis 39:7-9); Jesus was tempted and resisted (Matthew 4:1-11).

Joseph commenced his great work at the age of thirty (Genesis 41:46); Jesus commenced his great work at the age of thirty (Luke 3:23).

Joseph was sold for silver by Judah (Genesis 37:26-28); Jesus was sold for silver by Judah (Judas) (Matthew 26:15).

Joseph was falsely accused (Genesis 39:13-15); Jesus was falsely accused (Matthew 26:59-65).

Joseph was raised from humiliation to glory. (Genesis 41:14, 39-40); Jesus was raised from humiliation to glory (Ephesians 1:19-20; Philippians 2:5-11).

Every knee bowed to Joseph (Genesis 41:42-44); every knee will bow to Jesus. (Philippians 2:9-11).

Joseph became the saviour of the world. (Genesis 47:25); Jesus is the Saviour of the world. (John 3:16; Titus 2:11-14).

So just as this year Hanukkah and Thanksgiving came together, in Jesus the roles of Son of David and Son of Joseph come together.


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