HomeDecember 2012The Art of Knowing Nothing

The Art of Knowing Nothing

The story of Yosef teaches us several important lessons.  The first is that as parents, we should not play favorites or give preference to one child over another, for this can cause great harm and lead to jealousy.  A second is that the relationship between man and man is fragile at best and that the actions of one person, even seemingly innocent and well intentioned, can have adverse effects on others.  But perhaps the most important lesson to be learned is one in which we realize that although we have bichiras chofshis – free choice – in our actions and lives, it is God who guides us and protects us.

* * * * *
The word miketz or keitz signifies “end” or “conclusion.”  It is usually used to denote the end of an era, the defining moment of the passage of time.  It also denotes that a great change of circumstances is about to occur.  What was before will be no longer.  The end of the past will give way to a new reality.  Miketz introduces us to the radical change in the circumstances of Yosef – from dungeon inmate to viceroy of Egypt!
In Jewish tradition, the word is employed to describe the end of the period of exile and trials of Israel and the beginning of the longed for redemption and messianic era.  Implicit in our understanding of the word as it appears in the Torah and Jewish tradition is the understanding that nothing is certain and what may appear to be long-lasting and immovable is always only temporary and subject to change.
Only uncertainty is certain in our lives and in all human affairs.  The present always ends and a new tomorrow – for better or even better – is looming just over the horizon of time.  This short Hebrew word mocks all of the predictions of experts in any field of endeavor.  All such statements are based upon the known past and present, but these come to an eventual end upon the understanding that the future remains as unreadable as ever.  Most of us are experts when it comes to hindsight.  We rarely achieve meaningful foresight in any field of human enterprise, including national and personal living.
All of this is true regarding humankind generally.  It is doubly true regarding the future of the Jewish people and Israel.  Only the diehards stubbornly insist that somehow the path of the Oslo Agreements has not yet come to an end.  Only the hardened and religiously ignorant secularists believe that they alone have the solutions to the “Jewish problem,” both internally and universally.
Hitler’s Reich was designed to last one thousand years, and Marx’s economic theories were to have produced eternal peace, fairness and a certain, easily predictable future.  The world operates as though the word miketz is not present in the human vocabulary.  That is the main tragic error in human society, for it allows for flawed planning, a sense of overconfidence, and a pompous certainty of integrity that is based on the false assumption that circumstances and eras do not change or end.
Miketz reiterates this true fact of our existence, uncomfortable as that may be to our psyche. The Midrash introduces its commentary to our parashah with the verse “keitz – an end has the Lord brought to our darkness.”

Kislev-Tevet 5773
Candle Lighting Times
and Torah Portions

Saturday, December 1
Torah Portion: Vayishlah
(Genesis 32:4-36:43)
Friday, December 7
Light candles at 4:25 p.m.
Saturday, December 8
Torah Portion: Vayeshev
(Genesis 37:1-40:23)
Chanukah – first candle
in the evening
Friday, December 14
Light candles at 4:26 p.m.
Saturday, December 15
Torah Portion: Miketz
(Genesis 41:1-44:17)
Friday, December 21
Light candles at 4:29 p.m.
Saturday, December 22
Torah Portion: Vayigash
(Genesis 44:18-47:27)
Friday, December 28
Light candles at 4:33 p.m.
Saturday, December 29
Torah Portion: Vayehi
(Genesis 47:28-50:26)

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