Parshas Miketz 2018: Playing Favorites
As a child, were you the favorite or was one of your siblings? The Torah warns us that favoriting a child is not such a good thing.
Yaakov Avinu (Jacob) loved Yosef (Josef) most of all his children. Yosef had a very special place in Yaakov’s heart. Yosef was his “ben zekuna” (child of his old age). Yosef was born to Yaakov when Yaakov was already an elderly man. As we have discussed, Yaakov's father-in-law, Lavan made Yaakov jump through hoops before he finally gave up his younger daughter Rochel (Rachel) to him in marriage. After they finally married he was confronted with the unfortunate reality of her being unable to conceive. Only by a miracle was she able to give birth and she eventually did. The child was Yosef and he immediately became Yaakov's favorite child. Yaakov gave Yosef a beautiful colorful coat and expressed his love openly in many ways.
Yosef’s brothers were not only jealous of Yosef, they reached the point where they couldn't even speak with him without harboring resentment. As it says in last week’s parsha, “And his brother’s saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, so they hated him, and they could not speak with him peacefully.” (Genesis 37:4)
This jealousy never subsided. It only snowballed into a ferocity that made them strip Yosef of his belongings (including his coat), throw him in a pit, and then sell him into slavery for an underwhelming sum of money.
Yosef was then sold and resold many times until finally he found himself in Egypt as a servant to the Pharaoh. Yosef was then falsely accused of acting inappropriately with his master's wife and was put in prison and nearly forgotten about. It wasn't until years later that the Pharaoh himself heard about Yosef’s ability to correctly interpret dreams that Yosef was remembered.
Our parsha opens with Pharaoh's dreams and Yosef being whisked out of a dungeon to provide an interpretations. Not only was Pharaoh satisfied he saw incredible wisdom and foresight in Yosef and made him viceroy of Egypt second only to Pharaoh himself. He was given complete oversight during the upcoming famine.
The famine grew and the family of Yaakov went down to Egypt as it was the only place that had food. As the series of events unfolds, we very quickly see how everything until that point was a commencement and a build up to the Jewish people’s exile in Egypt.
When we look closely at what transpired it is spine-tingling. Yaakov's favoritism toward Yosef sent or people into exile for four hundred years.
The Torah is teaching us another lesson.
As Jewish parents or individuals associated with children, we are strongly encouraged to avoid showing favoritism to one child over another not only for the obvious reasons but for the terrible fate it once led our people to.
We are supposed to learn from this the ways of Hashem and emulate His behavior. For example, one of Hashem’s traits is that He is slow to anger and recognizes the individual nature of each of His children. We, are also supposed to be slow to get angry and recognize the individual within our fellow man.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters