Mikeitz: Children of One Father

Copyright 2011 Neal Joseph Loevinger

Torah Portion: Mikeitz

Happy Hanukkah!

The portion Mikeitz, which includes the story of Yosef’s brothers coming to Egypt to buy food, and the games Yosef plays with them. When Yosef’s brothers first appear before him, they only see the Prime Minister of Egypt- they have no idea that this is the young boy they sold into slavery so many years ago. Yosef, of course, does recognize them, and in order to test their repentance, he accuses them of being spies:

“And they said to him, `No, my master, your servants have come to buy food. We
are all sons of one man. We are honest. Your servants were never spies. ` ” (Bereshit/ Genesis 41: 10-11)

Rashi, quoting an earlier midrash, makes a beautiful comment on this passage. He
points out that when the brothers explain that they are not a team of spies, but a family, the “sons of one man,” the words can be read to include Yosef, too:


” The Holy Spirit flickered within them, and they included him with them, for he too was the son of their father.”

Now, the last time these brothers had seen Yosef, they didn’t exactly treat him like family-
they threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave. Yet I read this midrash as hinting that the
quality of achdut [brotherhood /siblinghood, but also meaning unity] had not entirely
gone out from their hearts. Another way to understand Rashi’s comment might be: the
brothers were ready to start thinking of Yosef as family again.

In either case, I love the spiritual language of this midrash: the “holy spirit”, or that part of
the Divine which is inseparable from each human soul, was what lead them to include
Yosef as their brother, even if it was only subconsciously. To put it another way: when we
start to think of the people we’re estranged from as family, as our brothers and sisters,
then that’s the Divine soul flowing from within us.

We more fully express our spiritual selves when we act towards forgiveness, inclusion, and
healed relationships- just as the brothers were beginning to do, however slightly, when
they presented themselves before the man they only knew as the Prime Minister of Egypt.

Yosef and his brothers had a long way to go before they were fully reconciled,
but at the moment when “brotherliness” was stirred within them, great things became possible. The
Divine Spirit stirs within, to help us see each other as brothers and sisters, to bring
together that which is broken apart, in every age and in every heart.

Shabbat Shalom,


PS- as promised, here’s a link to a summary of the entire parsha:


and here’s a link to the text itself, including the special haftarah and maftir
for Hanukkah:


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