web analytics
September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Parshat Mikeitz

Hertzberg-122311-ship

Looking back in time it is amazing to realize that every so often we encounter a 24-hour period with a timeless impact on the trajectory of human history. These periods, though short in actual time, through the convergence of multiple factors, produced historic decisions—decisions that arguably affected humankind forever after.

A classic example of this is the 24-hour period following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. To capture the historic significance of this day, historian Steven Gillon recently published the book, Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation into War, (2011), which focuses on FDR’s crisis management from the time he heard about the attack on December 7 until his speech to Congress on December 8 requesting a declaration of war.

Today we look back to that time with an air of inevitability. However, nothing was inevitable that day. FDR had to be forthright with the American people but not too open as to cause panic and rush to submission. He needed to galvanize the country for war, not only against Japan, but against Germany as well, without allowing his comments to focus on Germany, since many Americans still viewed the war in Europe as a European problem. Some of the most important decisions he made during those 24 hours concerned the speech he would give to Congress on December 8.

Cordell Hull, the Secretary of State, opined that the speech should be a relatively long statement presenting to the American people the entire history of America’s relations with Japan and all the Japanese actions leading to war – culminating with the attack on Pearl Harbor. FDR, however, for effect, wanted to keep the speech short. He was a firm believer that less was more. FDR also worried that a longer speech would force him to reveal more details about the losses at Pearl Harbor, which would serve both to dishearten the American people and embolden the Japanese. He was afraid that once the Japanese realized how badly damaged the American military was they would strike at the United States mainland. He also realized, according to Gillon, “that focusing too much attention on the Pacific would limit his ability to lead the nation to war in Europe” (p.149).

Perhaps some of the most important decisions of that day revolved around the actual writing and editing of the speech, which FDR did himself. The original speech was dictated to his secretary with the following first sentence. “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a day which will live in world history—the United States of America was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

When FDR reviewed the typed remarks, he made some handwritten tweaks. The words “world history” were replaced by the more emotion filled word infamy and the word “simultaneously” was replaced with the more frightening word suddenly. As Gillon writes: “Thus was born one of the most famous lines in presidential oratory” (p.72). Later that night, when meeting with his aid and confidante Harry Hopkins, he added the following closure at the Hopkin’s suggestion: “With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us G-d.”

The importance of recognizing an immense opportunity contained in a small amount of time, and maintaining control in order to take full advantage of the situation, is seen at the beginning of this week’s parsha when Yosef is hurriedly summoned to appear before Pharoh to interpret his dreams.

After Pharoh related his dream to his advisors and failed to receive a satisfactory explanation for it, the chief butler informed him about Yosef and his powers of dream interpretation. The Torah describes (41:14) that Pharoh sent immediately for Yosef. Due to the extreme urgency of the situation Yosef was rushed out of the dungeon. For Yosef, the next 24 hours or so were of critical importance. He had several key decisions to make—decisions that would impact his future and the future of Bnei Yisrael.

Upon being released from prison, the Torah informs us, Yosef groomed himself and changed into attire appropriate for Pharoh’s court. Rashi explains that Yosef did this out of respect for the monarchy. Later commentators expand upon Rashi’s point. According to various commentators there were halachic problems with Yosef grooming himself in an Egyptian hairstyle and dressing in accordance with Egyptian custom. However, the halachic tradition permits certain allowances for people who must interact with the secular rulers. Yosef’s first decision, as it were, was whether to rely on these allowances and demonstrate his ability to blend in or rather to maintain his separatist image.

The second decision he had to make was how to respond when Pharoh credited him with being an outstanding dream interpreter. Although he had much to gain by accepting the praise, Yosef’s integrity and fear of Hashem compelled him to acknowledge publicly that he was but a simple agent of G-d. His third decision was not to limit his words to merely interpreting Pharoh’s dreams but to dare to reach beyond his mandate as a dream interpreter and suggest a policy to guard against the dangers of the predicted famine.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division and is an adjunct assistant professor of History at Touro College.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Parshat Mikeitz”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Israeli Apartheid Week at the University of California, Los Angeles campus.
The Red Herring of the Definition Debate
Latest Judaism Stories
Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

The common translation of the opening words of this week’s parsha, Ki Seitzei, is: “When you go out to war against your enemy.” Actually the text reads “al oyvecha” upon your enemy. The Torah is saying that when Israel goes out to war, they will be over and above their enemy. The reason why Bnei […]

Rabbi Avi Weiss

The love between Gd & Israel is deeper than marriage; beyond the infinite love of parent for child

Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: When a stranger approaches a congregant in shul asking for tzedakah, should the congregant verify that the person’s need is genuine? Furthermore, what constitutes tzedakah? Is a donation to a synagogue, yeshiva, or hospital considered tzedakah?

Zvi Kirschner
(Via E-Mail)

Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

Since giving the machatzis hashekel will not change his financial situation, he is obligated to do so even though it is more than a fifth of his income.

Today, few people fast during the Days of Selichot, but the custom is to rise early to recite Selichot.

Each month is associated with a particular tribe. The month of Elul is matched up with Gad. What makes Gad unique?

Sanctions and indictment of the Jew, holding him to a higher standard, is as common and misplaced as ever.

To allow for free will, there are times when Hashem will allow a person the “opportunity to be the messenger.”

“There is a mitzvah to pay the worker on that day,” answered Mr. Lerner.

Be happy. Be grateful. God knows what he is doing. It is all happening for a reason.

We get so busy living our lives, handling our day-to-day little crises that we forget to go that one step deeper and appreciate our lives.

The promise for long life only comes from 2 commandments; What’s the connection between them?

Mighty Amalek deliberately attacked enemy’s weakest members, despicable even by ancient standards

If we parents fail to honor responsibilities then society’s children will pay the price for our sins

Consider how our Heavenly Father feels when He sees His children adopting all other parents but Him

More Articles from Rabbi David Hertzberg
Hertzberg-080715

We need to have the endurance Napoleon demanded from his troops.

Hertzberg-071015

While leadership is always needed, complex situations require it at the highest level.

A truly great leader is someone who not only leads and influences his immediate circle, but the broader world as well.

Though studying Torah is the most important mitzvah, it is performed in private.

Lincoln was not a perfect man. But he rose above his imperfections to do what he thought was right not matter the obstacles.

Before we embark on a major project or make a fateful decision we must get a wide-range of views and perspectives.

The Torah presents us with a model of how to effect change in a sustainable way.

Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of Britain’s men is not too great a price to pay.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-mikeitz/2011/12/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: