Back to Main Page

Parshat Miketz


Parshat Miketz almost always falls out on Shabbat Chanukah, teaching us that there must be an underlying connection between the two.  We saw in the previous parsha that Yosef was very good-looking; in fact, in next week’s parsha, Rashi tells us that Yosef was so good-looking that the local women would climb up on walls to catch a glimpse of him as he passed by!  Rashi adds (elsewhere) that when he saw how good things were at Potiphar’s house, he began to eat, drink and curl his hair.
Of course, no one is at fault for being created beautiful.  But being overly involved with one’s appearance can lead to self-obsession.  Such a person will want to adorn himself with more and more, until it can eventually lead to idol worship – of himself! 
According to the Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 84:14), Yosef’s obsession with his appearance is what caused the brothers to sell him into slavery.  They foresaw that a descendant of Yosef would bring idol-worship to Israel and felt they had to stop the chain of events.
Greek culture was obsessed with the human body, and that is why they forbade brit milah – they considered the human body the epitome of perfection.
Beauty does not always lead to negativity, however.  Both the Mishkan and the Beit Hamikdash are referred to as beautiful.  Beauty, even of people, that inspires a connection to Hashem is praiseworthy.   
The victory of the Jews over the Greeks was a victory of a God-centered beauty over a pagan beauty.  It allowed the Jews to rededicate the Beit Hamikdash, a beautiful place to serve Hashem.  As Rav Weinberg points out, Yosef’s triumph over his self-obsession in the incident with Potiphar’s wife was the precedent for the victory over the Greeks. 
Interesting note:  Yavan (Greece) is spelled yud, vav, nun.  The word Zion also contains yud, vav, nun, but they are preceded by the letter tzadik.  The letter tzadik refers to the fear of Hashem, the person epitomizing this trait being a tzaddik.  The Midrash notes multiple parallels between Zion and Yosef and observes that the history of Zion is patterned after Yosef’s life.  As Yosef misused his beauty, so too, Zion lost its “tzaddik.”  This brought about Zion’s eventual subjugation, or “sale,” to Yavan, just as it caused Yosef himself to be sold.  When Yosef overcame his temptations and refused Potiphar’s wife, he earned the appellation of Yosef Hatzaddik.  The tzaddik was combined with Yavan to form Zion.   
May we always be blessed with the strength and clarity to use our beauty, as well as all of our traits, to inspire ourselves and others to become closer to Hashem!




Back to top