In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Joseph Shulam: The Weak Destroys the Strong [2021]

I really can’t help myself getting emotional when I read this portion of the Torah. It is not only because it is speaking of Joseph in Egypt becoming second to Pharaoh himself.

From the dungeons of the Egyptian jails to the palaces of Pharaoh. From poverty to riches!

From being a slave, falsely accused of sexual harassment by the mistress of the house of Potiphar the Priest of On, to the one who interprets a dream as indicating the restoration of Pharaoh’s chief baker back to his former glory and out of jail. This phenomenal character of Joseph inspires me to tears of joy.

You see dear brothers and sisters; I was also rejected by my family for believing in Yeshua the Messiah, and being baptized. I was also sent out of my country to the edges of the Okefenokee Swamp in the state of Georgia in the United States.

The story of Joseph is repeated so many times in the Bible, and so many of the heroes of our faith experienced similar rejection and returned and became instruments in God’s hand to save Israel.

King David himself was ignored and rejected by his brothers and left alone with only God on His side, and saved Israel from the Philistine giant Goliath, and became the most important king of Israel.

There is something inspiring about a man who was so mistreated and so abused by his own flesh and blood brothers but he never gave up and never got depressed nor lost his way. Joseph is someone to learn from how about how to survive in this upside-down world.

Our portion of the Torah starts in Genesis 41:1 – 44:17, and the Haftarah (the reading from the prophets) comes this Shabbat from 1 Kings 3:15 – 4:1. From the New Testament we read this Shabbat from Romans 10:1-13.

The message of all these readings is that from being abused, fallen, downtrodden, the men of God and the people of God can rise into the heights of salvation and become tools in His hands for the salvation and redemption of the multitudes.

I would like to look closely at the dream that God gave Pharaoh. The dream is speaking of seven cows that were fat and fertile that were devoured by seven that were skinny and poor.

This paradigm of the weak having victory and destroying the strong is a major theme in the Bible, and especially in the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

We are in the middle of the celebration of the feast of Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication. Hanukkah is a feast of celebration of the few and weak having victory of the many and the strong.

It is what one family of priests from the village of Modein (not far from today’s Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel-Aviv), did to raise the flag of rebellion against the cruel and powerful empire of the Seleucids (Greeks who inherited a part of Alexander the Great’s empire).

The family of Mattathias acted in defiance of the Greek Seleucids in Modein. Like in the story of Joseph, the impossible became possible by the sheer power of faith in the righteousness of God and through stubborn faith and trust in God’s promises. The weak had victory over the vast army of the Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes.

The same power of faith that told Joseph when he was in the well, God will have the victory in the end, “don’t give up, be strong!” is the power that gave the five sons of Mattathias and the few Judean guerrilla fighters the strength that comes from faith in God the ability to drive the Seleucid army out of Jerusalem.

They took Jerusalem and the Temple back into their Jewish hands, purified the Temple and the altar from the abominations that were offered there to idols and restored the worship of the God of Israel in the temple in Jerusalem. Joseph, like Mattathias and his five sons, knew that no matter how hard and difficult life gets the Lord is ultimately in control and His promises will be fulfilled.

When we, as Jewish disciples of Yeshua the Messiah, speak of having faith in God and in Yeshua the Messiah, what do we mean by the word “faith” – do we mean some doctrine that we espouse or do we mean the power to see what is not visible right now and making that vision delivered to us by the mouth of God through the prophets a flood of power to, with a deep streak of stubborn tenacity, resist the world and the present reality, with our eyes turned with expectation toward the fulfillment of God’s promises?

Just a few weeks ago I visited a very famous ultra-Orthodox rabbi who is 100 years old, and still very much a powerful man of God, who survived the death camps of Nazi Germany, during World War II. The rabbi spoke of the barracks in which he and another 700 Jewish men were housed.

There was room in this barrack for only 500. These Jews in that death camp were also worked hard for many hours per day with very little food, and had to decide to either act like selfish animals or to work together and survive to see the hand of God in their deliverance from that hell.

In the same barracks that this rabbi was in, there was an Orthodox Jew who was also a believer in Yeshua. The name of that Jew was Joseph Vactor, son of Maier.

This rabbi decided that the right thing to do was for all to stand united as one man and to work together, to see that all survived and, in their weakness, to see the victory is because God is faithful to keep his promises.

It is this kind of faith that sustained Joseph in his hardest and most difficult moments of being rejected and being sent to be a slave in Egypt, and from there to jail, and finally as the second to Pharaoh himself. This is the same power of faith that didn’t seek vengeance or retribution from his brothers, the very ones that sinned against him and the same brothers who hated Joseph so much that they wouldn’t even say “Shalom” to him.

Yes, Joseph recognized his brothers who came down to Egypt to seek food, but he controlled his emotions and allowed God to restrain his desires and to help him to retain his self-control, to see what God was going to do with this situation. It is this kind of faith that will always have victory over the evils of this world.

Historians said that the blood of the martyrs was the weapon that brought down the Roman Empire. Tertullian, one of the 3rd century church fathers, said: “The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the church!”

Here are the three most important points that we must learn from the story of Joseph, and it applies also to Yeshua our Lord:

First, when God gives you a promise, either personally or collectively, stay strong and believe that promise with all your heart, soul, and being. God keeps his promises.

We in the state of Israel with all of our complaints and issues of survival, are a living witness that God is keeping His promises and that the exiles are returning home to the land and that the place is flourishing. Yes, there are problems and there are challenges of every kind imaginable, but the city is being built and the contribution of Israel to the world is both physical and technological and spiritual and scientific and I would say even moral.

Look at Israel, a state built from the ashes of the crematoriums of Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Treblinka and the other death camps. Those who died at the hands of Christians who went to church and prayed in Jesus’ name, are now celebrating in the halls of heaven with the angels of the Lord and dancing to the songs of Zion and the Psalms.

While those confessing Christians are on the other side of the great divide begging the Lazarus’s to come and give them a drop of cold water to cool their tongues. Joseph, who was innocent, but in jail because of false accusations, was in Pharaoh’s palace and all of Egypt was at his command and in gratitude for this son of Israel.

Where and what was the wife of Potiphar doing when Joseph was riding high on his horse! What was Potiphar doing when Pharaoh announced that Joseph would be second-in-command and in charge of the economy and the food supplies of all of Egypt!

Second, the wise thing to do is keep your cool and to do your best to be helpful and beneficial and to bless others, even in your misery. Give out of your poverty, share even from what little you have, don’t be selfish and self-centered, especially when you are going through the difficult moments of your life.

The mistake that we make is that when we have a little, we hold to it tighter and ignore those around us that are less fortunate and in greater need. Here is what our Lord Yeshua was teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem:

“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.’” – Luke 21:1-4 [NKJV]

Finally, we all need to have patience. The ability to suffer and to restrain ourselves like Joseph, and to not become angry at God or at our fellow men, for the hardships that have befallen upon us, is one of Joseph’s great gifts.

The feelings that we have been taken advantage of and that life is not fair, and that this world has no hope, and that justice will never come, is a very destructive and damaging and nothing good can come from these feelings that attack us right from the pits of hell. We ought to be children of hope trusting on the promises of God and trusting in His justice even in His judgment.

I am thinking of the Alfred Dreyfuss affair in France at the end of the 19th Century. A single Jewish officer in the French Army, falsely accused of spying for the Germans by some fellow officers who were anti-Semitic.

None of his friends came to his aid or stood by him. However, help came from the most unexpected corner of France, the writer and publicist, Émile Zola, published an article J’Accuse…!

Zola saved Alfred Dreyfuss from Devil’s Island in French Guiana and liberated the falsely-accused Jew that had no hope to ever come out of the Devil’s Island alive and, thanks to Zola’s article, was exonerated and restored to his rank. Zola was nominated for the first and second Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 and 1902.

Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, stories like that of Joseph do happen in history and the most dramatic and illustrated story like that of Joseph is the story of Yeshua from Nazareth, the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, and the returning-to-Zion Messiah.

Yes,

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” – Isaiah 53:3

Now, this same Yeshua is seated in glory at the right hand of the Almighty God of Israel the Creator of our Universe!

When Yeshua returns to Jerusalem in glory, every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess that He is the King of Glory. I believe this with all my heart and am hoping and waiting to be alive in Jerusalem when it happens!

I hope that you too believe this promise and are preparing to see it happen by giving your life and your whole being in His hand to use you and yours to make this happen quicker and soon in our days!

If we would really really believe that Yeshua is returning to Jerusalem and the body of the Messiah worldwide believes this promise of truth that appears both in what is called “The Old Testament” and in the “New Testament,” our situation in Jerusalem, Israel, as Jewish disciples of Yeshua, ought to be just secure and wonderful and it will be up to us to make Jerusalem a place ready to receive the Messiah!

About how we ought to prepare ourselves and Jerusalem to receive Yeshua we will have to write and speak about on another occasion. Let us learn from Joseph the son of Israel who was outwardly an Egyptian that the brothers didn’t recognize, but inwardly He was Joseph the son of Rachel and Israel, and grandson of Isaac, the son of God’s promise to Abraham!

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Miketz [2021]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam and together with Brad TV we are recording the weekly portion from the Torah, from the five books of Moses that is read in all the synagogues around the world. And the last portion that we talked about together is when Joseph is sold as a slave to the house of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s servants. And he does a great job in the house of Potiphar. He is the economist, in other words he is the manager of all of Potiphar’s household. Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph, Joseph is not seducible. He runs away from her, she catches his coat and she accuses him of the opposite. She accuses him of trying to seduce her, and he ends up in jail.

I’m going to stop here for a minute and do something general that is very important for our understanding of all the biblical stories, but especially the story of Joseph. One of the great motifs, for novels, for movies, for theater, for opera, for all of human endeavors, is the motif of “from rags to riches” and the opposite, “from riches to rags.” The story of Joseph is full of these two motifs. It starts from riches to rags. Joseph, whose father loves him, and who gives him the coat of many colors, he is especially loved over all of his brothers, he goes from being loved, to being hated by his brothers. Being sold as a slave.

And now he’s in the house of Potiphar, he is accused by the wife of Potiphar of trying to seduce her, and he ends up in an Egyptian jail. And here we arrive at this week’s portion, called Miketz. It’s translated by the New King James Version, “And it came to pass.” And we’re talking about Genesis 41 from verse one, to Genesis 44 verse 17, that’s the Torah portion. The parallel portion that is read in the synagogues from the prophets is first Kings, chapter three, verse 15, to chapter four, verse one. And we read also from the New Testament, from first Corinthians chapter two, verses one through five.

Pharaoh Has a Dream

But let’s go back to the beginning of our Torah portion, Genesis 41, verse one. “And it came to pass at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream.” Two full years from what? Two full years from the time that Joseph was sent to jail. And he’s in jail. Two years later Pharaoh has a dream, and he stands by the Nile. The King James Version says “the river.” The river. When you’re talking about Egypt, it is always one particular river, because Egypt essentially has one great river. One of the greatest rivers in the world, the Nile.

And Pharaoh is standing by the Nile. The Nile is also one of Egypt’s gods, it’s not only a river. It’s one of Egypt’s gods that provides life, sustenance, fertility, to all of Egypt. It goes from the South of Egypt, all the way to the North of Egypt, to the Mediterranean. It’s the lifeline of Egypt. “And Pharaoh stands by the river. And suddenly there come out of the river, seven cows. Fine looking, and fat cows. They were fed well in the meadows around the Nile river. Then behold, seven other cows come out of the river, ugly, skinny, malfed. And they stood by the other cows, by the fat and fertile and well fed cows, on the bank of the river. The ugly and skinny cows ate up the seven fine looking cows, the fat cows, and then Pharaoh awakes.”

Verse five of chapter 41:

“He slept and dreamed a second time, and suddenly seven heads of grain, sheaves, come up in one stalk. Plump and good grain on those sheaves. Then behold seven thin heads, blighted, skinny, weak, dried up by the East wind, sprang up out of the ground. And the seven thin heads, skinny heads, devoured the seven plump and fertile, and full heads.”

So Pharaoh wakes up, tries to understand the dream, is not able to understand the dream. And in the morning, Pharaoh was disturbed.

“His spirit was troubled. And he sent to call all the magicians and the wise men of Egypt to come and help him understand the dreams.”

None of the Wise Men Understand the Dream

But there was no one among Pharaoh’s wise men to help him understand the dreams and interpret the dreams for him. Then the chief butler of Pharaoh comes with advice. He says, “I remember my sins of the past, when Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me in jail. In the house of the captain of the guards, both me and the chief baker, and each of us had a dream one night. He, the chief baker, and I. According to the interpretation of his own dream. In other words, we couldn’t understand our own dream. We had our own interpretation, but it wasn’t an authoritative interpretation.

Now there was a young Hebrew man with us in jail. And that Hebrew man became a servant of the captain of the jail.” In other words, he was not only in prison, but he got somehow to be in charge of certain aspects of the prison, and the prisoners. “And we told him our dreams and he interpreted our dreams. Each man, he interpreted according to his own dream. And it came to pass just as he interpreted to us, our dreams, whatever he said would happen happened. He restored me to my office and he hanged my fellow prisoner,” the other guy that had the dreams.

Joseph Released From Prison

Both of them were Pharaoh’s servants. Well, Pharaoh heard the recommendation of one of his servants about this prisoner called Joseph, a Hebrew prisoner called Joseph. What would he do? He immediately sent to get Joseph out of jail, out of the dungeon. King James calls it the dungeon. And of course before the prisoner that was not shaved, not clean, not dressed right, would be taken before Pharaoh, they had to wash him, and shave him, and bring nice clothes to him, and change him to be a much more honorable person that will go in front of Pharaoh to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.

And so Joseph is invited there before Pharaoh, he is brought before Pharaoh and he interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. To make the long story short so that we can keep within the timeframe, Joseph interprets, first, both dreams are the same. I want to tell you that this is a well-known fact in modern psychology of dreams. And it’s also a biblical dream. People who have dreams in the Bible usually have the same dream in two variants that have the same meaning in the end. So Joseph interprets the dream for Pharaoh, and says,

“The seven fat cows are years of plenty, fertility. The land will produce richly. And then after that, there will come seven lean years. Droughts, the land will not produce.”

Dreams Have Same Meaning

Both dreams have the same meaning, the dreams of the cows and the dreams of the wheat sheaves have the same meaning. The lean years, the lean cows devour the well fed, fat cows and the skinny grain devours the fat grain. Again, the same motif that I started this teaching with, which is from rags to riches, and then from riches to rags. That’s true with Joseph, but it’s also true with Pharaoh and his dreams. And it will be true for all of Egypt.

So Pharaoh asks his wise man and his magicians what to do, and it ends up with Joseph. Joseph comes and says what should be done. And Pharaoh on the spot nominates him, if I may use modern political terminology, to be the prime minister of Egypt. To handle all the preparation during the seven fat years in order to survive the seven lean years. My mother used to not spend money very easily. She worked as a foreman in a factory, and she always would say, “We have to save white money for black days.” And that’s Joseph’s way of thinking. During the fat years, save, prepare for the lean years. I know that in the modern world, the younger generation does not think that way.

Build on the Solid Rock

They think that, “Whatever I have, I’m going to enjoy it now, who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow?” But that’s not a wise way to live, not according to the Torah. And I don’t think that is also according to the prophets and not according to the teaching of Yeshua. We have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The teaching of Yeshua, the parable of Yeshua, of the wise men and the stupid men, that the wise man built on the rock, on the mountain, up the hill, where it’s hard to build. And the foolish man built on the sand, on the seashore. When the water came and the floods came, the house that was built on the sand, on the weak foundation, collapsed, but the house that was built with hard labor, more expensive work, up on the mountain, survives.

And so you have the same paradigm here in this portion of Miketz. Joseph is appointed as prime minister of Egypt to prepare for the seven lean years. And remember Joseph didn’t study engineering or economy. He had natural wisdom and divine guidance. I would say divine, Holy Spirit guidance, to become such a powerful man in Egypt. And everybody knew that Joseph was a Hebrew. Yes, he worked in the service of Pharaoh, and he dressed like Egyptians, and his children looked like Egyptians. We’ll see it further down in the book of Genesis, that Jacob doesn’t recognize Joseph’s children because they’re dressed, and have haircuts, and they have the manners and the language of Egyptians.

He married Osnat. When I was in kindergarten and in elementary school, we had a girl named Osnat in our class, but I never heard anybody in America name their daughter Osnat. But in Israel, there are still some Yemenites and Iraqi Jews, and maybe Kurdish Jews that name their daughters Osnat, because she was the wife of Joseph. So the seven fat years passed, and all of Egypt was set up by Joseph’s plan, with storehouses, for grain, that will provide grain for the seven years that there is drought in the land. Some archeologists think that they found such storehouses.

As somebody who’s studied archeology, I’ve seen photos. I don’t know if they’re real or not, whatever it is. However it is very interesting that the biblical narrative is that Pharaoh was so enamored with Joseph’s wisdom and his plan for the survival of Egypt, that he allows Joseph in the end to bring his family to Egypt. But that’s going to be in the next Torah portion. In this Torah portion, what happens is that, when there is drought in Egypt, that means that the whole Middle East has drought, especially in the land of Israel, the land of Canaan. And Jacob, like his forefathers, like Abraham, in time of drought, where do you go to get food, but to Egypt?

Egypt Fertile During Time of Drought

Why is Egypt fertile in the time of drought? Because Egypt doesn’t depend on rain. It depends on the Nile, and the Nile is a very special river. It starts in the Southern Hemisphere and it ends in the Northern Hemisphere, in the Mediterranean. What happens when we have summer here? What do they have in Ethiopia, in Tanzania, in Rwanda, in Uganda, in Zimbabwe? What do they have? They have their winter! The rain falls in Africa when we are in summer here.

We don’t have any rain in the land of Israel, for months out of the year. But they have in the Southern Hemisphere, winter time, rain, and the Nile River is one of the few huge, large rivers, one of the major rivers on the face of this Earth, that flows from the South to the North, in almost a straight line, from the South to the North. So when it gets to Egypt, which is in the North, most of it is in the Northern hemisphere, when it gets to Egypt, that means that it’s the flood time, it’s the summertime, because the water comes from the winter of the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere. So when there’s drought in the land of Canaan, people go down to Egypt to get their food from Egypt.

Jacob Goes Down to Egypt

So Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to get food. And, Joseph who is now next to Pharaoh in ranking in Egypt, discovers, recognizes his brothers, and a very interesting saga starts from here. Joseph doesn’t tell them that he’s Joseph. They think that Joseph died. They reported to Jacob, their father, that Joseph was devoured by a wild animal. And they dipped his coat of many colors in the blood of one of the sheep, and presented it to Jacob.

And Jacob thinks that Joseph is dead! And they don’t know that Joseph is alive, and they couldn’t even imagine that God would take Joseph out of the pit of the dungeons of the Egyptian prison, and put him in this high position, next to Pharaoh. Nobody was higher than Joseph except Pharaoh. The story of Joseph is a parallel story to the Messiah, to Yeshua. And we’re going to talk about this in the next lesson. Because Joseph, whom God blessed with dreams and with visions, prophetic dreams, of what’s going to happen, becomes hated by his own brothers.

Joseph Questions His Brothers

And even his father and his mother criticized him for these dreams. And they said, “What, do you think we’re going to bow down to you? You’re going to be the sun, and we’re going to be the stars, and we’re going to be dancing around you and bow to you? Not going to happen!” But it’s going to happen. And Joseph, recognizing his brothers, interrogates them, here in our portion of the week, questions them, asks about the father and his family. And they try to tell him the truth. “Father is old and he’s grieving for a son that he had, but he lost.”

We are going to return to this story in the next week, in the next portion, which becomes a very, very big drama, where Joseph finally breaks down in front of the brothers. And in a very dramatic and emotional scene, reveals to them, “I am Joseph, your brother.” That drama is one of the most dramatic moments in the whole Bible. Besides the cross of Yeshua, His being crucified in Jerusalem, the story of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers is the most dramatic story in the whole Bible. And we’re going to cover that in next week’s teaching. May God bless all of you. Read the Bible, follow our portions by reading them. God bless all of you. Shalom from Jerusalem.

Joseph Shulam: 7 Lessons From the Story of Joseph [2020]

This Shabbat we are in the middle of the story of Joseph and His brothers! I should say, Joseph and his coat of many colors! This Broadway show has a very interesting name. I received an enlightened view of the story of Joseph in the Bible from the title of this Broadway operetta.

This Shabbat we are reading from the Torah: Genesis 41:1-44:17, from the prophets: Zechariah 2:14-4:7, and from the New Testament: Luke 24:13-29.

The reading from the Torah starts with the following words:

“Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river.” – Genesis 41:1 [NKJV]

What kind of statement is this: “Then it came to pass…”? A statement like this can only have meaning if there is predetermined activity! Something expected, programmed, for example, the director gives the word, the cameras start rolling, the actors enter the stage, and the action begins… The story of Joseph is a classic lesson for every human being and for all times.

Joseph starts out at the top: he is loved by his father. Let’s forget about Joseph and put ourselves in his place. You are pampered by your father and mother! You have been given the best that your family has to offer!
You’re not concerned about those around you. You see everything from your own personal perspective! What a wonderful world you are experiencing in your father’s house! You have forgotten that there are others living with you in the same house. They don’t have a coat of many colors!

Winter is coming and your “brothers” might not have a coat of any color, no coats at all! On top of it all you goad your brothers and make them jealous with your visions of grandeur; “I will be the Sun and you my brothers will dance around me,” you have forgotten that you are just an actor who happens to have the lead in the show. Your brothers and parents are also only actors in the same show!

We should not forget the words of William Shakespeare, in “As You Like it!” Act II, Scene VII:

Jaques to Duke Senior

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

The essence of the biblical story of Joseph is that the forces that drive history, our own private history and the history of empires like Egypt and Rome and all forces in His world, God’s world, are beyond us. We are not helpless, we are not robots, we have a free will to decide our own destiny, but beyond our own destiny there is the destiny of God’s world.

That destiny that was predetermined before the creation of the world will not change. This world was created with a beginning and with an end. Like all the worlds, and galaxies throughout space, our own galaxy will one day form a nova and the next day become a “black hole”. Yes, you can find this theory in the Bible, both the old and new testaments!

We might not like it that there is “someone” who controls our planet, and our solar system! I apologize, I cannot do anything about this, and neither can you, nor the president, or the prime minister, or any of the governments of every nation and people on the face of this earth.

The best part about the story of Joseph is the end of His story and the most important part! He makes peace with his brothers and there is reconciliation and restoration of relationships the family is reunited and for nearly 200 years, will enjoy the wealth of Egypt and the plentiful provision of the Lord in the land of Goshen!

Let me continue and zoom in at a higher resolution to examine the story of Joseph. From the very beginning of the story of Joseph, from his birth, Joseph is special. He is born to Jacob’s wife Rachel who was not able to have children for a long time.

Finally, Rachel has a son, Joseph! This is the son that Rachel had been waiting for! Joseph is the son that Jacob had wished for.

Jacob had always wanted to have a son from his beloved wife. From the wife for which he had worked 14 years and to whom he had been married for more than 20 years before Joseph was born. Leah, Rachel’s older sister had seven children before Rachel had Joseph.

It’s no wonder that Jacob considered Joseph to be special. He was Jacob’s son from his beloved wife, Rachel. This great advantage, the special love that Jacob had for Joseph, became Joseph’s greatest challenge. What added to Joseph’s challenge was the special place and destiny that God had for him. It was God who gave Joseph his visions of greatness over his brothers and even over his father and mother.

This extraordinary position in the grand scheme of redemption for Israel and the world was placed on a very young man, who was pampered by his father and favored over his 10 other brothers Here is a lesson for each of us! With every cloud comes a silver lining and after every silver lining comes another cloud!

With every blessing with which the Lord blesses us comes responsibilities and challenges, tests and examinations to see if we know how to use justly and righteously the gifts and talents that God gives us. For some people who are exceedingly blessed and don’t want or chose to exercise the gifts and the calling of God rightly – the blessings turn into a detriment.

The next important lesson to learn from Joseph’s story in our Torah reading is this: Learn to appreciate and to always know how to make lemons into lemonade! In all of life’s circumstances, in the well that your brothers put you down, as a slave in the house of Potiphar the Priest of On, remember who you are and remember to maintain your high moral values.

Even in the palace of the great Pharaoh, lifted up from the prison to the palace, from rags to riches, don’t forget who you are and under whose authority you must function. Joseph’s greatness was exactly this quality. He never forgot who he was, and what God had promised him.

We all have promises from God! We might not get them in a dream or a vision directly from God, but we have the promises that God gave His children, the redeemed of the Lord, you and I, between the covers of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. If we will take God’s promises seriously and put our faith and our hope and our energy into appropriating these promises, our lives will be so much more fulfilled.

If we accept the fulfillment of God’s promises in our own lives, by our faith and hope and love of the Lord, without regard to what our job is, and where we live, and what possessions, or lack of possessions we have, we too would see the Joseph story being played out in our own lives.

The last lesson that we must learn from the story of Joseph is that at the same time that we are experiencing God’s grace in our lives and are enjoying our greatness, we must also remember our goals and stay humble and always place the Lord first in our lives. Never forget who you are, where you came from, who your ultimate authority is and what is your ultimate goal in life.

If I were to summarize what I learned from Joseph’s story, it would be:

  1. Always trust God and His word more than you trust your own brothers and sisters!
  2. Accept your good fortune today and do your best to benefit from it, because tomorrow it might change. Nothing is certain in this world, except God’s promises! The history of Israel is the greatest proof of this.
  3. Dance to the music that is being played! Follow the conductor when the music is playing and don’t try to play by your own tune. You are just one of the musicians; you have the music in front of you, so learn to follow the notes. If you are a dancer learn to dance with the music! Remember the music can change at the wave of the conductor’s baton.
  4. Forgive and don’t hold a grudge against your brothers even if they act like pigs and hurt you! Never say that you will never forgive your enemies either from within or from without. Always seek peace with everyone but if you find yourself at war, always fight to win!
  5. Being in the right is the source of your strength! Joseph, even when he was lying in a damp, dark Egyptian prison, never used his suffering as an excuse to do evil to others. He always looked for opportunities to do good, even when he was in the prison!
  6. The Lord will vindicate His servants. The wheel is turning and never stops! Those who are on top today might be on the bottom tomorrow. For this reason, do right today, be generous, humble, gracious, and faithful today, so that tomorrow you will not experience a lack of those willing to be kind to you. While a prisoner, Joseph learned that it not only pays to always be a servant of God, but to also be a faithful servant to others, to Pharaoh’s baker and butler as well as to his other fellow prisoners, all of whom enjoyed Joseph’s best even though he too was imprisoned, which in the end, caused them to remember Joseph’s kindness.
  7. Don’t do your family laundry in front of strangers, especially not Egyptian strangers!

The Lord is always the same and His actions in the world never change! He lifts up and brings down! He gives life and takes it! He rewards the faithful and punishes the unfaithful. His rewards are eternal, and His blessings, punishments and tests in this life are always temporary.

All glory and honor and praise are due to the Lord eternally!

Joseph Shulam: Receive Everything With Joy [2019]

This is the last Shabbat of 2019, the reading is from Parashat Miketz. Miketz is from Genesis 41:1-44:17. This is the heart of the story of Joseph in Egypt. There are so many important lessons to be learned in this reading.

The reading from the prophets this Shabbat is from 1 Kings 3:15-4:1. From the New Covenant, the reading is from Romans 10:1-13.

The reading of the Torah starts with verse 1 of chapter 41 of Genesis, with the following words:

“Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river.” – Genesis 41:1 [NKJV]

The first question that we must ask is what does the word “then” refer to? “Then” is a time word. The verse says that two full years had passed from the “then”.

You see, this word “then” forms an organic unit with the preceding chapter. Two full years had passed from the time that Joseph interpreted the dreams of his two fellow prisoners, the chief baker and the chief cupbearer.

Netivyah | Parashat Miketz | Joseph in Prison, Musée Bossuet, Meaux (1733)
Joseph in Prison, Musée Bossuet, Meaux (1733)

This is the same story, not two stories, one story connected and leading from one detail to the next. What happened two years before in the prison didn’t end in the prison. The prison was the preparation for the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams. What can we learn from this prologue to Joseph’s greatness in Egypt?

There are many important lessons to be learned from this Torah reading of Miketz. Here is a short list of the lessons from this reading:

  1. What might seem to us as a horrible and terrible event, brothers who hate their younger brother so much that they can’t say “shalom” to him, all because he had a dream (a revelation) from God that promised him greatness, turns out to be a providential move of God to set up the cards on the table for the preprogrammed outcome. For Joseph it was a painful and hard thing to suffer. The family turns against him. Joseph is sure that he had a dream from God. He never doubted his dreams. He stood by the revelation that he received. Joseph didn’t hate his brothers, and he obeyed his father when he sent him alone to look for his brothers and bring news from them.
  2. The brothers are also like clay in the hands of the potter. God can use even the hate of brothers to play an important role for the accomplishment of His plans.
  3. The murderous intents of the brothers, and Yehuda’s business interests, cause the brothers to want to sell Joseph as a slave. God has already prepared the right people to take Joseph out of the well, and sell Joseph to the right Egyptian master, who had the right type of wife for the story to follow God’s program.
  4. Potiphar’s wife liked the handsome young Israelite servant, and tried to tempt him to go to bed with her. Joseph has principles, and although he is a slave and a servant of the house of Potiphar, he has honor, and he runs from the “lady” of the house. He is falsely accused and put in prison.
  5. One event drags into the next, and they are all connected with a silver thread of God’s program, and every detail works wonders to bring Joseph into Pharaoh’s presence.
  6. It is God who gives the dreams to Pharaoh, and it is God who gives the interpretation of these dreams to Joseph.

You see this, brothers and sisters? This lesson is so simple that most of us don’t want to learn it.

If we would learn this lesson and learn to take the hard moments of our lives – illness, hardships, and persecution, as training and preparation for the most important moments of our lives – we would be able to receive even the hardships of our lives with joy.

This is a great Orthodox Jewish Hasidic teaching and principle: receive everything with joy! Know that the Lord is your Father, and He loves you, and, like a father, corrects and educate his sons.

The Lord is the master of history, and He knows and plans everything before it happens. To us, things in our lives, and the history of our people and nation, might look like a disaster and a horror. For the Lord, what happens is just another chapter in the preparation of the world for its redemption. For us, every hardship is a disaster, for the Lord, all things work tougher for the good of those who love the Lord.

The story of Joseph is one of the most complete novels in all of scripture. It has a beginning that is dark and hard, a middle that is exciting and difficult, and an end that is glorious and dramatic. Finally, it has a happy end for everyone – the Egyptians, the sons of Jacob, and the history of salvation!

Please read the story of Joseph from Genesis 37 until the end of Genesis. If you read it in one sitting you will see in this story every element of a great novel, and the lesson and the moral of the story is most important for all of us!

If some of you think that I am teaching Calvinism and predestination, please don’t think this at all. I don’t believe in predestination of our individual souls to be saved or damned. No, God is the master of history, but not the dictator of our salvation. Salvation is a result of God’s grace and the Messiah’s sacrifice, and our participation and obedience of faith to God’s commands and faithfulness.

You always need to ask – why did Jewish tradition chose the correlating passage from the prophets? Well, just in the beginning of 1 Kings chapter 3, it tells us why they chose to read the story of Solomon building his house.

Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, and kept her until he finished the building of his house. Why is this detail important? It is important because Solomon didn’t use Egyptian workers to build his house and the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.

Solomon used workers and engineers from Tyre, and made a treaty with Hiram the king of Tyre, and not with the Egyptian Pharaoh. For this reason Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, to show respect and good relations with Egypt. The two readings are connected by with the relationship between Israel and Egypt to do the work of the Lord.

Joseph Shulam: Jacob’s Prophetic Gift Explains Why He Loved Joseph More Than His Brothers [2018]

This Shabbat the reading in all synagogues is going to be from Genesis 41:1 – 44:17 – Parashat Miketz. This reading starts with Pharaoh’s dreams. The two dreams that are actually one dream, as Joseph said to Pharaoh.

Pharaoh’s dreams are prophetic, and God gave this pagan ruler these dreams so that Joseph would be released from prison and raise to a prominent position in Egypt, that would prepare a refuge and salvation for his father Jacob and his family, including the same brothers that wanted to kill him and than sell him as a slave.

This story of Joseph and his brothers is a real novella, with all the elements of intrigue and plotting and sex and “from rags to riches” that any good novella would have.

There is an additional character in this story that is mentioned very little, but He is the main actor, mover and shaker – the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “Elohim” – “God” – is mentioned only 13 times in this text and the proper name of God “The Tetragrammaton” (the four letters) is not mentioned at all.

11 of these places that “Elohim” is mentioned are in the mouth of Joseph himself, twice Pharaoh acknowledges that Joseph is speaking and doing God’s will and receiving revelation from God. One time Judah confesses that what the brothers did was discovered by God, and now He is presenting His own will, that of the brothers of Joseph to be Joseph’s slaves.

In Judaism, Joseph is a type of a Messiah, and is attributed Messianic characteristics:

  1. He is despised and rejected by his brothers.
  2. He is delivered to the gentiles.
  3. His brothers first want to kill him.
  4. Joseph raises to greatness and honor among the gentiles.
  5. Joseph is considered a savior amount the Egyptians (gentiles).
  6. His brothers are afraid of Joseph, and suspect that he wants to harm them.
  7. Joseph showed mercy and forgiveness to his brothers who sold him to the gentiles. (In Joseph’s opinion.)
  8. Joseph saves his brothers and his family from the hunger in the land of Canaan.

This is the reason why, in rabbinical tradition, Joseph is considered a Messiah who dies and saves: Here is a Talmudic text (Sukkah 52a) that describes the death of the Messianic Joseph (not the historical Joseph from Egypt, but the Messiah son of Joseph):

“And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart.” (Zechariah 12:10-14)

Is it not, they said, an a fortiori argument? If in the future when they will be engaged in mourning and the Evil Inclination will have no power over them, [that is, in the Messianic era, when mankind will be delivered from the evil inclination that leads men to sin] the Torah (Zechariah 12) nevertheless says, men separately and women separately, how much more so now when they are engaged in rejoicing and the Evil Inclination has sway over them.

What is the cause of the mourning [mentioned in the last cited verse]? — R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on this point. One explained, The cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, and the other explained, The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination.

It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse,

“And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourners for his only son;” (Zechariah 12:10-12)

but according to him who explains the cause to be the slaying of the Evil Inclination, is this [it may be objected] an occasion for mourning? Is it not rather an occasion for rejoicing? Why then should they weep? — [The explanation is] as R. Judah expounded:

In the time to come the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring the Evil Inclination and slay it in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will have the appearance of a towering hill, and to the wicked it will have the appearance of a hair thread. Both the former and the latter will weep; the righteous will weep saying, “How were we able to overcome such a towering hill!” The wicked also will weep saying, “How is it that we were unable to conquer this hair thread!” And the Holy One, blessed be He, will also marvel together with them, as it is said, “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, If it be marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, it shall also be marvelous in My eyes.”

There are some important discoveries in this Rabbinical text.

  1. These Rabbis acknowledge that Zechariah 12:10,11 is talking about the Messiah. This is of great significance, since in polemic discussions this is denied. So this text ought to b remembered.
  2. The Joseph Messiah dies to deliver mankind from the Evil Inclination (the human force that leads to sin). The idea that there is a Messiah who dies to deliver humanity from sin is also normally denied by Jewish polemicists. Here you have a clear and present answer.
  3. The issue of separation between men and women in the synagogue finds in this text a sort of proof to justify this custom.

Probably the most important point in this text is that the pattern of salvation in the Messiah is set on firm rabbinical tradition through the story of Joseph. The Messiah is rejected by His own business brothers, He is threatened to death, He is delivered to the gentiles.

I am puzzled by this simple text. What was the real reason that Joseph’s brothers hated him so much that they could not even say “shalom” to their brother Joseph. This is the description of a very deep hate, a hate that is not even to say “shalom” to their brother. There are two reasons given by the scriptures why the brothers hated Joseph with such a deep hate.

  1. Joseph brought a bad report against his brothers. In other words, Joseph was a snitch, a person who was reporting to his father what his older brothers were doing.
  2. His father loved him more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age! Probably also because he was the son of Rachel – Jacob’s beloved wife.

No one likes a snitch. A snitch is a person who can’t be trusted and you can’t share a secret with a snitch. He will spread it faster than lighting.

In society, people who can’t be trusted with a secret or will go gossiping behind people’s backs and telling everything to everyone of what the others did in the party, are generally-speaking not liked and not included.

The second reason why the brothers hated Joseph was because of Jacob. Note in this verse it does not say Jacob loved Joseph more than his other brothers, but it says, “Israel loved Joseph more than all his children.”

This use of “Israel” in a context of a chapter that is telling the history of Jacob is of great significance. When the Word of God uses “Jacob”, it refers to Jacob’s old nature, who was a kind of a shifty character. “Israel” is the name that God gave to Jacob after contending with the angel at the river Yabok.

The Jacob that loved Joseph more than his other sons was not the shifty character that took the inheritance from his brother Esau, but the Jacob who contended with God and came out winning the blessing, and the change of name from Jacob to Israel. The is the right Jacob/Israel who loves Joseph more.

The reason for this extra love for Joseph is not clear in the beginning of the story, but by the middle of the story, after Joseph’s brothers go down to Egypt to gather food, we find the nobility and humility and love of Joseph for his brothers.

Joseph is an all-powerful man in Egypt of Pharaoh. Joseph is the one person that all of Egypt eats from his hand, and he could have accused his brothers with criminal activity and put them in jail for life.

It is not right for a father to demonstrate love for one of his children above the other of his children. So, how is it that Jacob loved Joseph more than his brothers?

Jacob has the gift of prophecy. We see this in the end of the book of Genesis in Jacob’s blessing of his sons. Jacob predicts the future of the tribes and points out from which tribe the Savior will come, and many more predictions for each tribe.

Jacob’s prophetic gift is the explanation of why Jacob loved Joseph more than all his brothers. Jacob saw Joseph’s character and how Joseph will eventually save his brothers and the family from disaster.

Even though Jacob’s love for Joseph would be eventually proven and justified, the hate that the brothers developed against their younger brother was also predictable, and it played a part in the ultimate salvation of all the Abrahamic family, and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and the salvation of the world.

In the same way goes the rejection of Yeshua by the majority of His race, the Jewish people. God gave revelation to the prophets of Israel that the Messiah will be rejected and despised, will be killed and buried in the grave of a rich man, will come to Jerusalem on a donkey, and will save his all the nations. The process of salvation required that Israel will fall and go to exile and God would restore Israel back to the land that He gave to Abraham and his seed forever (see Genesis 13:14,15).

Please don’t be surprised that God is faithful to keep His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their seed, forever. Stand with Israel, and with your brothers and sisters in Israel. Pray for the salvation of Israel and the peace of Jerusalem. This is a mandate and an instruction of God in His word.

Yehuda Bachana: You are the Light of the World [2017]

Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

“Let there be light…”

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Holidays, this week we study the weekly Torah portion, “Parashat Miketz,” and we also are celebrating Hanukkah. First of all, I want to talk about light. Hanukkah is a holiday that focuses on light, it is about triumphing over darkness and of victory for the weak over the strong. In fact, light was the first element created in the world, as it is written:

And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good… – Genesis 1:3,4a [NIV]

Light is typically thought of as a pleasant and enjoyable notion. It represents wisdom and enlightenment, beauty and love, joy, holiness, and sanctity. Light is also a tangible means of expression to mark the positive and good aspect of life; it points to an essence that has quality.

An example of this can be seen with Shabbat candles, which symbolize family peace and unity. In the Bible, the light is used as a symbol of grace, goodwill, and of a welcoming countenance, which can be found in the following verse:

…the Lord make his face shine on you… – Numbers 6:25a [NIV]

The Torah is also correlated to light:

For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light… – Proverbs 6:23a [NIV]

The light of the Torah is found in its moral and social values.

The Hanukkah candles that we light on the windowsill remind us of the miracles of God, and by their merit alone we stand here as the people of Israel in the Promised Land.

Joseph Was a Light in the Darkness

Yeshua commanded us to produce light, that our lives and actions will illuminate our surroundings. Now I’d like to discuss Joseph who remained in Egypt and illuminated his environment with the help of his faith.

It is very noticeable throughout Joseph’s story that he repeatedly mentions God, who was always standing beside him, directing his way and his morality.

We already saw this at the end of last week’s Torah portion – Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him and he refused. He could control himself because he was afraid to sin before God:

…How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God? – Genesis 39:9b [NIV]

Before that occurred, Potiphar himself bore witness to the fact that Joseph was a believer, and that his strong faith made him a successful person.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did… – Genesis 39:2,3 [NIV]

Verse 3 emphasizes to us that Potiphar sees the faith and the success of Joseph.

Later on, Joseph was thrown into the Egyptian prison. However, even then he continued to brighten his surroundings. He found favor with the guards and the prisoners around him.

Now we come to our parasha, “Miketz”, that begins with Pharaoh’s dream. Joseph is brought out from prison and must stand before the king of the empire, who was the world superpower. At that moment, Joseph did not forget his faith, he declared to Pharaoh:

‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’ – Genesis 41:16 [NIV]

Further, during the interpretation of the dream, Joseph repeatedly said:

…God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. – Genesis 41:25b [NIV]

My point is that Joseph emphasized in front of everyone that God was the one who was at work within him – to the extent that Pharaoh himself said before his people:

…Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God? – Genesis 41:38b [NIV]

After that he said to Joseph:

…Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. – Genesis 41:39 [NIV]

In the course of the parasha, Joseph met with his brothers, and before them he also declared:

…for I fear God… – Genesis 42:18 [NIV]

Our faith in Yeshua as Messiah makes us a lamp and servant of Yeshua. We serve as a menorah, where we sit on the windowsill and shine our light to the world. This is so we can show that there is hope, a way, a truth, and a light.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16 [NIV]

In conclusion

In order for illumination to take place, a ray of light must reflect off of a surface.

In other words, we can not illuminate an empty space at night if we simply aim our flashlight at the sky, the flashlight will not succeed in lighting our way. However, if a flashlight shines on a surface, like a wall, the rays of light will bounce off of it and brighten the way for us.

So too Yeshua calls us to be reflectors, that the light of the Torah and gospel will reflect off of us, so that we can light up the highway of the King. With this thought I would like to invite you to light the Hanukkah candles.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.