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: 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.

Muriel Stern: God is Faithful to Joseph [2018]

“When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream…” – Genesis 41:1a [NIV]

With these words we start this week’s Torah portion. Two full years had passed since the cupbearer and the baker had dreamed their dreams. What Joseph had told them about their dreams had all come true. But the cupbearer had not remembered Joseph and he’d remained in prison.

Two full years passed. And now Pharaoh had a dream. The Pharaoh’s mind was troubled but no one in Egypt could explain his dreams. This was when the cupbearer remembered Joseph. Quickly Joseph was brought from prison and taken to the Pharaoh. Just like with the dreams from the cupbearer and the baker, Joseph didn’t take any credit but pointed out that the interpretation of dreams belongs to God, He will provide the answers.

“It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.” – Genesis 41:28-32 [NIV]

13 years earlier Joseph had dreamt his dream, also in two forms. Joseph, the son of Jacob, who had dreamt a very special dream at Bethel himself. His grandfather Isaac had been giving special promises from the Lord, as had great-grandfather Abraham. God had proven to be faithful throughout the generations.

13 years is a long time from the time that Joseph had his dreams as a young man. Did he still believe God was faithful? Did it encourage him to see that the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker came true? And what about the dreams that God gave to Pharaoh, did they make him feel that the Lord forgot about him or did it gave him hope?

Pharaoh decided to put Joseph in charge of all of Egypt. He made Joseph his right-hand man, only outranked by Pharaoh himself. Joseph got married and has two children. After seven years of abundance, the famine began, just as Joseph had said. But the famine was not just in Egypt, it was severe everywhere, also in Canaan.

And before not too long, Jacob decided to send his sons to Egypt, to go buy grain. Except for Benjamin, his youngest son, because he was afraid that harm might come to him (Genesis 42:4). The 10 brothers got to Egypt and bowed down before the man in charge. Joseph recognized his brothers but they did not recognize Joseph. And Joseph remembered his dreams from long ago.

20 years had passed from when Joseph had his dreams. 20 years from when his father rebuked him. 20 years!

It seemed like Joseph had given up hope of ever seeing his family again, let alone have them bow down before him. God spoke to the cupbearer and the baker and it comes true. God spoke to Pharaoh. But what God had shown Joseph so long ago must have been a fragment of his own imagination. The names he gave his sons show us a bit of how he felt: his first-born, Manasseh;

“It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” – Genesis 41:51b [NIV]

and his younger son Ephraim;

“It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” – Genesis 41:52b [NIV]

But despite is feelings, here after so many years are his brothers, and they do bow down to him.

God is faithful. But just like in the life of Joseph it might feel like God has forgotten about us, about the promises He made us, about the dreams He has given us. I hope that the story of Joseph encourages you. Even when the wait is long, God is faithful. Even when others get their answers sooner, God is faithful. Even when God reveals himself to “unbelievers”, He is always faithful and will do what He has promised.

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.