Parashat Mikeitz-- Genesis 41:1-44:17
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Questions for Young Children

• What did Yosef’s brothers do to him?
• What’s hiding in the squash soup? What does Yosef hide in Benyamin’s bag? Why?
• How do you think Yosef feels when he sees his brothers after being apart from them for so many years? Why don't Yosef's brothers recognize him?
• How is Yosef’s meal with his brothers like a Thanksgiving dinner?  

 

Questions for Older Children
• Why does Yosef tell Pharaoh that God helped him interpret dreams instead of saying he did it all himself?
• Why do you think Yosef doesn’t tell his brothers who he is? Do you think it was right for Joseph to hide his identity from his brothers?
• What makes Yosef think his brothers have learned to be better people than they were when they threw him into the pit?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• What do you think of Yosef’s treatment of his brothers? What are his motives?
• What would you do if you had the chance to get back at someone who had wronged you in some way?
• To what extent do you think the Yosef story is part of God’s overall plan and to what extent are people’s choices driving the outcomes?

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This Shabbat lends itself to simple dishes and table centerpieces that riff on the theme of hide and seek.

• Play with the number 7 from Pharaoh’s dreams. You can create a 7 Layer Salad or make table decorations linked to the number. Even placing a birthday candle 7 in the center of the table should spark conversation.

• Arrange all of the brothers’ food gifts to their Egyptian host from Genesis 43:11.(You might want to exclude balm, and labdanum)

Or, create your own dish with hidden ingredients. 

For a Hanukkah theme, try

  • Compose a hanukiyyah out of pineapple spears and cherries. This keeps little hands very busy.
  • Decorate the table with chocolate Hanukkah gelt is appropriate for Hanukkah and reminds us of last week's parasha in which Joseph hides money in his brothers’ sacks of food.

 

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This dramatic parasha opens with the Pharaoh’s strange dreams of cows and stalks of grain. When none of Pharaoh’s dream interpreters can parse the dreams for him, his cupbearer finally remembers Yosef (Joseph) the dream interpreter extraordinaire he met in prison. Yosef is cleaned up and brought up to Pharaoh. Yosef explains that the Pharoah's dreams foretell seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Yosef even offers a strategic plan to save Egypt, and he is promptly placed in charge of executing the plan. Yosef’s fortunes have turned and now his earlier dreams will be realized.

The action shifts back to Eretz Yisrael when the famine hits and Ya'akov (Jacob) decides that he must send his sons to Egypt for grain or they will starve. Ten brothers go. Ya'akov keeps Benyamin(Benjamin) with him. Yosef who no longer looks like Yosef to his brothers sets in motion an elaborate and manipulative trap for his brothers that unfolds through this parasha and next week's. Parahsat Mikeitz ends in a cliffhanger with the threat of Benyamin being hidden in the Egyptian prison away from his family.

Find the food connection…

וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲבִיהֶם, אִם-כֵּן אֵפוֹא זֹאת עֲשׂוּ--קְחוּ מִזִּמְרַת הָאָרֶץ בִּכְלֵיכֶם, וְהוֹרִידוּ לָאִישׁ מִנְחָה: מְעַט צֳרִי, וּמְעַט דְּבַשׁ, נְכֹאת וָלֹט, בָּטְנִים וּשְׁקֵדִים

Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, do this: take some of the choice products of the land in your baggage, and carry them down as a gift for the man—some balm and some honey, gum, labdanum [a resin], peanuts, and almonds.”
--Genesis 43:11

Peanuts!

 

The Side Dish

This parasha is replete with hide and seek. Children will enjoy counting how many times hiding pops up in the parasha. Consider the following instances.

The fate of Egypt is hidden in Pharaoh’s two dreams that Yosef (Joseph) interprets. As vizier of Egypt, Yosef’s appearance is altered and he is hidden from his brothers in plain sight.

The brothers--who have concealed from their father Ya’akov that they sold Yosef-- now must head to Egypt for food. Yosef takes advantage of his altered appearance to seek the truth about his brothers and discover if they have changed since they left him to languish in the pit. Yosef accuses his ten half-brothers of hidden motives, accusing them of spying. He hides his motive for demanding the brothers return to Eretz Yisrael to retrieve Benyamin. Yosef hides his identity as he hears Reuven disclose the brothers' guilt in selling Yosef to the Midianites. Yosef hides money in the sacks of the nine brothers as they return to persuade Ya'akov to allow Benyamin to return to Egypt with them. The brothers journey again to Egypt to free Shim’on (Simeon) whom Yosef has kept hostage. Upon seeing Benyamin, Yosef hurries away and hides from the brothers and his servants while he weeps. When the eleven brothers set off on their final return to Ya’akov, their bags filled with grain, Yosef hides a valuable goblet in Benyamin’s bag. Now the brothers are truly anxious because Benyamin could be imprisoned in Egypt. At last the brothers hide nothing; they confess their fear that leaving Benyamin in Egypt could kill their already bereft father. 

It's not only children who play hide and seek.  This parasha makes me think about how family secrets can fester for generations until they're disclosed. When I was growing up, hiding death from children was considered to be kindness.  But, sometimes our imaginations tormented us perhaps more than if we'd known the truth. Children of Holocaust survivors often talk about how long their parents hid the truth from them so that their parents were unknowable until the hidden secrets tumbled out.

Saturday night, Motz'ai Shabbat, we light the first Hanukkah candle. Within Hanukkah (a post-Biblical holiday) hides a Biblical hag (Pilgrimage festival).  Check under A Dash of Holiday Lore for the answer.

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A Dash of Archaeology
One has to have a dash of pity for Pharaoh’s magicians who were called to interpret his dreams in Genesis 41. Their “magic” was consulting a dream manual that explained the symbolism most commonly found in dreams. Alas for them, Pharaoh’s dreams of fat and skinny cows and bountiful sheaves of grain and sere grain weren’t listed in the manual. A photo of the papyrus (Chester Beatty Papyrus) they might have consulted is on the British Museum website.
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=111808&partId=1

A Dash of Hebrew + Agronomy
You’ll see different translations for the Hebrew word, botnim, that appears in Genesis 43:11. In the 1989 JPS Torah, it’s translated as pistachios. In the Hertz Humash, you’ll see the word nuts. In modern Hebrew its English equivalent is peanuts. Could peanuts grow in Eretz Yisrael? They do now—about 11,000 acres are planted with peanuts and about half are exported. Are peanuts native to Israel?—no. Botanists believe they originated in South America so the translation of botnim as nuts or pistachios is more accurate for Ya'akov's era.

A Dash of Holiday Lore
What holiday is the inspiration and source for both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah?
The answer is Sukkot. To see the textual proof for the Hanukkah-Sukkot connection, see II Maccabees 10:5-9. There we learn that the Maccabees couldn’t stop fighting and celebrate Sukkot during their war against Antiochus’s forces. They had to wait until the Temple was rededicated (Hanukkah means rededication) to bring their Sukkot sacrifices. By the way, the Book of Maccabees is part of the Apocrypha which means hidden.
For proof that Thanksgiving is rooted in Sukkot, read William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, an account of the 1621 harvest.

A Dash of Hanukkah Tourism
This week we can reflect upon a family of kohanim—Mattityahu (Mattathias) and his sons nicknamed the Maccabim, Maccabees. In peace time they would have served the Temple and been offered sustenance from the community in return. They felt compelled to fight for their beliefs against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king. The family was from the town of Modi’in described by the Talmud as fifteen Roman miles from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The Mishna notes that Modi’in was a way station for pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the hagimPesah, Shavu’ot and Sukkot. As a stopover, Modi’in also served as commercial center selling earthenware vessels for use in the Temple and boasting several mikva’ot (ritual baths) and synagogues.

Today’s Modi’in is a modern Israeli city (founded in 1996) currently boasting over 83,000 residents (including the web designers for tastingtorah.com who moved to Modi’in in ’96)). Halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, it’s rarely a tourist stop unless visitors are headed for Ne’ot Kedumim Biblical Landscape Reserve—one of my favorite places in Israel. Amidst Modi’in’s modern architecture you’ll find archaeological treasures galore many dating to the Hasmonean period. There’s even an app for that:
http://modiinapp.com/en/category/263/tiyulim-archaeological-sites-in-the-modiin-area
For more information on the archaeological finds, see http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/biblical-archaeology-sites/modiin-where-the-maccabees-lived/

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Squash Soup with Hidden Peanut Butter
Pareve and gluten free—serves 8 generously                              resized squah soup

Ingredients

  • 2 32 oz. containers pareve squash soup 
  • 1-1/2 tsp. oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. ground coriander
  • ¾ c. natural creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ c. chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
  • Crushed peanuts for garnish (a hint for the food connection to the parasha)

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and sauté the onions.
  2. When the onions have softened, add the garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander.
  3. Sauté until the onions brown slightly.
  4. Add squash soup, peanut butter, tomato paste, and pepper, stirring well to combine.
  5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 min.
  6. Sprinkle each bowl with cilantro and chopped peanuts.

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