Miketz: revealing the secrets


Tamar Pelleg

Since then, a lot of water has flowed in the river of my life. Today, apart from my everyday writing in my “Morning  Diary”, I write regularly on topics related to the Hebrew Bible’s portion of the week, from a psycho-spiritual perspective and on topics  related to relationships that I post on  Facebook, blog, digital story collections and recently I am engaged in writing a  book and my  dream begins to come true.


On a continuum between memory and forgetfulness (I remember things that have happened to me in the distant past versus, I do not remember anything) —    where would you put yourself?

In this week’s Torah portion “Miketz” Yosef gives his two sons the names: Menashe (נ.ש.ה..) and Ephraim (פ.ר.ה.)

By giving these names, which mean forgetfulness (forgetting the bad that has happened) versus memory (remembering the good life I have earned now) Joseph touches on the pattern we saw in his father’s Jacob journey:

When Jacob finally confronts the man/angel in the Jabok passage, when he confronts the things, he suppressed and did not want to remember, the things that only at the the Jabok passage he was willing and ready to confront —   he receives a “reminder” in the form of a thigh injury, in the tendon of forgetfulness (נ.ש.ה.)    The pain in his tendon will be a constant reminder and will not allow him to forget who he is and what his name is and will forever connect him to his identity.

The name that Joseph gives to his firstborn Menashe is from the same root letter in Hebrew (נ.ש.ה = forgetfulness), and he seeks through him to forget his hardships, the trauma he experienced, and his father’s house.  But is it possible to forget when you give your son the name “I wish I would forget”?  It is an oxymoron.

It is natural for people who have experienced trauma in their lives, that in order to protect themselves from pain and from a recurring sense of crushing their complete sense of self, they will repress the traumatic experience they went through, and will catalog it deep in their unconscious depths.

However, at the same time, an urge begins to sprout in them to extricate themselves from this memory that from that moment drives them unconsciously, because people’s natural tendency is to strive for the exact truth of who they are.

And it breeds conflict against the power that wants to protect us from feeling pain.


Menashe’s name expresses this conflict exactly.

And here, when Joseph feels safe and protected in his position, or in other words “behind the mask” of the Egyptian ruler, his brothers from Egypt comes to buy food.

And he recognizes them and alienates them (נ.כ.ר.).  Remembering and trying not to show that he remembers, he is trying to forget.

How might Joseph have felt, the moment he recognized his brother?

Has his heart expanded to see them? The ones he went out to look for in Nablus and even though they were not found, he kept asking for them.

Did his heart contract with fear?

Did he feel an urge to run and hug them like the hug of Jacob and Esau and forget about everything?

Or did he get angry at their abuse of him, and it made him want to take revenge?

And maybe he felt conflicted? Between a hug and a fight? Between embracing and struggling? (א.ב.ק/ ח.ב.ק.)

Scripture tells us that his heart was closed. At least in the beginning. “And Joseph saw his brethren, and knew them, and made himself strange unto them, and spoke roughly with them …” (Genesis 42: 7-9).

Scripture, in its unusual way, also tells of very emotional behavior of Joseph, and as experienced readers of the Torah, we can attest that extroverted emotional behavior is rare in Torah stories. In this affair Joseph cries twice and has a very great storm of emotions! (And yes, his father Jacob also cries. Upon meeting Rachel …)

And now Joseph starts a whole series of manipulative abuse of his brothers that continues until the end of this Torah portion.

In terms of the overt narrative, Joseph alienates his brothers, accusing them of coming to spy on the land, imprisoning them for three days (thus allowing them to connect to their feelings of guilt)


” אבל אשמים אנחנו על אחינו אשר ראינו צרת נפשו בהתחננו עלינו ולא שמענו על כן באה עלינו הצרה הזאת (בראשית 42:21)

“But were were guilty toward our brother, we saw his emotional distress, when he begged us for mercy, but we did not listen, and that is why we are afflicted with this distress.”  Genesis 42:21.

He then releases them to their homes with the food they came to buy but secretly returns their money to their sacks, leaving in prison only Shimon (!) as a guarantee that they will bring proof to attest to their words:

“שניים עשר עבדיך אחים אנחנו בני איש אחד בארץ כנען והנה הקטון את אבינו היום והאחד איננו ” בראשית 42:13

“Your twelve servants are brothers, sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and now, the youngest of us, will be missing to his father!?”


And when they arrive after a while to break bread again in the company of his young brother Benjamin (it was not easy to persuade Jacob to hand over his youngest son Benjamin) he continues with his manipulative plan.

As soon as they arrive, he releases Shimon, invites them to his house and holds a feast in their honor — seating them at the table according to their age, loading them with gifts of every good.  How confusing!  Once again, he secretly returns their money, and this time he also hides a silver trophy in Benjamin’s sack!

Not long after they left he goes after them and accuses them of stealing the trophy. His chasing and accusation echo the story of his grandfather Laban who chased Jacob and accused him of stealing his idols, and Judah, just as Jacob his father denies the accusation and like him is quick to say

אֲשֶׁר יִמָּצֵא אִתּוֹ מֵעֲבָדֶיךָ, וָמֵת; וְגַם-אֲנַחְנוּ, נִהְיֶה לַאדֹנִי לַעֲבָדִים (Genesis 44 :9)

…whoever is found in possession, among your servants, shall die; and we too should become servants to you.  Genesis 44:9.

How old was Joseph when his father fled with his sons and wives from Laban? Does he remember that?

When his mother Rachel, who stole and then hid her father’s idols, died in giving birth to Benjamin, did he remember his father’s words and secretly accused him of her death?

Does Judah’s words now arouse in him concern for Benjamin’s well-being? (Judah consented to his death).

This is of course a reason to demand that Benjamin remain with him as a slave and at this climax the drama in the Torah Portion ends.

What do these manipulative games mean?

Why does Joseph repeatedly choose to return their money to their sacks and bury a silver cup in Benjamin’s Sack? And why a trophy?


The word silver (meaning money) in Hebrew has the root letter  (כסף-כיסופים) כ.ס.פ   which is the same root letter of the word longings

If we look at the word goblet in Hebrew (גע בי = גביע  ) and mix its letters, we will discovered in it another word meaning: touch me

If we unpack the word “sack” that in this narrative appears in Hebrew as אמתחת ,  we can read in it two other Hebrew words:  אמת מתח which means: the truth below. (It appears in the text 13 times!)

Metaphorically, non-verbally and unconsciously, Joseph is actually expressing his hidden wish, which he does not dare to admit even to himself:

My truth is buried deep beneath, and my truth is that I long for you, for a bond of close contact and intimacy, I long to form a relationship with you that is not based on fear and guilt, a relationship in which there is no alienation. I long to open to you like a trophy, to talk about my longings and to really touch, and I need to find words and to be listened to.

Joseph is listened to byJudah, who listened and paid close attention to Joseph’s repeated questions “Is father is still alive”?

In next week’s Torah portion, he returns these words to Joseph (Avi, Avinu, Avi,(father) repeated 14 times in his speech) and Judah, whose name means to confess and to give thanks, manages with these words to build rapport and trust with Joseph, penetrate his heart and bring Joseph to confess and be in touch with his truth.


(For the midrash of the words of “Amtachat” אמתחת I am grateful to R. Avraham Satin, and for the midrash for the words for the “trophy” גביע   I am grateful to R. Ohad Ezrachi).

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