Weekly Inspiration

Blind ... Until Hashem Opens Our Eyes
December 14th, 2023
Blind ... Until Hashem Opens Our Eyes

The first public speech I ever gave was in a prison … during Chanukah.

This was in Rikers Island, a huge prison complex on a 400-acre island adjacent to LaGuardia Airport in New York City. The audience was a group of Jewish inmates, and I spoke about Yosef ha Tzaddik, who was miraculously released from prison in Mitzraim.

Prison is frightening even for a visitor. I entered through a glass-walled corridor between two electronic doors. When one door opens, the other closes. When the second door closes behind you, you feel as if you will never leave.

In this week’s Parsha, Yosef is catapulted miraculously from “the pit” to become Paro’s viceroy. This is Golusand this is Redemption: we are in the pit, the deepest darkness of despair, and suddenly Hashem elevates us to dizzying heights. “Mikimi mai afar dal … He raises the needy from the dust; from the trash heap He lifts the destitute, to seat them with … the nobles of His people.” (Tehillim 113)

After Yosef achieves his exalted position, his brothers arrive in Egypt, inaugurating one of the strangest scenes in Tanach. What explains Yosef’s behavior toward his brothers? Clearly, he wants to turn their world upside down in order for them to do teshuva. But, from their viewpoint, it is like a strangely-choreographed irrational drama. 

And … is it possible that his brothers don’t recognize him? 

Imagine the scene: the magnificent brothers, from whom all Israel descends, wandering through Egypt confused and accused, trying to purchase grain but harassed by the towering figure of the potentate. We the readers know what is going on, but they know nothing. 

Actually, do we really know what is going on? What is Yosef actually doing to his brothers? What is the point of this charade? Is it possible they don’t recognize their own brother? 

My friends, this brilliant scene presents us with the essence of our world.

If we lose an object we say, “Ha kol b’chezkas sumim … Everyone has the status of being blind until Hashem opens their eyes.” (Midrash Beraishis 43:14) This is a common experience. Something can be in front of our eyes, but we cannot see it until – suddenly – our eyes open. 

Agents once came to arrest the Ribnitzer Rebbe for performing a bris. “I was sitting at a table,” the Rebbe said, “When the KGB came barging into the house…. The rebbetzin started screaming, ‘Run away! Run away!’” The agents walked around the table …. The Ribnitzer was sitting right there…. They searched [the entire house] … but they did not see him. (The Ribnitzer, Artscroll/Mesorah p. 45) 

I have often looked for something which was right in front of me, which I did not see until Hashem “opened my eyes.”

Yosef was in front of his brothers, but they failed to recognize him. 

There is a famous maxim, “Ma’ase avos siman l’banim … the actions of the fathers are a sign to the children.” (Ramban to Bereishis 12:6) Sefer Beraishis is a giant picture of the future world, guiding us, the Children of Israel, so we understand our own lives. The entire story of events in Mitzraim is a guide to the coming Redemption which will occur in the Days of Moshiach. 

We are like the sons of Yaakov, wandering around in the midst of exile in a strange land. Yosef’s behavior seemed totally irrational from the brother’s perspective, just as the entire behavior of the other nations toward us in our own day is irrational.

What about the Nazis ymak shemo? Why did they single us out? What did we do to Adolf Hitler, may his name be ground to dust? What did we do to the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the haters throughout history? What did we do to the Arabs? What did we do to the presidents of the Ivy League Universities who hate us? What did we do that caused all these demonstrations throughout the world?

The world we live in resembles ancient Egypt, where Yosef created an environment for his brothers which would resemble the future world of their children, a world which was irrationally hostile, in which the ruler seemed to be their enemy, in which they lived in fear, where they could no nothing right, no matter how innocent their actions. 

And who was this “evil” Egyptian potentate? Their own brother who loved them, who was acting only to make them search their hearts in order to do teshuva and reunite the family!

So it is in our world! Behind the veil is the King of the Universe, seeing everything, orchestrating everything. It looks dark! It looks hopeless, but it is a scene created only to save us and open the heavenly curtain in order that the light of Torah may illuminate the darkness.

May we soon greet Moshiach ben Dovid on the day when Hashem will shine a new light on Tzion, “and may we all speedily merit its light!”


Golus: Exile
Mitzraim: Ancient Egypt
Paro: Pharaoh, the king of Egypt
Sefer Beraishis: The Book of Genesis
Tanach: The Written Torah
Teshuva: Repentance
Ymak shemo: May their name be erased


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