In Parshat Mikeitz the saga of the missing brother is finally nearing an end. Divine Providence decreed that a difficult famine should strike the land and, fortunately, Egypt became the savior that all turned to for food.

In the interim, Yosef who was sold as a slave to Egypt rose to glory and became the viceroy. He was also the one in charge of the food distribution, not only for the Egyptians, but for people who came from all over.

Yosef’s brothers arrived to purchase food, and the Torah tells that “Vayakeir Yosef et echav” — “Yosef recognized his brothers” — “veheim lo hikuruhu” — “ while they did not recog­nize him.”

Rashi explains that when they saw him last he was merely seventeen years old and beardless while they already had beards.

While a biological change had occurred in Yosef, it is still difficult to comprehend how is it possible that not even one of the brothers should recognize him. Many people grow beards, and yet, their faces and personalities don’t change. True, they were not accustomed to see Yosef with a beard, but had they taken a closer look, they would have noticed facial features and expressions, and would have immediately known who he was, or at least become suspicious: perhaps he was their lost brother? A beard is a good cover-up, but it does not make one totally unrecognizable.

Yosef’s brothers were shepherds by profession. They were out in the fields with their cattle and had very little to do with the world at large. This was the most suitable profession for one who wanted to remain religious and avoid endangering his Torah observance.

When the brothers came to Egypt, they met a Yosef, who looked like one of them: beard, peiyot, and religious garb. They were sure that it would be impossible for a truly religious person like themselves to live in Egypt and rise to glory.

Positive that Yosef remained strong in his faith, and was in hiding, or a menial laborer, they assumed that this man was not religious, but rather, someone who merely chose to dress religiously — therefore, not their brother Yosef.

In a sense Yosef’s taught his brothers and the entire Jewish world for all generations to come a very important lesson:

Even when we are in galut — exile — a Jew should stand steadfast in his religious Torah convictions. Even if he rises to successful status in the world, there is no need to compromise or give up one iota of Yiddishkeit. You can rise to be the “shalit” — “ruler” — over the land and yet be Yosef Hatzaddik — Yosef the righteous.

Of Yosef it says “Vayehi Hashem et Yosef, vayehi ish matzliach” — “Hashem was with Yosef, and he became a successful man” (39:2). Yosef’s achievement was that when he experienced success he remained totally with Hashem. While becoming the great Yosef of his time and country, he remained the same Yosef as the one in his father’s home.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, no one can foretell your destiny. You many end up to be in a Torah surrounding all your life, or you may end up very successful in the secular world. Whatever it may be, always remember the message that Yosef teaches.

May you merit that your behavior throughout life wherever and whatever you will be, should be a kiddush Hashem — bring sanctification to the Name of Hashem.


In Egypt Yosef married Asnath, who according to many opinions, was a granddaughter of Yaakov Avinu, (Pirkei D’Reb Eliezer 38, Soferim 21:9) and thus, his first cousin. She bore to him two sons whom he named Menashe and Ephraim. Torah relates that “Joseph called the firstborn Menashe, ‘ki nashani Elokim et kol amali v’et kol beit avi”’— ‘for G‑d has made me forget all my toil and my entire father’s house.’ And the second son he called Ephraim ‘for G‑d has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering’” (41:51-52 ).

The name given his younger son, “Ephraim,” is quite understandable. With it he expressed his thanks to Hashem for his success, while simultaneously acknowledging that he did not adopt Egypt as his land. He merely regarded it as the land of his suffering, and he was still a son of Yaakov and a native of Eretz Yisrael — the Holy Land.

However, the reason for the name “Menashe” is puzzling. Praising Hashem for making him forget all his difficult toil is comprehensible. Why, however, would he thank Hashem for allowing him to forget his father’s house and its spiritual ambiance?

Chanukah sometimes starts in the week of Vayeishev and sometimes extends into Vayigash. But Mikeitz falls during the week of Chanukah every year.

For many years it was a custom in our family to have a Chanukah party. The highlight was the message my grandfather, Harav Hagaon Tzvi Hakohen ע"ה Kaplan, would deliver. The following is the essence of a message he expressed at one of these occasions.

A visitor once entered a presumably kosher restaurant. Unimpressed with the religiosity of the personnel, he began to inquire about the kashrut standards. The proprietor confidently pointed to a picture on the wall of a Jew with a long beard and peiyot. He said to the visitor: “You see that man up there? He was my father!” The visitor replied: “If you were hanging on the wall, and your father was behind the counter, I would not ask any questions. But since your father is hanging on the wall, and you are behind the counter, I have good reason to question the kashrut.”

There are those who speak glibly about their pious parents and grandparents. They show their pictures, their old worn taleitim, torn siddurim, and candelabra. But all this has no connection with their own personal lives. As far as they are concerned these are antiquated items that belong to a museum.

There are many whose only attachment to Yiddishkeit is through nostalgia. They remember their mother’s lighting candles, they recall the long beards and peiyot of their fathers, and they reminisce about their parents’ Shabbat table, the gefilte fish, kugel, and cholent. They proudly tell their children about it, but, unfortunately, they do not emulate or practice this way of life themselves.

Living among the Egyptians, Yosef was in danger of becoming totally assimilated in the society of the upper class. Fortunately, he remained tenacious in his Torah observance. Thus, it was unnecessary for him to tell his children about his parents’ observance. He conducted his home exactly the same way as his father had done and was able to “forget” his father’s house. When Yosef spoke to his children about Torah and Yiddishkeit, he did not have to suffice with reminiscing nostalgically about what went on in his father’s house. Rather, he was able to show his family his own home as a living example. It was a place where Torah study was in full vibrancy and mitzvot were a daily way of life.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, my Zeide would conclude that his prayer and greatest wish is that his progeny each conduct an authentic Torah home and lifestyle and that Torah and Yiddishkeit would be a vibrant force in everyone’s home.

Hopefully you will give your parents and grandparents much Yiddish and Chassidish nachas and they will be very proud of you.