Parshas Mikeitz

Genesis 41:1 - 44:17

"Rising Above Confinement" ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Donald Wayne Belk and Mr. Gary Lee Belk may they rest in peace.

Confinement has many faces besides prison walls. Age is a form of confinement. Youngsters under eighteen usually have restrictions. Go to bed at a certain time. Get up at a certain time. Internet, T.V., music, driving and associations have restrictions... Even though these are forms of confinement they are unlike prison confinement. The orange jumper is absent. The handcuffs and chain ankle bracelets are missing.

To a single parent, confinement might be living in a small apartment, a rundown neighborhood, low wages, long hours, no health benefits, no transportation, little to eat and the responsibility of several young children with no child support... Yet this is unlike prison. Many parents are behind bars in some far away forgotten place. They cannot see, hold or love their children. They cannot watch their children grow up, take their first step, celebrate their first birthday or first holiday...

To a senior, confinement is often the restrictions of an older body. Stairs can be difficult or impossible. Breathing may require oxygen tubes... Traveling to the local store may require depending on a child, grandchild or friend... Preparing nutritious meals, eating solo... cleaning up... taking medication ... doctor visits... therapy... bills... loneliness... abandonment... Being a senior may feel like prison, but it is nothing like sharing a cellblock with twenty other inmates day in and day out for the rest of your life. Being a senior is not like the confinements of prison. It is not like looking out through prison bars watching the world go by. Being in prison is not like sitting in a park, watering houseplants, living in a small apartment or care facility. Prison is confinement! Prison is limited phone calls... limited visits... Prison is dying slowly... very, very slowly...

The professional locked in the corporate battle working long stressful hours may feel confined. The salary is great but so is everything else.... house... S.U.V... daycare... vacations... Mastercard.... Visa... deadlines... dinner engagements... parties... entertainment... However this is not like a PhD on the inside. A PhD on the inside writes letters to the warden, the board, the prison system about anything and everything. The food is the same, tasteless and cold. It has hairs in it... bugs... spoiled food... The officers are dense, uneducated, aggressive and intolerant. The other inmates are pigs... They are inhuman...

To a person severely handicapped, confinement is very real. Yet even being seriously disabled is not like prison. Health care is different than prison care! Prisoners don't enjoy visits anywhere, even restricted visits. This past summer I noticed care professionals loading wheelchairs onto our tourist train. I watched and assisted as severely physically challenged individuals were brought aboard and situated for the 90 minute ride. Life is very difficult for these individuals yet it is NOT prison. There are no tourist trips for prisoners... Prisoners are confined. Dear reader, please understand I am not trying to minimize the pain of these other confinements. They each present their own set of often agonizing challenges and struggles. But prison confinement presents the prisoner with a profound loss of freedom.

At seventeen Yosief was sold by his own brothers into confinement. The Torah says, "Yosief was brought down to Mitzriam {as a slave}. He was purchased by Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the chief executioner..." Genesis 39:1 Within a matter of a few days Yosief's business trip / vacation turned into a nightmare. He went from being the favored and spoiled son of a wealthy businessman / religious leader to the property of an executioner... What a transition. What a paradigm shift!

Now imagine this:
Hashem was with Yosief {when Yosief was seventeen}, and he was successful. He was {a servant} in the house of his master, Ha Mitzriam. His master saw that Hashem {the Creator of the world} was with him {this seventeen year old lad} and that whatever he did, Hashem made it succeed through his hand. Yosief found favor in the eyes of Ha Mitzriam and he served him personally. He {the executioner} appointed Yosief supervisor over his household and placed all that he possessed in his hand." Genesis 39:2-4

Yosief is brutally enslaved. Shortly after becoming a teenage slave he is promoted to executive management of the entire estate of a wealthy prominent government official of the most powerful country in the world. Can you imagine Yosief's responsibility? As a teen he managed everything for this official... He managed his staff, his office, his appointments, his meals, his protocol, his guests, his entertainment, his vacations... Yosief was in charge of everything. What a position of responsibility for such a young man...

Then the righteous man Yosief was framed. He was accused of a sexual sin G-d forbid! He was immediately sent to prison. No trial! No defense! No opportunity to prove his innocence! He went from executive slave to inmate in a heartbeat. How could this happen? How could a man of his obvious integrity be thrust from executive to inmate by the accusation of a woman known to be immoral?

Again, "Hashem was with Yosief, and extended kindness to him, granting him favor {this time} in the eyes of the prison chief {warden}. The prison chief gave Yosief control over all the prisoners of the prison, and everything that had to be done there, he was the one who did it." Genesis 39:21, 22

So the head of executions and the head of prisons were buddies. The executioner knew Yosief was innocent so he got him a new appointment with his buddy the warden. The Torah says, "Yosief's master {the chief executioner} took him and placed him in the prison {system}." Genesis 39:20 Think about this. If the chief executioner thought Yosief was guilty of what he was accused of, his head would have been rolling in the street G-d forbid!

While in prison as an inmate worker, as a trustee, Yosief makes a very good contact with another political prisoner, the Chief Butler. By this time Yosief has already made quite an impression on several of Pharaoh's cabinet members, the Chief Executioner and the Prison Chief. Now Yosief makes an impression with Hashem's assistance on the Chief Butler. This was a man close to Pharaoh. He would assist Yosief in gaining his release from prison.

Now, holy reader, there is one thing that marks Yosief's path from the house of his father to being enslaved by his brothers, to executive servant of a high government official, to executive inmate of the king's political prisoners to Viceroy of Mitzriam. Hashem was with Yosief! Hashem gave Yosief favor! Hashem blessed Yosief! This made trials and problems immensely more manageable. Yosief was not alone in slavery. He was not forsaken in prison. Yosief's state of being was powerfully spiritual. His outside world changed like a roller coaster, going up and down and around, but his inside world remained the same. Yosief's inside world, his spiritual world, his connection to Hashem, his connection to the Torah, to observance and to Torah study remained constant! It was unaltered! Yosief's spiritual house was very much in order. Yosief's spiritual world was the conduit for Hashem's blessings to him.

We, like Yosief, can make this wonderful connection in the spiritual world regardless of our age, our confinement, our difficulty or our prison. We can establish and maintain a spiritual house and open the avenues of blessings from Hashem. We can follow the advice of a man who survived slavery, prison, accusations and death threats to dream, to succeed and to make an impact on our world. We can pattern our spiritual life after Yosief and open the doors for potential blessings! We can succeed - even in confinement - when our spiritual house is like Yosief's spiritual house!

Good Shabbos,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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