Address: 91 Leinster St, Saint John, NB E2L 1J2

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D’var Torah Miketz

Most of us gravitate to either the big picture or the details, but we need awareness of both to live well. We need to see the forest and the trees.
Here is this week’s D’var Torah:

Parashat Miketz

December 16, 2023 | 4 Tevet 5784

Torah: Genesis 41:1–44:17 Triennial: Genesis 41:53–43:15

Haftarah: I Kings 3:15–4:1

Wisdom, Discernment, and Truth
Bex Stern-Rosenblatt


The story of the beginning of Solomon’s kingship is the haftarah for this parashah. Joseph and Solomon are linked.  Both Joseph and Solomon are rulers of our people, paragons of how to lead. Yet in many ways, Solomon is nothing like Joseph. Solomon is King of the United Monarchy, of Israel and Judah, of our homeland. Joseph is second-in-command of Egypt, the place of our suffering. Solomon’s story takes him from chosen and beloved by God through turning into a near tyrant whose sons will rip apart the Kingdom. Joseph’s story is the inverse. He begins by alienating his brothers and causing family strife and becomes a humble servant of God who lovingly reunites his family.

However, both Joseph and Solomon are noted for their wisdom. After interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph tells Pharaoh to find a wise and discerning person and appoint him over Egypt. Pharaoh replies that there is no one so wise and discerning as Joseph and appoints him. Likewise, after God appears to Solomon in a dream, God grants him a wise and discerning heart. Indeed, it is their wisdom and discernment that qualifies Joseph and Solomon to be leaders.

Later, in Deuteronomy, Moses expounds on types of leadership and what qualifies a person for what sort of leadership. Unsurprisingly, he too is concerned with understanding and discernment. In his retelling of the time he appointed people under him to help him to judge cases, Moses explains that God told him to appoint wise and discerning men.

But what is this wisdom we look for in leaders? What does it mean for a leader to be discerning? First, they must stand for truth and be able to uncover it. In our haftarah, Solomon presides over the terrible case of the two desperate mothers, one claiming the other had stolen her baby after accidentally killing her own. It is a horrible story. Solomon executes justice with wisdom. He enacts a believable threat, stating that he will cut the living child in two, giving half to each mother. The real mother, horrified, demands that the other woman take her child, just so long as he is allowed to live. Solomon devises a test between two seemingly identical women which reveals a hidden truth.

Similarly, Joseph hears two nearly identical dreams twice over. First, he hears the parallel dreams of the baker and the cup holder. He is able to discern, through careful attention to minor detail, which of the two will live and which will die. Second, he hears the two similar dreams of Pharaoh. Joseph is able to recognize that these are two dreams carrying the same message, a divine message that allows for action. He is able to uncover the truth obscured by the medium of the dream.

Both Joseph and Solomon are able to see differences, to make separations. They are good leaders, good judges, because they look for objective truth and are able to find it. This ability is lauded again in Deuteronomy. When we read about which of us survived the wanderings in the desert to make it to Canaan, we learn that it is those of us who are wise and discerning. Moses explains that our wisdom and discernment is to keep God’s laws and to do them. It is to live in a system of truth and to structure our lives in ways that uphold that system, whether we are sovereign in our own land like Solomon or living assimilated lives in the diaspora like Joseph.


Contact info

Address: 91 Leinster St,
Saint John, NB, E2L 1J2
Phone: (506) 657-4790
Mailing Address: P.O. BOX 2041
Saint John, NB,  E2L 3T5

Gathering Times

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