In this week’s parsha, Yosef has not yet revealed his true identity to his brothers. He invites them to dine:
“And they set for him separately and for them separately, and for the Egyptians who ate with him separately, because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, because it is an abomination to the Egyptians.”
What is the meaning of this strange seating arrangement? There are three tables: one for Yosef, one for the brothers, and one for the Egyptians.
In a drasha given over forty years ago, Rabbi Norman Lamm explains how these three tables can be understood as a metaphor for the experience of the Jew in galut. In this metaphor, Yosef represents the Jew who has “made it” in secular culture.
Here Yosef has achieved the pinnacle of success, but he still cannot break bread at the same table as the Egyptians. Nor is he comfortable sitting with his brethren. He sits at a third table.
Rabbi Lamm links this metaphor to the story of Chanukah and the fight against assimilation. He concludes his drasha with the prayer for the “great redemption, which will begin not with arms, not with might, but with the solid determination of every Jew to remain what he is, and what he yet may become–a true Jew. For the redemption is a time that Almighty too will smile and laugh–smile for his redeemed children, and laugh at those who would deny them their land, their freedom, their Torah, and their Holy City of Jerusalem.”