Parshat Miketz: Three Tables

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.”

4 Responses to “Parshat Miketz: Three Tables”

  1. Leora Says:

    So who do the brothers represent?

    Nice drasha, even if I want more explanation.

    Happy Chanukah – may all of our children find ways to relate those at different tables without needing to switch tables. Or maybe one table for all? (I’m trying too hard).

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Sorry, Leora . . . My plate is a bit full, I didn’t have time to summarize the whole thing. You need to follow the link to get the whole analogy as Rabbi Lamm lays it out. The brothers represent the Jews who are not assimilated, who fully and openly identify with being Jewish. Rabbi Lamm was saying that there should just be two tables, but maybe I need to later elaborate on his drasha a bit more.

      Happy Chanuka!


      • Leora Says:

        Well, that makes sense! I gave some of your d’var Torah last night, and the comment I got from my family was, yes, yes, we know that (they are all so much more knowledgeable than me, including my youngest). Thanks for helping me to keep up with my family.

  2. Review with Candle Lighting - Here in Highland Park Says:

    […] Pragmatic Attic: Chanukah recipes and a parsha post – why three tables? […]

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