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Miketz 5773

By: Rav Michael Susman

While this week’s Parsha almost always falls on Channuka, on rare occasion it will fall on the Shabbat after Channuka.  When the Parsha falls on Channuka, we read the Haftara from Sefer Zecharya, describing Zecharya’s vision of the Menora and the message it portends for Zerubavel who is destined to lead Bnei Yisrael during the transition from Galut Bavel to the period of Shivat Tzion.  (For an alternate suggestion regarding the connection between the Chanukka and this particular Haftara, see the first essay on the Haftara in Rav Avraham Rivlin’s “Iyunei Haftara”.  There Rav Rivlin suggests that the sin of the High Priest Yehoshua described at the beginning of the nevua is the sin of the Hashmonaim arrogating for themselves the monarchy in addition to their status as Kohanim.)


On those infrequent instances when Parshat Miketz is read after Chanukka (the last time was twelve years ago), the Haftara that we read is the famous story of Mishpat Shlomo, where Shlomo HaMelech finds himself confronted by two women, both of whom claiming that a living child is hers, while the dead child belongs to the other.  While we will not be reading this Haftara for another eight years, the question of why Chazal chose this particular story to accompany Parshat Miketz shouldn’t have to wait that long.


The Haftara begins in the third chapter of Melachim Alef, passuk 15, and continues until the first passuk of the fourth perek.  What is surprising here is that the Haftara begins with the end of the previous story, the almost equally famous account of how Hashem appears to the young Shlomo HaMelech in a dream and asks him what he would like to be given.  Shlomo responds that he would like to be granted the wisdom to properly judge Am Yisrael.  Hashem is pleased with this answer and grants Shlomo not only wisdom but wealth and honor as well.  The story then continues with passuk 15, the first passuk of our Haftara, which relates how Shlomo awakes from his dream.  Shlomo HaMelech is so overjoyed with the message that this dream portended that he goes home to Yerushalayim, brings sacrifices of thanksgiving, and celebrates the good news with his servants.  Immediately thereafter, the first opportunity for Shlomo to employ this blessing from Hashem presents itself, as the two harlots come before him to determine which one of them is the mother of the living child. 


The connection between the Parsha and the Haftara seems clear.  Parshat Miketz begins with Paro dreaming of cows and stalks of grain, a dream for which he has no explanation.  Our Haftara begins with a different king, HaMelech Shlomo, dreaming as well.  The parallel however does not end there.  In both the dream of Paro and the dream of Shlomo HaMelech, the dream ends with an abrupt awakening (va’yikatz) and a laconic observation – “v’hinei chalom”, and behold it was a dream.  Rashbam in our Parsha explains that the word “hinei”, behold, comes to stress that the subject of the sentence has just had a revelation.  Behold!  It is not as you thought or imagined.  Sometimes, says Rashbam, this revelation can be an unhappy surprise, as we see in Parshat VaYetze, when Yaacov Avinu finds to his chagrin that he has awoken next to Leah and not to his beloved Rachayl. (29:25). In the case of both Paro and Shlomo HaMelech the dream was so real and all encompassing that only upon awakening do they realize that it was not real, but that it was only a dream.


It is at this point that the stories diverge.  As we have already seen, Shlomo awakes and finds that his dream has comforted and strengthened him.  His response is to give thanks and to celebrate.  Paro on the other hand wakes up in a cold sweat, his heart pounding and his blood rushing through his veins.  Only in the morning, still gripped by the terror of the unexplained dreams, can he seek interpretation and advice.


The question is why did Chazal not choose to have us read of Shlomo HaMelech’s dream and his awakening from that dream?  Why have us read of Mishpat Shlomo instead?


It is important to note that in his response Shlomo stresses the need to properly judge the people twice in a single passuk.  “V’natata l’avdecha lev shomeia lishpot et amcha l’havin ben tov l’ra, ki mi yuchal l’shpot et amcha hakaved hazeh”(3:9).  “And you should give your servant the capacity to judge (literally, a heart that can hear in order to judge) your nation, to discern between good and evil, for who is capable of judging your populous nation”.  Interestingly, even Hashem’s answer to Shlomo stresses the element of mishpat.  “V’shaalta lecha havin, l’shmoa mishpat”.(3:11) You have requested understanding, in order to render (literally hear) mishpat. 


In his work “Chazon HaMikra”, Rav Yissachar Yacobson points out that one of the chief responsibilities of a king is to be a judge.  He then proceeds to explain this role at length, contrasting Shlomo HaMelech with other cases of kings acting as judges.  I would like to take this idea of the centrality of the role of king as judge, and use it to answer our question.


I believe that there is another core distinction between the story of the dreams of Paro and the dream of Shlomo HaMelech, one that can only be appreciated after reading the story of Mishpat Shlomo.  Why does Shlomo HaMelech rejoice after his dream?  I would suggest that it is in recognition that he has been granted the tools with which he can fulfill the mission of a king in an unprecedented way.  It is no coincidence that Shlomo stressed the need to judge when making his request for wisdom from Hashem.  He knows that he will be tested as king and he wishes to succeed.  Significantly, Shlomo’s request from Hashem for wisdom as opposed to the usual perks of monarchy (wealth, honor and the like) demonstrates a desire to embrace the responsibilities of monarchy.  The story of Mishpat Shlomo demonstrates that he has done so successfully and most importantly, that his subjects know it.  Hence the final two passukim of our Haftara (3:28, 4:1) can proclaim that all of Bnei Yisrael were in awe of Shlomo, as it was clear that Hashem’s wisdom guided him in judgment.  Thus, Shlomo was king of all of Israel.


If we compare this with Paro’s behavior we can’t help but be struck by the contrast.  While Shlomo rushes to embrace his responsibilities as king, Paro looks to abdicate his.  The suggestion as to how to prepare for the upcoming famine?  That comes from Yosef.   The actual execution of the plan?  Yosef.  When people are starving and don’t know where to turn?  Don’t come to me, answers Paro.  Go to Yosef.  In fact the only thing that Paro seems to be concerned with is that his prerogatives as king not be eclipsed by Yosef.  Shlomo understands that to be a king means to take responsibility.  It is precisely this message that Chazal want us to take home with us.  At least once every twenty years or so. 


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