No Ordinary Joe: Miketz 2016

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever wanted to change your name? What name would you choose? What is preventing you, if anything, from choosing to change your name?

In the Torah portion of Miketz, Pharaoh releases Joseph from prison and elevates him to a powerful position in Egypt, and gives him a new name:

The Pitch: “Pharaoh then gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him for a wife Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Thus Joseph emerged in charge of the land of Egypt.” – Genesis 41:45

Swing #1: “If zaphenath means ‘hidden things’ and paneah means ‘explainer’, should not the name read Paneah-Zaphenath? The name is given in what seems the reverse order to show the reason why Joseph was found worthy to have the ability to discern hidden things; namely, that Joseph was exceedingly humble and kept his deeds of righteousness concealed so that they did not become immodestly conspicuous. Zaphenath: It is because of conceals (his) deeds of righteousness, Paneah: that he is able to discover and explain hidden things.” – Sefat Emet

Swing #2: “[Zaphenath-paneah is] an Egyptian name which is appropriate to the story. Yosef lives, and through him so do Egypt, his family, and the People of Israel.” – Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses

Swing #3: “We have also observed that to name a person is to assert one’s authority over him, and this explains the changes of name imposed by a master.” – Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel

Late-Inning Questions: What does Joseph’s new name say about him? What does the name say about the Pharaoh? Why, unlike other biblical characters whose names are changed, is Joseph never referred to by his new name again? Do you think Joseph likes his new name? How would you feel if someone else tried to give you a new name? How much control should we have over our own names?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: You are invited to join us at Synagogue Emanu-El’s 6th Annual Community Jews, Brews & Ques BBQ Kosher Grill-Off on Sunday, January 15th at 3:30PM. All-inclusive tickets are $75.00 per person. RSVP to the Synagogue office at 843-571-3264 by January 9th. Sponsorships are available. A percentage of the profits will benefit the African-American Museum. This is a 21+ event.

The Big Inning at the End: As 2016 comes to a close, many of us may be eager to turn the page and start a new year. But it’s always worthwhile to remember the year that was, even if the memories aren’t always pleasant. Here are some of these memories from the sports world which, I hope, will bring a welcome distraction from weightier issues, even if only for a moment.

Shabbat Shalom, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!