Parshat Miketz

Ink, acrylic paint, stamping techniques on parchment, 2011

Artist: Michal Vizer z”l,  USA

Joseph is called on to untangle the riddle of Pharaoh’s dreams in the Torah portion, parshat Miketz. He rises to a position of importance in the hierarchy of the Egyptian political system and seems to have forgotten the traumatic experiences which brought him to Egypt. Could anyone really forget traumas like these, or is the memory of them just too hard for him? As Joseph foretold, the “lean years” bear down upon the land and the people come from far and wide to ask for wheat from the storerooms of Egypt. Jacob sends his sons, except for the young Benjamin (Joseph’s only full biological sibling) to ask for grain to sustain them.

Does the journey to Egypt bring them memories of their cruel deed? Here, the story gathers momentum. The group of brothers does not recognize Joseph when brought before him, but indeed their appearance touches that hidden memory in Joseph and opens the wound he has buried for so long. Will he take his revenge? nnThis high official is not at all like the dreamy youth they sold to the nomad traders so many years before. Joseph makes them bring their younger brother, Benjamin, before him and tricks them, hiding a goblet among their belongings. The scar of the terrible deed the brothers did in the past, the scar of betrayal, is opened. As a youth, Joseph was wont to dream and tell tales to his father. Now he keeps his secret to himself, forcing his brothers to stand in humiliation before him as he foretold so long ago. Joseph had innocent visions of self-importance as a young boy, but has become a responsible adult. What has brought him to deny his own flesh and blood when they arrive before him in submission, begging for food? Is the feeling of revenge stronger than his yearning for conclusion? Through the reenactment of these scenes of personal agony, despair, and betrayal Joseph is cleansed and can reconcile with his brothers.

In rendering my interpretation of parshat Miketz, I have used the physical materials of an artist: ink, acrylic paint, and stamping techniques. I’ve also employed my own language of artistic expression. On the left-hand side of the image, we see Joseph “the provider” seated on the image of himself in the Coat of Many Colours. The bird image appears in many of my works as my alter-ego. It serves as a sort of punishing agent. In the context of the story of Joseph and his brothers, the bird symbolizes soul-searching of the protagonists but also shields them with her wing. Through the process of catharsis, Joseph is able to be freed of his deeply hidden trauma and be reunited with his brothers.

About Michal

Michal Vizer z”l worked primarily in printmaking including etching, lino cuts and mixed media on paper with a tendency toward monochromatic works. Michal’s work was shown in numerous group and solo exhibitions in Israel and abroad. She was a member of The Professional Visual Artist’s Association of Israel and The Israel Designer Craftsmen’s.

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