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Dan Has Questions About More Dreams, Success, and Revenge: Parshat Miketz 

12/03/2021 10:45:58 AM

Dec3

Dan Leemon

From the discussions about dreams that we’ve had over the years in Junior Congregation,  I have learned that our students are no less energetic about interpreting the meaning of dreams than our ancestor, Joseph.  In this week’s Parshah, the dreams and adventures continue.  The Parshah is called Miketz, which means “at the end” — something has happened at the end of the two years during which Joseph has been languishing in an Egyptian prison. A lot happens in this Parshah, with many twists and turns, so let’s dig in…

What has happened? Pharaoh has had two disturbing dreams.  In one, seven scrawny and sickly cows devour seven hearty, well-fed cows who are grazing by the Nile river.  In the other, seven thin, sparse ears of grain devour seven healthy and full ones.  No one can make sense of these dreams, and Pharaoh’s cupbearer — this is the same cupbearer whose dreams were interpreted in prison by Joseph but who forgot to try to get Joseph out of prison — finally remembers Joseph and his gift for dream interpretation.  They quickly get Joseph out of the dungeon, make sure he’s shaved and in fresh clothes, and bring him to Pharaoh.  Joseph interprets the dreams as a message from God, predicting that there will be seven years of abundant food followed by seven years of famine.  Pharaoh is grateful for the interpretation, and Joseph being Joseph — smart, fast on his feet, and never missing an opportunity to advance himself — proposes that food be stored up over the next seven years so that, when the famine comes, Egypt will survive.  Pharaoh instantly puts Joseph in charge of this undertaking, making Joseph his second his command.  Joseph is 30 years old, and has already gone from being favored by his father and hated by his brothers to being sold into slavery (where he became head of his master’s household) to being thrown into prison on false charges (where ended up in charge of all the prisoners) to this.  

-           What words would you use to describe Joseph?

-           Is what’s happening to Joseph a matter of luck, skill, or God watching out for him?

Joseph spends seven years gathering food to store for the famine, so much food that the Torah says "Joseph gathered grain like the sand of the sea, in great abundance, until [one] stopped counting, because there was no number.”  That sounds like a whole lot of food!  During this time, Joseph gets married to an Egyptian woman named Asnat, and has two sons, Menasheh and Ephraim, who will become two of the 12 tribes of Israel.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  The famine comes as Joseph predicted and spreads throughout Egypt, Canaan, and the whole region.  Joseph’s father, Jacob (also called Israel), back in Canaan, hears there is food to be had in Egypt and sends 10 of Joseph’s brothers — the ones who threw Joseph in the pit, sold him into slavery, and let Jacob assume he was dead — to Egypt to buy food. Jacob keeps the youngest, Benjamin, at home, as Benjamin is the remaining son of Jacob’s beloved, late wife Rachel, and Jacob wants him home and safe.  The brothers show up in Egypt and Joseph recognizes them but they don’t recognize him. 

-           If you were Joseph — in this position of power, facing the brothers who separated you from your home and your father, and who wanted to kill you — what would you do when they showed up? 

Joseph doesn’t tell them who he is.  Instead, Joseph accuses them of being spies.  They tell him they are not spies, and that they have a father and younger brother at home.  Joseph insists they send for the younger brother — as proof that they are telling the truth — and puts them in jail for three days to consider his proposal.  There’s some wonderful detail in the Torah that I encourage you to read for yourself:  about the brothers talking about what to do and discussing their guilt at getting rid of Joseph, presuming the man they are dealing with (who is in fact Joseph) is Egyptian and cannot understand them; and about Joseph going into another room to cry so they don’t see how much he wants to tell them who he is.  Joseph continues with his ruse, telling them they will leave one brother (Simon) in prison, while the rest take grain back to their father and families and return to Egypt with Benjamin.

-           Why do you think Joseph is doing this?  Why not just tell them who he is? 

The brothers return to Canaan, leaving Simon behind in prison, and tell their father everything that has happened (including their discovery that the money they paid for the grain was returned to them — though they don’t know it was Joseph who did it).  Jacob decides not to send Benjamin, fearing he will lose three sons, Joseph, Benjamin, and Simon, but the famine continues and Jacob has no choice but to send the brothers back to Egypt for more food, this time with Benjamin, as Joseph has demanded.  All of the brothers return to Egypt with money to buy more grain and gifts for Joseph.  They come to Joseph, who is happy to meet Benjamin.  He releases Simon as promised, and inquires as to whether Jacob is still alive and well.  Still, Joseph does not tell them who he is.  Instead, he has his silver cup put into Benjamin’s sack.  When they all get ready to leave, Joseph searches all the brothers’ sacks for the cup and, when he finds it, insists that Benjamin is a thief and that they must leave Benjamin behind to become Joseph’s slave.

-           Why is Joseph continuing the charade?  And why does he create a situation where they might have to leave Benjamin behind?

The parshah ends here, leaving us in suspense…more to follow next week!

Shabbat shalom and, by the way, Happy Chanukah!

Dan

Fri, January 28 2022 26 Shevat 5782