Shabbat Hanukkah · Shabbat Rosh Hodesh
December 11-12, 2015 – 30 Kislev 5776
Annual (Genesis 41:1-44:17): Etz Hayim p. 250; Hertz p. 155
Triennial (Genesis 43:16-44:17): Etz Hayim p. 265; Hertz p. 163
Second Scroll: (Numbers 28:9-15): Etz Hayim p. 930; Hertz p. 695
Third Scroll (Numbers 7:42-47): Etz Hayim p. 808; Hertz p. 599
Haftarah (Zechariah 2:14-4:7): Etz Hayim, p. 1270; Hertz p. 987
Joseph Had a Dream
By Esther Israel, CY Bible and Talmud Faculty
In the beginning of Parshat Mikkets Joseph experiences something most of us seldom do: He witnesses a dream of his coming true! In chapter 37 Joseph dreamed of all of the brothers binding sheaves in the field, when suddenly his sheaf arose, whereupon his brothers’ sheaves gathered round his and bowed down to it. Back then, his brothers sought to dismiss the dream as a sign of his inflated ego and his self-perception as their leader.
But now – here they are, and in their wish to procure grain, which no longer grew in their fields, they come before Joseph (unbeknownst to them) and bow low, showing submission to the lord of the land.
We may be amazed – but Joseph had no reason to be! In the Joseph saga dreams are a main theme, and their decoding is important: it helps one prepare for the future, for dreams, of course, come true.
Were this not so, Joseph’s brothers might not have been so intent on getting rid of him – a spoiled brat, perhaps, but fratricide?! They might have been annoyed, but not jealous of him, as the Torah tells us they were after the second dream, and his father would not have recorded it (shamar et ha’davar) for future reference.
Joseph turns out to be just the man many people need: He knows how to interpret dreams correctly, as we recently saw when he foretold the lots of the butler and the baker in prison.
In this week’s Parasha we learn that besides all the above, Joseph knows how to use dreams: not for changing the future set out in them, but to read them as guidelines for thoughtful action: Dreams are not merely informative, but also provide opportunities for improving the future. This extra understanding of the possibilities afforded by correct interpretation of dreams is Joseph’s advantage.
Can a dream help its dreamer influence the future even when it is not a matter of outsmarting another person by preempting his moves? Can one play chess with nature and God (the gods), and think a few steps ahead? Is that what God intends, perhaps, by sending the dreams?
Pharoh’s wise men might well have understood what his dreams told, but felt powerless as far as planning against them; that would be playing against (the) God(s). Joseph, on the other hand, brash and talented, reads the dream as God’s invitation to take initiative and recommends the appointment of a wise and insightful man to implement the plan to stockpile grain that he had concisely set out before the king. And yes, Pharoah gets the hint and appoints Joseph for the job.
In doing so, Joseph not only helped Pharoah interpret his dreams and understand how to better the future his dreams foretold, he also brought about the fulfillment of his own dreams from many years ago, in a more sophisticated and helpful manner than anyone – including himself – had originally understood. Maybe they could have come true differently, but the wisdom Joseph now possesses helps bring about a new and more positive future, now to be read back into those dreams. This is the meaning of the Hebrew blessing: May your dreams be fulfilled l’tova– for good and betterment. And yours, too!
A Vort for Parshat Mikkets
By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty
Joseph advises Pharoah that Egypt should set aside 20% of the grain in the seven bountiful years to provide for the seven lean years that will follow. “Let Pharaoh do this and appoint overseers throughout the land” he says (41:34). R’ Mordechai Hakohen (20th C, Israel) reads Joseph’s words carefully. If you want the people to fulfill the royal decree, ya’aseh pharaoh – you, Pharoah, be first – reduce expenses, even in the royal palace, and save for the future. Once you’ve set the example, then “appoint overseers” to carry out the policy and the people will follow. Would we have leaders today who follow Joseph’s advice.
By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty
Joseph’s fortune turns again. He interprets dreams for Pharaoh, saves Egypt from famine, meets his brothers but does not divulge his identity, demands that Benjamin be brought to Egypt, and tangles his brothers in a plot based on a false accusation.
1) Pharaoh dreams twice but is unable to find a satisfactory interpretation for his dreams among those offered by his staff. What are his dreams? How does Joseph interpret the dreams? Why does Pharaoh believe him? (He is only a slave!) Think of another case in which this was the reason for the trust.
2) Jacob sends 10 of his sons down to Egypt to procure food during the famine. However, despite going on Jacob’s bidding, the Torah does not call them ‘Jacob’s sons’ but rather ‘Joseph’s brothers.’ This is a reflection of a point of view (and thought). Read 42:3-5 and consider of the various points of view and thought that are present. Why does this become an issue at this point?
3) Joseph, recognizing his brothers, pretends to be an Egyptian. Note his behavior and speech mannerism in 42:15 and 23. In addition to dressing the part, how does he play the role of an Egyptian lord in a convincing manner?
4) The brothers cannot return to buy more food in Egypt unless Benjamin is with them (42:29-38). What is Jacob’s reaction? What does his initial decision not to send Benjamin mean for the family and for Simeon? (Consider also 42:19-24.)
5) Eventually the brothers, with Benjamin, go to Egypt. All seems to go well until they are on their way home. What did Joseph instruct his head servant to do to the brothers? Why do you think that he did it? How do the brothers react to the initial accusation? Does this remind you of a similar story in Jacob’s life? (44:1-12. 43:3-14 is important to appreciate Judah’s role here.)