I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;
” Parsha in a Nutshell “
Joseph’s imprisonment finally ends when Pharaoh dreams of seven fat cows that are swallowed up by seven lean cows, and of seven fat ears of grain swallowed by seven lean ears. Joseph interprets the dreams to mean that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of hunger, and advises Pharaoh to store grain during the plentiful years. Pharaoh appoints Joseph governor of Egypt. Joseph marries Asenath, daughter of Potiphar, and they have two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
Famine spreads throughout the region, and food can be obtained only in Egypt. Ten of Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to purchase grain; the youngest, Benjamin, stays home, for Jacob fears for his safety. Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him; he accuses them of being spies, insists that they bring Benjamin to prove that they are who they say they are, and imprisons Shimon as a hostage. Later, they discover that the money they paid for their provisions has been mysteriously returned to them.
Jacob agrees to send Benjamin only after Judah takes personal and eternal responsibility for him. This time Joseph receives them kindly, releases Shimon, and invites them to an eventful dinner at his home. But then he plants his silver goblet, pretending to have magical powers, in Benjamin’s sack. When the brothers set out for home the next morning they are pursued, searched, and arrested when the goblet is found in Benjamin’s sack. Joseph offers to set them free and to keep only Benjamin as his slave.
“ Dvar Torah “
This week, we continue with the story of Joseph. So, the excitement continues! Pharaoh has a dream. In his dream he sees himself standing over the Nile River, and behold, there came up out of the River seven cows, handsome and fat of flesh, and they fed in the grass reed. And, behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the River, ugly and lean of flesh, and stood by the other cows upon the bank of the River. And the ugly and lean cows ate up the seven handsome and fat cows, and still, stayed thin and ugly.
Pharaoh wakes up in distress. Falls asleep again. He has a second dream. This time he sees seven thin, dried ears of grain swallow seven fat ears of grain.
In the morning, Pharaoh summons all his wise men and advisors, but none of them can offer Pharaoh a satisfactory interpretation of his dreams. Then, the “young Hebrew slave,” Joseph, is summoned from the dungeon to the palace. Joseph interprets the dreams to mean that seven years of plenty, symbolized by the fat cows and fat grain, will be followed by seven years of hunger, reflected by the lean cows and the shriveled ears. The seven years of famine will be so powerful that they will “swallow up” and wipe out any trace of the years of plenty.
Joseph then advises Pharaoh how to deal with the situation: “Now Pharaoh must seek out a man with insight and wisdom and place him in charge of Egypt.” A rationing system will have to be set up over Egypt during the seven years of surplus, Joseph explains, in which grain will be stored for the upcoming years of famine.
Pharaoh is blown away by Joseph’s vision. “Can there be another person who has G‑d’s spirit in him as this man does?” Pharaoh asks his advisors. “There is none as understanding and wise as you,” he says to Joseph. “You shall be over my house, and according to your word shall all my people be ruled; only by the throne will I outrank you.” Joseph is thus appointed viceroy of Egypt.
A few questions come to mind. First of all, following his interpretation of the dreams, Joseph proceeded to give Pharaoh advice on how to deal with the impending famine. How dare does a newly liberated prisoner offer the king of Egypt, the most powerful man on the face of the earth, unsolicited advice? Pharaoh summoned Joseph from the dungeon to interpret his dreams, but not to become an advisor to the king?! Second of all, why was Pharaoh so mesmerized by Joseph?! What was so genius about Joseph’s advice?! Joseph’s interpretation seems simple and obvious. When are cows fat? When there is lots of food. When are they lean? When there’s no food. When is grain fat? When there is a plentiful harvest. When is grain lean? During a time of famine. And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to suggest that if you have seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, you should store food during the time of plenty for the time of hunger. So why couldn’t the advisors of Pharaoh come up with the same interpretation?! Keep in mind that the King’s advisors at that time, they all knew Astrology and had the power to see the future.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Late Lubavitcher Rebbe, gave a beautiful answer to these questions. He said that the Pharaoh’s advisers did indeed come up with the same interpretation as Joseph, but they rejected it instantly because they could not make sense of one part of the dream. The Torah says: “ And, behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the River, ugly and lean of flesh, and stood side by side of the other cows upon the bank of the River…….”. In other words, there was a moment during which both sets of cows coexisted simultaneously! It was this detail of the dream that caused the wise men of Egypt to reject the interpretation that Joseph would later offer to Pharaoh, for how is it possible that plenty and famine should coexist? You can either have abundance of food or you can have no food, but you cannot have them both together!
This is where Joseph’s brilliance was revealed. When Joseph proceeded to tell Pharaoh how to prepare for the upcoming famine, he wasn’t offering an unwelcoming advice to the King on how to run his country; but rather, the advice was part of the dream’s interpretation!
Joseph understood that the coexistence of the two sets of cows contained the solution to the approaching famine: During the years of plenty, Egypt must “live” with the years of famine as well, as though they were already present. Even while enjoying the abundance of the years of plenty, Egypt must experience in its imagination the reality of the upcoming famine, and each and every day store away food for it. The seven lean cows ought to be very much present and alive in people’s minds and in their behavior during the era of the seven fat cows. And this is what impressed Pharaoh so deeply about Joseph —— one little detail of the dream that no other wise man could see!
Yes my friends, there is a great lesson to be learned from Joseph’s interpretation. In the times of plenty, we should always think and prepare ourselves for the times of need. B”H, when the times are good, extremely good, we all live our lives to the fullest. We all buy the best houses, we get the best cars, we wear the best clothes and we go on the best vacations. But what if, G-d forbid, the things turn around one day and it becomes hard to make a living. How many of us have saved from the time when Hashem gave us plenty? And this is the essence of Joseph’s wisdom: You must never detach the years of plenty from the years of famine; they should coexist together. At the time of plenty we should save up for the time of need. Unlike the western mentality which believes in “live each day to the fullest”, us Jews, believe in securing our future. For us, living in the future is as important as living today!
So my friends, the next time you make a big profit in a business deal, you shouldn’t ask yourself “what should I buy with the money I just made”, but rather, “how much of it should I save on the side”?!……….
Shabbat Shalom, Happy Hanukkah, Chodesh Tov and Regards;