This week's sedra starts with the words “It happened at the end of two years to the day” [41:1] … that Pharaoh had his famous dream. What the Torah is really trying to tell us here is that exactly two years after the butler was freed from prison, Yoseph was called to interpret Pharaohs dream. So why was it two years from this event that Yoseph had to wait until he was released from his imprisonment? It is brought down by Chazal that Yoseph was actually supposed to be freed at the same time as the butler but these extra two years were a punishment for asking the butler to put in a good word for him with Pharaoh after interpreting his dream correctly. This lack of faith in Hashem and reliance on a goy to try and free him led to him being punished with this extra time… but part of the question still remains, why two years then? We saw in last week's sedra that, when Yoseph interpreted the butlers dream he informed him that he would be released in three days. What we see following this information is that he then proceeded to almost immediately ask the butler to mention him, to Pharaoh, on his return to service , giving over a hopeless plea in which he explained his innocence and described how he was kidnapped etc. This appears to be almost desperate behaviour by Yoseph and the mefarshim explain how these two days in which Yoseph couldn’t wait to be freed (because it was supposed to be 2 extra days in prison with the 3rd day him being released with the butler), was punished by Hashem מדה כנגד מדה/measure for measure with two extra years. We see this same methodology of punishment at play later on in the Torah by the incident of the spies in Parashas Bamidbar; they were punished with forty extra years in the desert for spying the land out for forty days. It is important to note however that this is not to say that we are supposed to wait for Hashem without acting, there are of course occasions when we need to meet half way and do our hishtadlis but this approach from Yoseph was not appropriate behaviour for a man on his medrayga... begging a Jew hating Egyptian for his help was not only desperate but foolish as he surely knew he wouldn’t benefit from this move.

We see from this opening line of Parashas Mikeitz that Pharaohs' dreams' were deliberately dreamt on that precise night in order that Yoseph be released from prison. It is therefore key to understand that Yoseph was not released because Pharaoh dreamt his dreams BUT that Pharaoh dreamt his dreams in order that Yoseph be released. This subtle difference produces a whole different rationalization because by this interpretation we see that Hashem implemented Yoseph’s exact release date, rather than it being down to coincidence, a concept which doesn't exist within Torah. By this same logic we also see why none of Pharaohs necromancers (witch doctors, dream interpreters, black magicians etc.) or ‘wise men’ could interpret his dreams. The Torah describes how Pharaoh wasn’t happy with the interpretations of the necromancers and the Midrash explains that this was due to the fact that within his dream Pharaoh had actually dreamt the interpretation of it, he was just unable to remember it when he woke up but would recall it if someone correctly interpreted it. This therefore sheds light as to why he was not ‘happy’ with their interpretations... because he knew their interpretations were incorrect rather than the plain reading of the Torah which suggests that he actually wasn’t happy with them. We therefore see that Hashem effectively made Pharaoh forget the important part of the dream, its interpretation, which in turn set the path for Yoseph's release from prison as he would be the one to eventually interpret them. Another interesting question to ask concerning this incident is; why couldn’t these professional dream interpreters, magicians and wise people interpret these dreams? Various opinions are given over by the mefarshim which suggest different interpretations that were given by these necromancers… some of them suggested that the necromancers interpreted the seven fat cows followed by the seven skinny cows and then the seven healthy ears of wheat being consumed by the seven skinny ones as children which were to be born and die from Pharaoh. Other mefarshim explain that they came up with suggestions that these were wars that Egypt would win and lose. When reading these dreams however, one must query that surely the interpretation of these dreams was actually quite obvious and surely even more so for these professionals? The dreams were of cows and wheat, surely this should have being ringing bells?... It wouldn’t take an Einstein to suggest that these were food related and therefore maybe the interpretation itself was also food related! We therefore see that Hashem essentially blinded the necromancers in their interpretations to these unmistakable details which in turn led to Yoseph having to be released from prison in order to provide his insight.

Last week’s sedra ended with the information that “...the butler did not remember Yoseph, he forgot him” [40:22], so why does he seem to remember him all of a sudden when he is needed in the incidents described in this week's sedra? There is an interpretation in a Midrash that explains how, seeing Pharaoh’s anguished state, the butler realized that he was putting himself in great danger by withholding his knowledge of someone who could interpret Pharaohs dreams correctly. In addition, Pharaoh seemed to be so upset that he might die and the butler feared that if a new king took the throne, he might make wholesale changes in his retinue, thus possibly costing the butler his position. Under these circumstances, the butler decided that his own self interest dictated that he ‘remember’ Yoseph and tell Pharaoh about him. So why did he forget him in the first place? Explains Rabbi Kaplan, that this was for the same reason that Jews have always been forgotten when they are in need of help but then magically remembered when required… anti-semitism. This points is reinforced when the butler finally mentions Yoseph to Pharaoh, with him describing him as ‘a Hebrew youth, a slave’. These derogatory terms also come to confirm our earlier point that Yoseph shouldn’t have been so naive as to put his trust into the butler for help. Interestingly what comes first in his description of Yoseph? ‘A Hebrew’; before anything the butler wants to warn Pharaoh that he is dealing with a Jew! Rashi assumes that the butler chose these words carefully in order to denounce Yoseph because it is self-evident that evil people act in line with their base character. He goes on to explain that, by mentioning that he was a slave, the Butler also attempted to diminish any chance that Yoseph would reach a high position because as Rashi notes; it was written in the laws of Egypt that a slave may never be ruler nor wear the robes of a noble. Yoseph proceeded however to offer an impressive interpretation of the dream, he went so far as to tell Pharaoh that the dream itself indicated the course of action that should be taken to save the country from a disastrous famine, with the result that an extraordinary thing happened… a Hebrew, a youth, a slave – everything derogatory the butler said about Yoseph – became the ruler of the land. We therefore see that when G-d wills something, nature and politics alike yield to make the impossible, possible! To conclude, we see from Yoseph's actions in this week's Parasha how easy it would have been for him to become absorbed in the new fame he had acquired through his successful interpretations but what we actually observe in the Torah is the way of a Tzaddik which began right from the start. When Yoseph was first summoned to interpret Pharaohs dreams he was given a huge opportunity to blow his own trumpet and try and find favour in Pharaohs eyes, especially after so many years of being a slave and a prisoner, we must comprehend how much of a temptation this would have been for him. The Torah describes Pharaoh’s first words to Yoseph, “I heard it is said of you that you comprehend a dream to interpret it” [41:15]… the natural human instinct at this point would have been to respond with agreement to the information offered by Pharaoh and potentially attempt a heightening of one's status in the eyes of the powerful leader in order to gain from this opening. Yoseph, however, showed exactly how holy he was by instantly flattening such claims and instead confirming his full faith in Hashem by stating that “it is beyond me; it is G-d who will respond with Pharaoh’s welfare” [41:16]. This response shows that even though Yoseph was aware of his ability to interpret dreams he was also fully conscious of the fact that Hashem granted him this talent and he therefore didn't take it for granted or forget where it came from! An extremely important lesson for all!

I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom and Freiliche Chanukah! Daniel Sandground, (student at Ohr Somayach Yeshiva, Jerusalem)

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