Chanukah/Rosh Chodesh/Parshat Mikeitz 5783: What’s Behind Pharaoh’s Fears Resulting from the Dreams?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parsha Mikeitz is being sponsored anonymously honor of the teachers of Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh, who give selflessly to our families every day. To our annonymous sponsor and family, blessings and many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Chanukah/Rosh Chodesh/Parshat Mikeitz 5783: What’s Behind Pharaoh’s Fears Resulting from the Dreams?

by Moshe Burt

Once again this year, Shabbos Parshat Mikeitz falls out, and coincides with day one of a two-day Rosh Chodesh Tevet during Chanukah.

In last week’s Parshat Vayeishev, we learn that that the brothers threw Yosef into a bor (pit) seething with snakes and scorpions — and (1) the miracle of his emerging unscathed. This author has written in the past venturing that there were at least seven subsequent miracles that played a role in Yosef’s life and in his becoming Viceroy, including (2) who he was sold to and the sweet-smelling aromatic gum that was carried in their caravan, (3) his ensuing journey to Mitzrayim and conditions of his slavery — as overseer of all in Pontiphar’s household, (4) his imprisonment on false charges, where he became second to the jailer, after being saved from death by the testimony of Potiphar’s adopted daughter (Osnat bat Dina), (5) as Torah relates in our Parshat Mikeitz, his being remembered, albeit after two years, by Pharaoh’s wine cupbearer for his translation of a dream resulting in (6) Yosef’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams and resultant ascendency to the position of Viceroy, second only to Pharaoh. Later, when all of the women threw down their Jewelry before Yosef in the hopes of being chosen, (7) he was won over by Osnat, with her metal foil engraved by Yaakov testifying to her holiness. And finally, like the flask of oil found by the Macabees in the Beit HaMikdash which by natural means would maybe burn one day, but burned 8 days; the final miracle (8) would seem to be the fortune amassed by Yosef as Viceroy which would later be found by the Jews during the plague (mako) of darkness and which would be carted out of Mitzrayim upon the Yetziyat Mitzrayim.

Our Parshat HaShavua begins near the end of Parshat Vayeishev with Yosef imprisoned. Below is an excerpt from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parsha Summary in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” (Sefer Breish’t, Parshat Vayeishev, page 202):

While in prison, Yosef gains the confidence of the chief officer and is placed in charge of the other prisoners.

Pharaoh’s butler [wine cupbearer] and baker are placed in prison by the king, and Yosef interprets their dreams. Based on the dreams, Yosef informs the butler that in three days he will be released and [informs] the baker that in three days he will be executed. Yosef’s predictions prove accurate.

Yosef asks the butler to remember him. The butler, however, quickly forgets Yosef.

We now segue to the beginning of our Parshat Mikeitz with another excerpt from Rabbi Goldin’s Parsha Summary followed by questions (ibid, pages 225, 227):

Yosef languishes in Egyptian prison for two years. At the end of that period, Pharaoh dreams of seven lean cows consuming seven healthy cows and seven thin ears of grain consuming seven robust ears.

Deeply troubled by his visions, Pharaoh turns to his advisors but receives no satisfactory interpretation. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 41, posuk 8)

The butler, remembering Yosef and his ability to interpret dreams, mentions him to Pharaoh. At the king’s command, Yosef is hurried from the dungeon [given a shave and a haircut and taken] to the palace where Pharaoh recounts his dreams. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 41, posukim 11-24)

Why is Pharaoh so deeply troubled by his dreams? Does the text offer any hint as to the source of Pharaoh’s fears?

The Artscroll Stone Chumash renders to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 41, posukim 15-16):

“And Pharaoh said to Yosef, ‘I dreamt a dream, but noone can interpret it.'” “Yosef answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘That is beyond me; it is Hashem Who will respond with Pharaoh’s welfare.'”

Rabbi Artscroll also cites Tractate Rosh Hashana daf 10, amud bet which notes:

Yosef was released from prison on Rosh Hashana in the year 2230 from Creation.

Rabbi Goldin now discusses the contrast between Pharaoh’s concept of the world versus world reality (ibid, pages 227-229):

The narrative… is strangely repetitive. First the text describes Pharaoh’s dreams in detail as they occur. Then the dreams are described, again in detail, when Pharaoh recounts them to Yosef. The Torah could simply have stated, “And Pharaoh told the content of his dreams to Yosef.” Why the redundancy?

The Torah… never repeats a conversation or an event without reason. In this case, the repetition within the text provides a glimpse into Pharaoh’s mind. When Pharaoh speaks to Yosef, he conveys not only his dreams but his perception of them.

1. The King dreams: “And behold out of the river emerged seven cows, of beautiful appearance and healthy flesh…. And behold seven other cows emerged out of the river after them, poor of appearance and gaunt of flesh… (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 41, posukim 2-3)

The king recounts: “And behold out of the river emerged seven cows, of healthy flesh and beautiful form…. And behold seven other cows emerged after them, scrawny, and of very poor form and emaciated flesh. Never have I seen such in all of the land of Egypt for badness.” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 41, posukim 18-19)

2. The king dreams: “And the seven cows of poor appearance and gaunt flesh consumed the first seven cows of beautiful appearance and good health, and Pharaoh awoke.” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 41, posuk 4)

The king recounts: “And the emaciated, inferior cows consumed the first seven healthy cows. And they came inside them and it was not apparent that they came inside them — for their appearance was as inferior as before, and I awoke.” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 41, posukim 20-21)

Pharaoh is clearly disturbed by the possibility of “scrawny, emaciated cows” could even appear in Egypt at all. Like so many monarchs [national heads of state] before and after him, Pharaoh prefers to live in a fantasy world of absolute power and success. There is no place in the king’s lush, rich empire for “weak cows.” Pharaoh, therefore, emphatically declares that no such cows have ever before appeared in his land, as he desperately attempts to avoid the ramifications of his vision.

The world in which Pharaoh lives is governed by clear rules. In this world [as Pharaoh perceives], nations conquer other nations with regularity. Through subterfuge and cunning, the seemingly weak can even defeat the seemingly strong. The king can therefore accept the possibility of lean cows eating healthy cows.

What Pharaoh cannot accept, however, is the possibility that the victor in battle should remain unchanged. In the king’s world, conquest invariably bestows upon the victor increased physical power and strength. This rule is the basis of Pharaoh’s own supremacy. When, in his vision, the lean cows remain visibly unaffected after consuming the healthy cows, Pharaoh’s world is threatened and he awakens abruptly, sorely troubled and distraught.

Little does Pharaoh know, however, that his fears are actually well-founded. There is, unbeknownst to Pharaoh and perhaps even to Yosef, a hidden subtext to these visions. Pharaoh is about to be threatened in ways he could scarcely begin to imagine.

The king’s dreams set in motion a series of events which eventually give rise to the birth of a unique nation within his very realm. The eternal… nation [of the Jews] will not be bound by the rules of Pharaoh’s world. Spiritual fortitude will overcome physical strength as this seemingly weak people outlasts the most powerful empires in the history of mankind. Pharaoh’s kingdom will be only the first to fall in the face of the Jews’ march across the face of history.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 229):

We will measure our success [through many generations], not in terms of increased physical strength, but in the unbroken maintenance and development of our enduring spiritual heritage.

“Lean cows” will consume “robust cows.” The seemingly weak will overcome the strong, yet remain unchanged.

Pharaoh’s world is about to crumble; he has good reason to be troubled by his dreams.

Yes, the nation of Israel, reestablished in the Land of Israel, is faced with many neighboring adversaries and is perceived by the world as militarily powerful through her cunning, skill, advanced weaponry, although, in reality the power rests with the Yad Hashem (the Hand of Hashem), just as it has throughout history.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael and embarking on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of eight years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Chanukah Same’ach, Good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.