The Talmud says, a dream uninterpreted is like a letter unread, and a good interpretation usually requires positive action from the one who dreamed. That’s what Pharaoh sought and Joseph provided.
Table for Five: Miketz
Edited by Salvador Litvak, the Accidental Talmudist
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has let you know all this, there is no one as understanding and wise as you.” -Gen 41:39
David Sacks, Torah Podcaster at LivingwithGod.org
I learned from my Rebbe that there are two kinds of secrets. The first type is when you don’t know something and then you find out. This category is easy to understand.
But then there is the other kind of secret.
That’s when even after you learn the secret it remains a secret. For example, how did G-d create the world? The answer is He made something out of nothing. Now we know the secret… but how He did it… that remains a secret. We know, but we still don’t know.
Secrets are all around us.
How do you access those hidden aspects of holiness that are there yet remain elusive?
I don’t know.
But here is some holy advice from a holy Tzadik, the Kohziglover Rav, the Rosh Yeshiva of Chochmei Lublin, the greatest yeshiva in pre-WWII Europe.
Do you want to be for real? Then you must hide the good and holy things you are doing. Not only from other people, but even from yourself. There are exceptions to this rule. For educational purposes you can tell your children or students to set them on the right path, but other than that the mitzvahs you do are to remain a secret between you and Gd.
In this way, you become a secret.
Once you are a secret you are able to access the wavelength of secrets that surround us.
Now you know the secret. How it works exactly… that remains a secret.
Rabbi Nicole Guzik, Sinai Temple
What happens when you think you have achieved your dreams and accomplished your goals, only to realize that happiness is still not attained? At least, the pride in success is severely tempered when you realize that what you received isn’t actually what you need or what you really hoped to hear.
Joseph is lauded by the Pharaoh, named the wisest man in all of Egypt. But how important are these words? From whom does Joseph really need to hear? Joseph’s dreams may give us a glimpse into his authentic desires. In his book, “Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth,” Jungian analyst Robert Johnson explains, “Dreams show us, in symbolic form, all the different personalities that interact within us and make up our total self.” In other words, each dream we have is an unconscious manifestation of our own inner conflicts. Our dreams construct images of our insecurities and wounded egos; a constant balancing act for the mind to be at peace. In Joseph’s dreams, we see someone constantly surrounded by others. Someone longing for credibility, acceptance and aching for love.
Our dreams may reveal pieces of our soul that are excruciating to see. And yet, these uncomfortable questions help us to build an honest life, motivating repair in the relationships we hold close. Joseph’s dreams help us scrutinize our own: To feel secure, confident and loved, whose voice is it that we need to hear? What are your dreams whispering to you?
Gershon Schusterman, Rabbi, Businessman, Mashpia
In Pharaoh’s dreams, seven robust cows rise from the Nile, then seven gaunt cows rise which swallow the robust ones. In his second dream, seven healthy ears of grain blossom, followed by seven meager ears of grain, which swallow up the healthy ones without leaving a trace. Troubled by the unsatisfactory interpretations by his sorcerers, Pharaoh calls for Joseph. Spirited from his dungeon, Joseph comes before Pharaoh, and interprets: There will be seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. Unbidden, he advises Pharaoh to appoint a superintendent to store the cornucopia “so the land shall not perish by hunger.”
Pharaoh praises Joseph, “there is no one as understanding and wise as you,” and immediately appoints him viceroy, empowers him with his signet-ring, bedecks him in fine linen and gives him a wife…
Joseph’s interpretation was so well received by Pharaoh that, even before any demonstration of its veracity, Pharaoh intuitively knew that it was the true meaning. Joseph wisely focused on underlying clues. How was that?
Pharaoh dreamt these dreams on his birthday, two years after Joseph’s début as a dream-interpreter (Gen. 40:20; 41:1).
Although Pharaoh had two dreams, he consistently refers to them in the singular. Pharaoh was convinced that this was one prophetic dream foretelling him as king of Egypt, on his birthday, that something momentous would be happening, which he must forestall. When Joseph interpreted the overlaying dreams as one and boldly advised him what he must do, it resonated with Pharaoh perfectly.
Kylie Ora Lobell, Contributing Writer, Jewish Journal
Before Pharaoh asks Joseph to interpret his dreams, he goes to “all the necromancers of Egypt and all its sages” to figure out what they mean. However, the necromancers and sages fail. Unlike Joseph, they do not have understanding and wisdom because they do not believe in HaShem. Even though they might have been able to perform impressive magic tricks, they were essentially snake oil salesmen.
In today’s world, we have our own necromancers and sages. There are false prophets and belief systems that try to trick us into thinking that life without G-d is better. Maybe they teach us to believe in money, or power, or politics instead of in the Almighty. But we know what’s real: When you believe in HaShem, you gain knowledge and truth. We may not have the clarity that Joseph did, but the more we learn Torah and turn to HaShem, the deeper our understanding becomes.
When I have a negative experience, I look at what HaShem might be trying to teach me. If I stub my toe, I think, “HaShem wants me to stop being anxious and rushing around so much.” If I lose a job, I conclude, “HaShem wants me to do something different now.” There is no guarantee that I’m right, but as long as I constantly try to interpret the messages I get and think, “What would HaShem want?” then I will be that much closer to gaining that understanding and wisdom we should all be striving for.
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell, MHL, MAEd. ahavattorahla.org
In the ancient world, Pharaoh was in essence a god-king ruling the upper and lower worlds. When Pharaoh’s wise men were not able to interpret his two dreams, Pharaoh summoned Joseph, who was a slave for thirteen years, and now out of prison. Pharaoh told Joseph that he heard about his powers to elucidate dreams.
While in prison, God gave Joseph the opportunity to mend his own character. Now, standing before powerful Pharaoh, Joseph was humble, honest and courageous. He gives all the credit for his talents to his strong relationship with God, no matter what the circumstances in his own life were.
Joseph lays out his amazing economic, “National Disaster Relief Program” to Pharaoh. When Pharaoh asked his advisors to execute the job, they admit that they cannot. Pharaoh makes an astonishing declaration, “Since God has let you know all this, there is no one as understanding and wise as you are.”
Rashbam (Rashi’s grandson, France, 1085-1158) writes that Pharaoh was able to see and hear God’s wisdom through Joseph, and he actually understood that Joseph’s God is more powerful than his own power. This meant that Pharaoh’s power was diminished and Joseph’s power was increased.
Joseph became a role model for all of us to never give up at tough times. He found strength to conquer the challenges and never waiver in his trust in God, that it was all for the best. May we all be strengthened in our faith in God like Joseph the Tzadik. Amen.
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