Saturday, December 20, 2014

Torah Thoughts on Miketz – Dreams Part II

This week’s Torah portion, Miketz (Genesis 41:1 - 44:17) continues the story of Joseph.  As the parshah begins, the Pharaoh of Egypt has two similar and disturbing dreams.  In the first, he dreams that he was standing by the Nile, and out of the river came seven healthy and comely cows and they grazed in the reeds.  Then, out of the Nile came seven gaunt and ugly cows that ate up the seven healthy cows.  Pharaoh awoke, went back to sleep and dreamed a second dream.  In this dream, seven solid and full ears of corn grew on a single stalk.  Close behind them were seven scorched and thin ears of corn on a single stalk, and the seven thin ears ate up the seven full ears.

Pharaoh called his wise men and magicians but none of them could interpret the dream.  Then, Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembered the man he had met in prison who had correctly interpreted his dream and that of the baker.  Pharaoh has Joseph brought from the prison to the palace.  Joseph tells Pharaoh that his two dreams are one and the same.  They foretell that Egypt will have seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.  The seven years of famine will be so severe that they will blot out the years of abundance.  Joseph offers Pharaoh a solution.  During the seven years of plenty, Pharaoh should appoint an overseer to collect and store food to carry the land through the seven harsh years to come.  Pharaoh immediately appoints Joseph to the task.

The Sfat Emet, a 19th century Hasidic rabbi, sees a spiritual side to this story.  “What can be learned from this parshah to prepare ourselves in good days, days in which holiness is revealed, to set the light in our hearts, to be there in times when holiness seems far off? We must store up resources of faith, even as the Egyptians stored grain, to nourish us spiritually when events turn against us.” 
When things are going well for us and our belief is strong, we need to take note of these precious times.  They will be what sustains us at times when life seems unfair, when loneliness overwhelms us, and when God seems distant.

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