This week we read Parasha Mikeitz, one of the most dramatic stories in the Torah.
Last week, we learned that Joseph’s 10 older brothers sold him into slavery, and that ultimately he ended up in Egypt.
The end of last week’s parasha covers what happens to Joseph once he gets to Egypt. The caravan that took him there sold him to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s chamberlain. Joseph is so smart, Potiphar puts him in charge of his household. Joseph is also very handsome, and Potiphar’s wife pays him a lot of attention. Joseph tells Mrs. Potiphar to leave him alone, she gets angry, and accuses him of attacking her. Potiphar puts Joseph in his dungeon.
After a while, Joseph gets some company. Pharaoh becomes upset with the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. Potiphar, as chamberlain, arrests the men and imprisons them in his dungeon. While there, each of the royal officers has a dream. The chief cupbearer dreams of a vine with three branches, which blossom; he presses the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup and gives it to Pharaoh. Joseph explains that the dream means in three days Pharaoh will pardon the chief cupbearer and return him to his office. Joseph tells him to think of him when he is restored to power, and mention him to Pharaoh, so Pharaoh will free Joseph.
The chief baker then tells Joseph his dream, in which he has three baskets on his head with baked goods. Birds eat the food from the baskets. Joseph explains this dream means that in three days Pharaoh will execute him.
Sure enough, three days later, Pharaoh restores the chief cupbearer to office and executes the chief baker, just as Joseph foretold. But the chief cupbearer forgot about Joseph, and did not mention him to Pharaoh.
Thus the table is set for this week’s parasha, Mikeitz. Now Pharaoh has two dreams. In his first dream, Pharaoh is standing on the bank of the Nile, and up come seven good cows to graze; but then seven gaunt cows arrive, and eat the good cows. In the second dream, seven good ears of grain are growing on a single stalk; but then seven thin ears of grain sprout and eat the seven good ears.
No one in Pharaoh’s court can interpret the dreams. The chief cupbearer then remembers Joseph, and tells Pharaoh of the Hebrew slave who interprets dreams. Pharaoh has Joseph brought to him. Joseph explains that only God can explain the meaning of the dream. Pharaoh tells Joseph the dreams, and Joseph explains that God is sending Pharaoh a warning that there will be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. He advises Pharaoh to appoint someone to organize the country to preserve grain during the good years so that Egypt will have stores of grain to carry it through the famine. Pharaoh is impressed that God reveals his design to Joseph and thus appoints Joseph as the royal prime minister to carry out this important work.
The famine that comes after seven years hits Canaan, as well, and Jacob sends the 10 older sons to Egypt, to buy grain. The youngest son, Benjamin, stays home. When the brothers come to ask Joseph to sell them grain, the man they sold into slavery after mocking him as “that dreamer” recognizes his brothers. Joseph questions them about who they are – he is secretly trying to find out if his father is still alive and how his little brother Benjamin is. They explain they are ten of 12 brothers; one is gone and the youngest is home. Joseph sends the brothers back with grain, but requires they leave Simeon with him and says not to come back unless Benjamin comes with them. Secretly, Joseph returns their money to their bags. They return home.
After the family eats all the grain, the brothers have to return. Though it breaks Jacob’s heart, they take Benjamin with them. He tells his sons that if Benjamin does not return it will kill him. They go to Egypt and again see Joseph, who sends them back with more grain, but this time secretly returns not only their money, but also hides a royal goblet in Benjamin’s bags. After they leave, Joseph sends guards to bring them back because of their “theft”.
What will Joseph do to the brothers? What will happen to Benjamin? Will anyone have more dreams? Will Joseph and his brothers eat latkes? (Oh, sorry, right season, wrong story.) Join us again next week to find out.
Shabbat shalom and Happy Hanukkah!