This week the drama surrounding Joseph and his brothers continues in Parasha Mikeitz.
Joseph, sold into slavery in Egypt, has met two of Pharaoh’s chamberlains and interpreted their dreams, which turn out just as Joseph explained they would. Now, Pharaoh has had dreams that no one can interpret, and the chamberlain of the cup bearers brings Joseph out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. Joseph humbly explains that he has no power to interpret dreams, and only explains the dreams as God tells him.
Pharaoh’s dreams are of seven strong cows being devoured by seven weak cows, and seven healthy ears of grain being eaten by seven thin ears of grain. Joseph explains that Egypt will enjoy seven years of good harvests, to be followed by seven years of famine. Joseph explains the two dreams are really one, which means God is prepared to carry out the divine plan for Egypt very soon.
God’s message to Pharaoh – sent in the dream – includes a plan of action that Joseph explains. Pharaoh should appoint a wise man to take charge of the grain harvest during the seven good years, to store it for distribution during the seven years of famine. Pharaoh realizes God’s power and that Joseph understands it, and appoints Joseph his prime minister.
During the seven years of plenty, Joseph sees that grain is stored, so much that the granaries are filled. Joseph also marries Asenath, the daughter of Potiphar, the Egyptian court official who bought Joseph. Asenath and Joseph have two sons, Manassah and Ephraim.
When the famine comes, it affects the entire region including Canaan. Jacob sends his sons – all except the youngest, Benjamin – to Egypt to buy grain. In Egypt, they appear before Joseph to buy the grain – Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him. Joseph asks the brothers leading questions to find out about the welfare of his father and Benjamin, who is the only other son born of Rachel and therefore very close to Joseph.
Joseph tells the brothers that, if they return, they must bring Benjamin if they want to buy grain. The brothers take home grain and, when that is all gone, return to Egypt with Benjamin to purchase more. Before they return to Canaan, Joseph hides his silver goblet in Benjamin’s sack. As the brothers journey home, Joseph sends his servant to stop them, saying they have stolen his goblet. The men empty their sacks, and the goblet is found in Benjamin’s sack. We will learn what happens next week.
The story of the interactions among Joseph and the brothers is the usual theme studied in this parasha. I want to take a moment and discuss the other set of brothers mentioned this week – Manassah and Ephraim.
Manassah means “caused me to forget”. Joseph named him so because with the birth of his son, God had caused Joseph to forget his hardship and his longing for his father’s household. Ephraim, from “to be fruitful,” caused Joseph to be thankful God had made him fruitful in Egypt, the land of his suffering. Even though these two boys grew up at the Egyptian court, surrounded by idol-worshippers and people who lacked good character, the good influence of their father made them Morally Straight, Reverent to God, and Obedient to God’s commandments. That is why Jewish parents bless their sons, “May you grow to be like Ephraim and Manassah.”
May YOU grow to be like Ephraim and Manassah.
Shabbat shalom and happy Hanukkah!