OU Torah Insights ProjectParashat Mikeitz-Shabbat Chanukah
The Torah describes, in vivid detail, Yosefs incredible rise to power through his correct interpretation of Pharaohs dreams.
But why, ask various commentators, including Akeidas Yitzchak and Abarvanel, was the Egyptian monarch so willing to listen to the interpretation of this foreign convictnot only to accept it as a theoretical possibility, but to actually give it such credence as to determine the economic policy of his entire nation.
To be sure, Pharaoh had received word that this prisoner had successfully interpreted the dreams of the chief butler and the chief baker. He had been put to the test before, and had responded with a fully accurate prediction of the events to come.
Yosef seemed worthy of Pharaohs ear. Nonetheless, why would Pharaoh put such trust in a stranger who had met the challenge on but one occasion, when he had at his side the wisdom of Egypthis trusted advisors, who for years had successfully guided his political and religious life, and secured his status as sovereign and god of the ancient world.
In fact, as the Midrash reports, his advisors were far from dumbstruck by the dreams:
"Rabbi Yehoshua of Sichinin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, They interpreted [the dreams] for him, but their voices did not enter his ears. [They told him,] The seven goodly cowsyou will have seven daughters. And the seven sickly cowsyou will bury seven daughters. And they also said, The seven goodly stalksyou will conquer seven provinces. And the seven sickly stalksseven provinces will rebel against you."
Our question, therefore, persists: If alternative explanations were advanced by his most trusted ministers, why did Pharaoh choose Yosef, an unknown entity?
Nehama Leibowitz, z"tl, points to a closer close reading of the text, which reveals that although Pharaoh had two distinct dreamsone of the cows; one of the stalksand his advisors explained them as two dreams with two meanings, Pharaoh, the text informs us, "told them of his dream."
Pharaoh refers to his dreams as one dream and understood them to convey a single meaning. His directive to Yosef confirms this approach: "I have dreamed a dream and there is no one who can interpret it."
Because Pharaoh was convinced of the oneness of his visions, he rejected the efforts of his trusted ministers and turned instead to Yosef.
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt"l, describes Yosef as a visionary, who had the ability to see beyond what others saw, particularely beyond that which his brothers could see.
The Rav, z"tl, another Yosef, envisioned the founding of a Jewish state differently from his "brothers" in Torah, by welcoming it and seeing it as an act of Divine providence and religious import.
In expanding upon this approach, we have seen that Yosef again saw a vision different from that of those who surrounded him. They saw two dreams; he saw one.
And so in our time, the Rav, z"tl, in the spirit of his namesake, with an interpretation that differed from those around him, envisioned philosophical commitments and aspirations in the not as separate, disparate entities, of the relationship of Torah and Eretz Yisrael. They were to be interpreted, in his passionate and intellectual vision, as one.Let us remain steadfast to that vision. Rabbi Hanan Balk
Rabbi Balk is rabbi of Congregation Agudas Israel, Cincinnati, Ohio.
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