14 CowsBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Yoseif spent another two years in prison. (In his last comment on the previous parsha, Rashi cites a Midrash that this was a punishment for relying on the wine steward to free him rather than placing all his trust in G-d. Of course, any of us would have done the same thing, but we’re not on Yoseif’s spiritual level. When you’re raised in a house where your parents wrestle angels and your grandparents talk with G-d, you have a different set of expectations.)
So, after two years, Pharaoh had a disturbing dream. In it, he saw seven healthy-looking cows emerge from the Nile (the source of all life and prosperity in Egypt). While these cows were contentedly nibbling grass, another seven cows emerged from the river. These cows were emaciated and they swallowed the healthy cows.
Pharaoh awoke in a cold sweat, but he shrugged it off and went back to sleep. Again, he dreamed. This time he saw seven good stalks of grain. Up popped seven sickly stalks, scorched by the hot wind. These inferior stalks consumed the healthy ones. Pharaoh again awoke, pretty upset by his persistent night visions.
In the morning, Pharaoh called for his advisors to interpret the dream for him, but none of them were able. (It’s actually a pretty straightforward dream, but G-d did not permit any of Pharaoh’s advisors to interpret it properly for him.) The wine steward spoke up. “Circumstances force me to dredge up my criminal past,” he said. “When I was in prison, there was a Hebrew slave there who was a skilled dreamologist. He accurately foretold that I would be restored to my post and the baker would be executed.”
Pharaoh took the wine steward’s advice. Yoseif was hustled out of prison, groomed and changed to make him presentable, and brought before the king.