And Yoseif Can Do Your Taxes, Too!By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Pharaoh said, “So… I hear you’re pretty good with stuff like this.” Yoseif replied, “I’m not all that. The power to interpret dreams lies with G-d, but let’s give it a whack.”
Pharaoh told Yoseif all about the cows and the stalks of grain. Yoseif had no trouble with it.
“First off,” Yoseif said, “both dreams are really one. Seven fat cows, seven good stalks – it’s the same thing. G-d is giving Pharaoh a heads-up – a professional courtesy as king, if you will – regarding the immediate future. There will be seven abundantly prosperous years, followed by seven years of famine. The bad times will be so bad that the good times will be completely forgotten. The fact that the dream was doubled is how you know that this thing is already in motion. Now, what you have to do,” Yoseif continued, “is appoint someone to stockpile the surplus during the boom, so you’ll have it when things go bust.” (A famous question is, who asked Yoseif his opinion? He was brought in to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, not to offer financial planning! The answer is that the course of action was also part of the dream. Pharaoh recognized it as such when he heard Yoseif’s plan.) Yoseif’s answer pleased Pharaoh very much.
Now, whoever said that Yoseif could interpret dreams? All we ever saw before Yoseif’s exile was that he had dreams, which his father dismissed. All of a sudden, when Yoseif is in prison, he’s interpreting dreams? Where did that come from? It seems to be like saying, “I’ve had my taxes done, so now I’m an accountant!”
In his book Between the Lines of the Bible, Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom points out that all of the dreams in the story of Yoseif are doubled. Yoseif had two dreams in which his brothers bowed to him; the baker and the wine steward had similar dreams; Pharaoh had the same dream twice. While living in Yaakov’s house, Yoseif must have learned the significance of a doubled dream. Yoseif even comments to Pharaoh on the significance of his dream being doubled (in 41:32). So why did Yaakov dismiss Yoseif’s dream of stars as “just a dream?” Because he hadn’t been told the earlier dream! But his brothers knew of both dreams and they were concerned! (See 37:10-11. This is just the surface of this explanation; see Rabbi Etshalom’s book for a full development of this approach.)