PARSHAT Mikeitz – 5784
A Tale of Resilience and Triumph
Genesis 41: 18-19 and 23:24
18And behold, seven cows of robust flesh and handsome form were ascending from the Nile, and they pastured in the marshland.
|יחוְהִנֵּ֣ה מִן־הַיְאֹ֗ר עֹלֹת֙ שֶׁ֣בַע פָּר֔וֹת בְּרִיא֥וֹת בָּשָׂ֖ר וִיפֹ֣ת תֹּ֑אַר וַתִּרְעֶ֖ינָה בָּאָֽחוּ:
|19And behold, seven other cows were ascending after them, emaciated and of very ugly form and with meager flesh; I have not seen such ugly ones throughout the entire land of Egypt.
|יטוְהִנֵּ֞ה שֶֽׁבַע־פָּר֤וֹת אֲחֵרוֹת֙ עֹל֣וֹת אַֽחֲרֵיהֶ֔ן דַּלּ֨וֹת וְרָע֥וֹת תֹּ֛אַר מְאֹ֖ד וְרַקּ֣וֹת בָּשָׂ֑ר לֹֽא־רָאִ֧יתִי כָהֵ֛נָּה בְּכָל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם לָרֹֽעַ:
23And behold, seven ears of grain, hardened, thin, and beaten by the east wind, were growing up after them.
|כגוְהִנֵּה֙ שֶׁ֣בַע שִׁבֳּלִ֔ים צְנֻמ֥וֹת דַּקּ֖וֹת שְׁדֻפ֣וֹת קָדִ֑ים צֹֽמְח֖וֹת אַֽחֲרֵיהֶֽם:
|24And the thin ears of grain swallowed up the seven good ears of grain; I told the necromancers, but no one tells me [its meaning].”
|כדוַתִּבְלַ֨עְןָ֙ הַשִּׁבֳּלִ֣ים הַדַּקֹּ֔ת אֵ֛ת שֶׁ֥בַע הַשִּׁבֳּלִ֖ים הַטֹּב֑וֹת וָֽאֹמַר֙ אֶל־הַֽחַרְטֻמִּ֔ים וְאֵ֥ין מַגִּ֖יד לִֽי:
The dreams of Pharaoh involve cows and grain stalks, which are directly connected to the earth, in contrast to the dreams of Joseph, which involve sheaves of grain and celestial bodies. Joseph is not only connected to the earth but also to the heavens.
Another notable difference between Pharaoh’s dreams and Joseph’s dreams is that Joseph’s dreams show an upward trajectory from earth to heaven, while Pharaoh’s dreams show a downward trajectory; the fat cows and grain stalks are consumed by the lean ones and ultimately perish, scattered by the east wind.
We are familiar with the story and its aftermath. The dreams are a sign from G-d that a famine is coming, and Joseph becomes the viceroy, providing food for the world. Joseph is called Joseph the Tzaddik, the righteous one; he not only provides physical sustenance but also spiritual nourishment, just as the tzaddikim after him have done and will continue to do.
Let’s focus solely on Pharaoh’s two dreams and delve a bit deeper. Seven is a significant number and can be seen as the 2×7 attributes that humans possess. The 7 positive attributes and their 7 counterparts, as G-d creates everything in pairs. The 7 positive attributes highlighted here are Chesed (love for G-d), Gevurah (fear of G-d), Tiferet (glory to G-d), Netzach (victory over the evil inclination), Hod (thanking God), Yesod (sanctifying G-d), and Malchut (recognizing G-d as King).
In Pharaoh’s dreams, we observe that the positive attributes are engulfed by the negative ones, and we sincerely wonder how it is possible for the negative attributes to destroy the positive ones, making the good ones no longer visible. This is analogous to certain diseases that can afflict our bodies. When, G-d forbid, we get cancer, we see that these malignant cells devour and destroy the healthy cells. As a person develops negative attributes, their positive ones diminish because their character, mentality, and conscience are compromised. When a person succumbs to their animalistic soul, they become more and more ensnared in nature, similar to how Egypt was ensnared in nature.
Egypt is the first exile for the Jewish people, symbolic of all the exiles that will follow. Times of deep darkness, situations where salvation and redemption seem impossible. G-d redeems the people from Egypt, just as He redeemed them from the Hasmoneans. The Maccabees placed their complete trust in G-d, leading them to consecrate the Temple despite having only enough oil for one day. They believed that G-d would ensure the Menorah kept burning, and it did for eight days.
This perspective extends to the present day, where the people mourn deeply for their loved ones who have been killed and are still being held hostage. The pain and injustice they experience from nations that, in large numbers, undermine the right to self-defense and barely condemn the actions of the enemies. However, G-d will deliver the many into the hands of the few and the strong into the hands of the weak. This was true in Joseph’s time, during the time of the Maccabees, and will be true for the nations that rise against G-d’s people.
From this story, we can glean several valuable lessons
- Spiritual Resilience: The story illustrates the importance of spiritual resilience in times of adversity. Both Joseph and the Maccabees relied on G-d and drew strength from their spiritual convictions to overcome challenges.
- Duality of Good and Evil: The duality of good and bad traits, as embodied in the midot, is a recurring theme. It shows how negative aspects can threaten the positive, similar to how diseases can affect the body when negative tendencies prevail.
- Connectedness of History: It connects historical events, such as the exile from Egypt and the Maccabean struggle, to contemporary conflicts. This underscores the ongoing relevance of spiritual lessons and the importance of understanding our history.
- Self-Sacrifice and Trust in G-d: The courage of the Maccabees, especially during the Temple dedication, reflects the idea of self-sacrifice and complete trust in G-d, even in seemingly impossible situations.
- Divine Providence: It emphasizes the concept of Divine providence, where G-d is actively involved in guiding events and providing direction in times of need.
These learning points provide insight into the human experience, spiritual growth, and the ongoing quest for justice and freedom.
By Angelique Sijbolts
With thanks to B. Yaniger for the inspiration
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