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Parshat Mi-ketz


Pharoah dreams of seven cows coming out of the Nile, “handsome and sturdy” who are eaten up by seven more cows who are “ugly and gaunt”. In a second dream, “seven ears of grain, solid and healthy” are followed by a vision of “seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind...that (swallow) up” the healthy ones. What could this mean? Pharoah’s cupbearer remembers a “Hebrew youth” he had met while in prison who had interpreted dreams. Joseph is immediately released from jail and brought before Pharoah. “ ‘G-d has revealed what He is about to do,’” Joseph tells him. “‘Immediately ahead are seven years of great abundance in all the land of Egypt. After them will come seven years of famine...Let Pharoah find a man of discernment and wisdom, and set him over the land of Egypt...’” Clearly, Joseph is that man. When the famine came, Joseph, who wore Pharoah’s “signet ring” and “robes of fine linen”, has stored enough grain and produce “like the sands of the sea”. The man sold into slavery 20 years before by his jealous brothers, rides through Egypt in “the chariot of (Pharoah’s) second-in-command”, rationing food to the hungry people. As the famine spreads throughout the world, Jacob sends his 10 older sons from Canaan to Egypt to buy grain, keeping Benjamin, the youngest, with him. Joseph immediately recognizes his brothers but keeps his identity from them. “‘You are spies,’” he insists, when the frightened men come before him. He demands that their “youngest brother” be brought to Egypt; he keeps Simeon as a hostage and sends the others home to get him. “‘Then Reuben spoke up and said to them, ‘Did I not tell you, ‘Do no wrong to the boy (Joseph)? But you paid no heed. Now comes the reckoning for his blood.’ They did not know that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between him and them. He turned away from them and wept.” Joseph hides the money sacks that the brothers had given him in exchange for food in their belongings. The brothers, finding these when they arrive home, are terrified that Joseph will think they are thieves. Jacob, now mourning Simeon in addition to Joseph, refuses to send Benjamin back to Egypt. “You will send my white head down to Sheol in grief,” he says. But when the food brought from Egypt is finished, Judah convinces his father to “send the boy in my care” and the brothers return to Joseph, bringing double the money from before and many gifts. Seeing “his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son...Joseph hurried out, for he was overcome with feeling toward his brother and was on the verge of tears; he went into a room and wept there.” Joseph, toying with the others, has his “silver goblet” put inside Benjamin’s bag so that he may accuse this beloved brother of stealing. “‘(Benjamin) shall be my slave,’” he thunders at the others, dismissing Judah’s offer that they share the blame. “‘The rest of you go back in peace to your father.’” Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

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