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Parshat Miketz

Seven cows emerge from the Nile, “handsome and sturdy”, only to be eaten up seven more cows, “ugly and gaunt”. “Seven ears of grain, solid and healthy” are compared to “seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind...that (swallow) up” the healthy ones. What could this mean? Since these are Pharaoh's dreams--not the dark visions of Shabbat Mom, who dreams that she fails to remove her challah from the oven in time--they require immediate attention. Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembers a “Hebrew youth” he met while in prison who has the gift of interpretation. Joseph is immediately released from jail and brought before the ruler. “ ‘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 Pharaoh find a man of discernment and wisdom, and set him over the land of Egypt...’” Spoiler alert: Joseph is that man. When the famine arrives, Joseph, who wears Pharaoh’s “signet ring” and “robes of fine linen”, stores 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 (Pharaoh’s) second-in-command”, rationing food to the hungry people. As starvation 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 own identity a secret. “‘You are spies,’” Joseph 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. “‘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.” Now its time for a little mind-game revenge. Joseph hides among his brothers' belongings the money they have given Joseph in exchange for food. When the brothers unpack back in Canaan and discover the money, they are terrified. 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. When the food runs out, Judah convinces his father to “send the boy in my care” and the brothers return to Joseph, bringing double the funds 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.” But Joseph isn't finished with the psychological warfare. (Remember, these are the bullies that sold him in to slavery. At Shabbat Mom's house, even a minor sibling offense like finishing the Fruit Loops is considered a capital offense!) Joseph has his “silver goblet” hidden inside Benjamin’s bag and accuses him of stealing. He takes Benjamin as a prisoner, forcing his brothers to go home to Jacob and face the music. “‘(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.’”

Shabbanukkah Shalom!

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