21st Century P’shat: 1-2 minute divrai Torah for each aliyah

Miketz

  1. When Joseph was being released, the guards rushed him. But he interceded. He insisted on shaving and fresh clothes. He could delay Pharoah, but he could not look anything but great. Joseph understood his power in the society – it was always connected to his looks. Joseph recognizes the tools he has available and uses them. At this point, after the disasters of wandering towards Dothan and into his brother’s trap and being along with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph has become – far more than any of his fathers – a planner.
  2. With Joseph’s first dreams, G-d did not appear. In the second, the interpretation belongs to G-d. In the third, Joseph recognizes that there is not ‘one’ interpretation. Rather, Hashem can grant you a favorable interpretation after the dream. He realizes dreams have no power of their own. Hashem is behind everything. Joseph puts Fate in its place. He follows this by explaining that even if the interpretation of the dream is negative, it can be overcome by somebody who plans and is perceptive. He puts Fate below the powers of even a well-organized and thoughtful man.
    1. The word for selling and grain are the same – shavar. It is associated with grain sales later, but always as a curse. This kind of sale is not normal, there are other words for that. This is a soul-rotting sale of desperation. It is not a sale for growth, but survival. It reminds me of farmers eating their cattle for lack of water – they destroy their future to preserve their present. More ominously, it reminds me of Jews selling everything before they flee. Joseph undoes Egypt with these sales – making all of Egypt the property of Pharoah and creating a rotting society.
    2. I saw a discussion online: if you eat yourself would you be twice as big or nothing at all? This seems like the description of Egypt.
  3. After his appointment, Joseph immediately goes ‘on tour.’ He doesn’t sit and give orders and believe they will be followed. Joseph micromanages the greatest project in human history. Why? Why not trust that it will work or that Pharoah’s command will be carried out? Joseph has become a planner. What is he planning? It is simple. When he later reveals himself to his brothers, the first reason he gives for being sent down to Egypt is that Hashem sent him to save lives, not just their lives. Joseph might just see this project as his purpose
    1. Why does Pharoah give Joseph so much more power than he asks for? Joseph has made a fundamental leap. His pitch to Pharoah is that Pharoah can preserve the land – not the people who last but a generation – but the timeless land itself. We crave something greater than themselves; call it purpose. Joseph offers Pharoah purpose – and presents himself as a vehicle for fulfilling it. Pharoah will offer him anything to make it reality.
  4. Why does Joseph remember the dream now? Perhaps he has settled into Egypt and forgotten the past? Certainly, he has stayed connected to Hashem, but not his family. Perhaps this break is why he never reaches out to his father. But Joseph then jumps from the dream remembrance to accusing his brothers of being spies – seeking to see the emptiness/nakedness of the land. Why would Egypt be worried about a few Canaanite spies seeing the naked truth about Egypt? Especially when so many others from Canaan are buying grain? Perhaps Joseph is actually expressing his plan. Perhaps he intends to see the nakedness of his family – and ascertain whether he should return.
  5. Yaacov offers the strangest gift to the man in Egypt. It is the ‘song of the land’ and he calls it a ‘Minchah’ – not just a present. Minchah comes from Nach – comfort. One calls to mind his ‘guarding’ of Joseph’s fate. Perhaps he unconsciously hoped that the governor of Egypt might be Joseph and perhaps he imagined that the ‘song of the land’ would be a comfort to him.
  6. If Joseph was seeking to uncover the nakedness of the brothers’, they passed their first test. They returned the money. They demonstrated honesty in business and they brought Benjamin. Joseph is deeply touched, but this isn’t enough for him to decide to reunite. He is a man of planning and perception. He needs more evidence that he should return.
  7. And so Joseph threatens to keep Benjamin. If they will defend Benjamin at risk to themselves – repudiating in action their previous sins – then he will reunite with them. If not, then he will stay with Benjamin – whom he loves – and let them suffer for their own problems.

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