Torah reading 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem /The Jerusalem Post)
In this week’s parasha, Parashat Miketz, we read about the sudden upheaval in
Yosef’s life. After spending 12 years in an Egyptian prison following a mean
libel, he is suddenly released and taken for a respectable haircut, dressed in
new clothes, and brought before the King of Egypt, Pharaoh.
this sudden change? Pharaoh dreamed a strange dream and searched for an
interpretation to his dream. After despairing from the Egyptian dream solvers,
one of his ministers tells him about a Hebrew slave thrown in Egyptian prison
and about his well-known dream solving expertise. Pharaoh commands to bring
Yosef to him immediately whereupon he asks him to interpret his
Let’s imagine this exciting scene. In ancient Egypt, a foreign
slave is a person lacking minimal rights. A slave accused of betraying his
master is the last person to have any chance of ever being released from prison
and seeing the light of day. And here, the inconceivable occurs and Yosef stands
before the legendary King Pharaoh as a completely free man.
not have had a better opportunity to be set free. It would have been natural to
expect Yosef to demonstrate his talents and wisdom before Pharaoh, at least
during this rare opportunity. But Yosef reacts to Pharaoh differently than
expected: And Joseph replied to Pharaoh, saying, "Not I; God will give an answer
[that will bring] peace to Pharaoh." (Breishit 41, 16) Yosef does not take the
credit for himself. He does not boast about his wisdom and special abilities. He
quickly points out to Pharaoh that nothing he has is from himself and that all
his wisdom is a gift from G-d.
Also when Potiphar, Yosef’s Egyptian
master, notices his incredible success, Yosef does not take credit for it in
order to attain a more respectable status in his master’s house, but “he remains
fluent in the name of G-d” and he attributes all his success to the Divine
assistance he is privileged to receive. Even in a strange land, in exile, in the
depths of slavery – Yosef understands that G-d is with him, protecting him and
This utterance of Yosef’s expresses great pride in Jewish
faith, standing tall without taking personal ramifications into consideration.
But it also expresses powerful humility, modesty that is expressed in the
declaration “Nothing I have is mine; It is all a gift from G-d!” But more than
anything, this utterance is a risk. Can we even comprehend the level of risk
Yosef is taking by saying this? Pharaoh, a pagan idol worshipper that does not
recognize the G-d of Abraham, could easily send him back to prison, at best, or
to be hung at worst.
What these words of Yosef’s reveal is his courageous
stand which typifies the Jewish nation throughout the generations. Facing
dangers or threats, Jews have always stood bravely and declared their faith in
G-d and in the values of morality, justice and honesty which the Torah has
bequeathed to us.
Calculations of gain or loss lose their value when
Yosef faces the opportunity to declare his faith. Yosef is aware of what he
could gain if Pharaoh is impressed with his wisdom. He is also aware of what he
could lose if Pharaoh is not amazed by him. But Yosef chooses the brave path,
the path of heroes.
And he does not lose! Pharaoh accepts his advice and
appoints him to the most respected job in Egypt: the viceroy to the king! It is
human nature to be amazed by someone who does not take credit for his abilities
and special talents, but is humble and leaves the credit to whoever gave him the
wisdom: G-d. A person like that elicits wonder from his environment which
responds the way Pharaoh responded to Yosef: “There is no one as understanding
and wise as you.”
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