Gen. 41:1 – 44:17
Two full years passed. Then Pharaoh had a dream. He was standing near the Nile, when suddenly seven handsome, healthy-looking cows emerged from the Nile, and grazed in the marsh grass. Then another seven, ugly, lean cows emerged from the Nile, and stood next to the cows already on the river bank. The ugly, lean cows ate up the seven handsome, fat cows. Pharaoh then woke up. He fell asleep again and had a second dream. He saw seven fat, good ears of grain growing on a single stalk. Then, suddenly, another seven ears of grain grew behind them, thin and scorched by the hot East wind. The seven thin ears swallowed up the seven fat, full ears. Pharaoh woke up and realized that it had been a dream. In the morning he was very upset. He sent word, summoning all the symbolists and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could provide a satisfactory interpretation.
The chief wine steward spoke to Pharaoh. “I must recall my crimes today,” he said. “Pharaoh was angry at us, and he placed me under arrest in the house of the captain of the guard, along with the chief baker. We dreamed one night – he and I each had a dream that seemed to have its own special meaning. There was a young Hebrew man with us, a slave of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them. He provided each of us with an interpretation, and things worked out just as he said they would. I was given back my position, while the baker was hanged.”
Pharaoh sent messengers and had Joseph summoned. They rushed him from the dungeon. He got a haircut and changed clothes, and then came to Pharaoh.
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I heard that when you hear a dream, you can explain it.”
Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not by my own power. But HaShem may provide an answer concerning Pharaoh’s fortune.” Pharaoh related it to Joseph: “In my dream, I was standing on the bank of the Nile. Suddenly, seven fat, handsome cows emerged from the Nile, and grazed in the marsh grass. Then, just as suddenly, seven other cows emerged after them, very badly formed and emaciated. I never saw such bad ones in all Egypt. The emaciated, bad cows proceeded to eat the first seven, healthy cows. These were completely swallowed by the thin cows, but there was no way of telling that they were inside. The cows looked just as bad as they had at first. Then I woke up. Then I had another dream. There were seven full, good ears of grain growing on one stalk. Suddenly, seven other ears of grain grew behind them. The second ones were shriveled, thin, and scorched by the east desert wind. The thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. I told this to the symbolists, but none of them could interpret it for me.”
Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dream has a single meaning. HaShem has told Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years. The seven good ears are the same seven years. It is one dream. The seven emaciated, bad cows who came up after the first ones are also seven years. The seven empty, wind-scorched ears will likewise be seven years of famine. It is as I have told Pharaoh – HaShem has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. Seven years are coming, during which there will be a great surplus of food all over Egypt. These will be followed by seven years of famine, when all the surplus in Egypt will be forgotten. The famine will ravage the land. The ensuing famine will be so terrible that there will be no way of telling that there was once a surplus in the land. The reason that Pharaoh had the same dream twice is because the process has already been set in motion by HaShem, and HaShem is rushing to do it. Now Pharaoh must seek out a man with insight and wisdom, and place him in charge of Egypt. Pharaoh must then take further action, and appoint officials over the land. A rationing system will have to be set up over Egypt during the seven years of surplus. Let the officials collect all the food during these coming good years, and let them store the grain under Pharaoh’s control. The food will be kept in the cities under guard. The food can then be held in reserve for the land when the seven famine years come to Egypt. The land will then not be depopulated by the famine.”
Pharaoh and all his advisors considered it an excellent plan. Pharaoh said to his advisors, “Can there be another person who has HaShem’s spirit in him as this man does?”
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since HaShem has informed you about all this, there can be no one with as much insight and wisdom as you. You shall be in charge of my government, and food will be distributed to my people by your orders. Only by the throne will I outrank you.”
Pharaoh then formally declared to Joseph, “I am placing you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.”
Pharaoh took his ring off his own hand and placed it on the hand of Joseph. He had him dressed in the finest linen garments, and placed a gold chain around his neck.
He had Joseph ride in his second royal chariot, and those going ahead of him announced, “The Viceroy!” Joseph was thus given authority over all Egypt.
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh. Without your say, no man will lift a hand or foot in all Egypt.”
Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Tzaphnath Paaneach. He gave him Asenath, daughter of Poti Phera, the priest of On, as a wife. Joseph thus went out to oversee Egypt.
When he stood before Pharaoh, Joseph was 30 years old.
Joseph left Pharaoh’s court, and he made an inspection tour of the entire land of Egypt. During the seven years of surplus, the land produced loads of grain.
Joseph collected the food during the seven years that Egypt was now enjoying, and he placed the food in the cities. The food growing in the fields around each city was placed inside the city. Joseph accumulated so much grain, it was like the sand of the sea. They had to give up counting it, since there was too much to count. Joseph had two sons before the famine years came, borne to him by Asenath, daughter of Poti Phera, priest of On.
Joseph named the first-born Manasseh (Me-nasheh) – “because HaShem has made me forget (nasheh) all my troubles – and even my father’s house.”
He named his second son Ephraim – “Because HaShem has made me fruitful (p”ri) in the land of my suffering.” The seven years of surplus that Egypt was enjoying finally came to an end. The seven years of famine then began, just as Joseph had predicted. There was famine in all the other lands, but in Egypt there was bread. Eventually, however, all of Egypt also began to feel the famine, and the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh announced to all Egypt, “Go to Joseph. Do whatever he tells you.”
The famine spread over the entire area. Joseph opened all the storehouses, and he rationed supplies to Egypt. But the famine was growing worse in Egypt. The famine was also growing more severe in the entire area, and people from all over the area came to Egypt to obtain rations from Joseph.
Jacob learned that there were provisions in Egypt, and he said to his sons, “Why are you fantasizing?” “I have heard that there are supplies in Egypt,” he explained. “You can go there and buy food. Let us live and not die.” Joseph’s ten brothers went to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin along with the others. “Something might happen to him,” he said.
Israel’s sons came to buy rations along with the others who came because of the famine in Canaan. Joseph was like a dictator over the land, since he was the only one who rationed out food for all the people. When Joseph’s brothers arrived, they prostrated themselves to him, with their faces to the ground.
Joseph recognized his brothers as soon as he saw them. But he behaved like a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where are you from?” he asked.
“From the land of Canaan – to buy food,” they replied. Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. He remembered what he had dreamed about them. “You are spies!” he said to them. “You have come to see where the land is exposed to attack.”
“No my lord!” they replied. “We are your servants who have come only to buy food. We are all the sons of the same man. We are honorable men. We would never think of being spies!”
“No!” retorted Joseph. “You have come to see where the land is exposed.”
“We are twelve brothers,” they pleaded. “We are the sons of one man who is in Canaan. Right now the youngest brother is with our father, and one brother is gone.”
“I still say that you are spies,” replied Joseph. “There is only one way that you can convince me. By Pharaoh’s life, all of you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Let one of you go back and bring your brother. The rest will remain here under arrest. This will test your claim and determine if you are telling the truth. If not, by Pharaoh’s life, you will be considered spies.”
Joseph had them placed under arrest for three days.
On the third day, Joseph said to them, “If you do as I say, you will live. I fear the HaShem. We will see if you are really being candid. One of you will be held hostage in the same building where you were kept under arrest. The rest can go and bring supplies to your hungry families. Bring your youngest brother here, and your claim will be proved. Then you will not die.”
They agreed to this, but they said to one another, “We deserve to be punished because of what we did to our brother. We saw him suffering when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That’s why this great misfortune has come upon us now.” Reuben interrupted them. “Didn’t I tell you not to commit a crime against the boy?” he said. “You wouldn’t listen. Now a divine accounting is being demanded for his blood!”
Meanwhile, they did not realize that Joseph was listening, since they had spoken to him through a translator. Joseph left them and wept. When he returned, he spoke to them sternly again. He had Simeon taken from them and placed in chains before their eyes. Joseph gave orders that when their bags were filled with grain, each one’s money should also be placed in his sack. They were also to be given provisions for the journey. This was done.
The brothers then loaded the food they bought on their donkeys, and they departed.
When they came to the place where they spent the night, one of them opened his sack to feed his donkey. He saw his money right there at the top of his pack. “My money has been returned!” he exclaimed to his brothers. “It’s in my pack!”
Their hearts sank. “What is this that HaShem has done to us?” they asked each other with trembling voices. When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him about all that had happened to them.
“The man who was the lord of the land spoke to us harshly,” they said, “and he charged us with spying on the land. We said to him, “We are honorable men. We have never been spies. We are twelve brothers, all of the same father. One of us has been lost, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.”
“The man who was the lord of the land said to us, “I have a way of knowing if you are honorable. Leave one of your brothers with me, take what you need for your hungry families, and go. Bring your youngest brother back to me, and then I will know that you are honorable men, and not spies. I will give your brother back to you, and you will be able to do business in our land.”
They began emptying their sacks, and each one’s money was found to be in his sack. The brothers and their father saw the money-bags and they were afraid.
Their father Jacob said to them, “You’re making me lose my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin! Everything is happening to me!”
Reuben tried to reason with his father. “If I do not bring Benjamin back to you,” he said, “you can put my two sons to death. Let him be my responsibility, and I will bring him back to you.”
“My son will not go with you!” replied Jacob. “His brother is dead, and he is all I have left. Something may happen to him along the way, and you will bring my white head down to the grave in misery!”
The famine became worse in the area. When they had used up all the supplies that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and get us a little food.” Judah tried to reason with him. He said, “The man warned us, “Do not appear before me unless your brother is with you. If you consent to send our brother with us, we will go and get you food. But if you will not send him, we cannot go. The man told us, “Do not appear before me unless your brother is with you.”
Israel said, “Why did you do such a terrible thing to me, telling the man that you had another brother?”
The brothers replied, “The man kept asking about us and our family. He asked, “Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?” We simply answered his questions. How were we to know that he would demand that we bring our brother there?”
“Send the boy with me,” said Judah to his father Israel. “Let us set out and get going. Let’s live and not die – we, you, and also our children. I myself will be responsible for him. You can demand him from my own hand. If I do not bring him back and have him stand before you, I will have sinned for all time. But if we had not waited so long, we could have been there and back twice by now!”
Their father Israel said to them, “If that’s the way it must be, this is what you must do. Take some of the land’s famous products in your baggage, a little balsam, a little honey, and some gum, resin, pistachio nuts and almonds. Take along twice as much money, so that you will be able to return the money that was put at the tops of your packs – it might have been an oversight. And your brother – take him. Go and return to the man. May HaShem Almighty grant that the man have pity on you and let you go along with your other brother and Benjamin. If I must lose my children, then I will lose them.”
Return to Egypt
The brothers took the gift and also brought along twice as much money as needed. They set out with Benjamin and went to Egypt. Once again they stood before Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the overseer of his household, “Bring these men to the palace. Butcher an animal and prepare it. These men will be eating lunch with me.”
The man did as Joseph said, and he escorted the brothers to Joseph’s palace.
When the men [realized that] they were being brought to Joseph’s palace, they were terrified. They said, “We are being brought here because of the money that was put back in our packs the last time. We will be framed and convicted. Our donkeys can be confiscated, and we can even be taken as slaves.”
When they were at the door of Joseph’s palace, they went over to the overseer and spoke to him. “If you please, sir,” they said, “we originally came down to buy food. Then, when we came to the place where we spent the night, we opened our packs, and each man’s money was at the top of the pack. It was our own money, in its exact weight. We have brought it back with us. We have also brought along other money to buy food. We have no idea who put the money back in our packs!”
“Everything is fine as far as you are concerned,” replied the overseer. “Don’t be afraid. The HaShem you and your father worship must have placed a hidden gift in your packs. I received the money you paid.” With that, he brought Simeon out to them. The man brought the brothers into Joseph’s palace. He gave them water so they could wash their feet, and had fodder given to their donkeys. They got their gifts ready for when Joseph would come at noon, since they heard that they would be eating with him. When Joseph arrived home, they presented him with the gifts they had brought. They prostrated themselves on the ground to him.
He inquired as to their welfare. “Is your old father at peace?” he asked. “Remember, you told me about him. Is he still alive?”
“Your servant our father is at peace,” they replied, “He is still alive.” They bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. Joseph looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son. He said, “This must be your youngest brother, about whom you told me.” To Benjamin he said, “HaShem be gracious to you, my son.”
Joseph rushed out. His emotions had been aroused by his brother, and he had to weep. He went to a room and there he wept. He washed his face and came out. Holding in his emotions, he said, “Serve the meal.” Joseph was served by himself, and the brothers by themselves. The Egyptians who were eating with them [were also] segregated. The Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, since this was taboo to the Egyptians.
When the brothers were seated before Joseph, they were placed in order of age, from the oldest to the youngest. The brothers looked at each other in amazement.
Joseph sent them portions from his table, giving Benjamin five times as much as the rest. They drank with him and became intoxicated.
Joseph gave his overseer special instructions. “Fill the men’s packs with as much food as they can carry,” he said. “Place each man’s money at the top of his pack. And my chalice – the silver chalice – place it on top of the youngest one’s pack – along with the money for his food.” The overseer did exactly as Joseph instructed him.
With the first morning light, the brothers took their donkeys and were sent on their way. They had just left the city and had not gone far, when Joseph said to his overseer, “Set out and pursue those men. Catch up with them and say to them, “Why did you repay good with evil? It’s the cup from which my master drinks, and he uses it for divination. You did a terrible thing.”
The overseer caught up with them, and repeated exactly those words to them. They said to him, “Why do you say such things? Heaven forbid that we should do such a thing! After all, we brought you back the money we found at the top of our packs – all the way from Canaan. How could we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? If any of us has it in his possession, he shall die. You can take the rest of us for slaves.”
“It should be as you declare,” he replied. “But only the one with whom it is found will be my slave. The rest will be able to go free.”
Each one quickly lowered his pack to the ground, and they all opened their packs. The overseer inspected each one, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. The chalice was found in Benjamin’s pack.
The brothers tore their clothes in grief. Each one reloaded his donkey, and they returned to the city. When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s palace, he was still there. They threw themselves on the ground before him. Joseph said to them, “What did you think you were doing? Don’t you realize that a person like me can determine the truth by divination?”
“What can we say to my lord?” replied Judah. “How can we speak? How can we prove our innocence? HaShem has uncovered our old guilt. Let us be your slaves – we and the one in whose possession the chalice was found.”
“Heaven forbid that I do that!” said Joseph “The one in whose possession the chalice was found shall be my slave. The rest of you can go in peace to your father.”
There are two connections between the Torah portion and the Haftarah.
This week’s Parsha begins with the creation of the universe. In the Haftarah the Prophet Isaiah reminds the people of Israel that HaShem is there, still creating. Creation is an ongoing thing, a miracle that is constantly going on.
Second, in the Torah portion we learn that we are given a choice between right and wrong. In the Haftarah, Isaiah says that Israel should be “a light for all the nations”, it is our responsibility to show others right from wrong.
- First of 54 Sedras in the Torah
- Written on 241 lines in the Sefer Torah
- 146 P’sukim (verses)
- 1,931 words
- 7,235 letters
Next week’s Parashat: VaYigash