it’s not about me: what Yosef taught Pharoah

1) The symbolism of Pharoah’s dream doesn’t really seem all that hard to figure out.  Why none of his advisor’s could  make sense of it seems more of a mystery than why Yosef got it.

The Midrash contrasts “Pharoah omeid al h’ye’or” with “Hinei Hashem nitzav alav.”  The Egyptian diety was  subservient to the Pharoahs — religion was a tool to control the masses and consolidate power; it served an  instrumental good for mankind.  We believe that religion is not meant to serve our needs and wants; we are meant to  yield to its demands.

The advisors of Pharoah came from this worldview where everything — even the will of their deity — revolved around the “me,”  especially in the case of Pharoah.  Therefore, they interpreted the dreams of Pharoah in that light.  It was about  daughters he would have and bury; it was about rebellious cities that had to be put down.  What would happen to the  Pharoah; what would the result to the Pharoah be.

When Pharoah tells his dream to Yosef, interestingly he is no longer “omeid al ha’ye’or,” but he is “al sefas  ha’ye’or.”  His perspective has begun to shift, but it takes Yosef to bring him the rest of the way.  “Es ha’Elokim  oseh her’ah es Pharoah” — what does G-d do?  He does good for mankind; he does not act for his self-interest.   Explains R’ Shaul Yisraeli, this is what Yosef was telling Pharoah – he was showing him a worldview where he must  act not for his own self-interest, but for the good his his kingdom and the good of his people, because that is the  only way the famine will be beat.

2) The meforshim on last week’s parsha discuss why the Torah uses double-language, “V’lo zacahr Sar haMashkim es Yosef  va’yishkacheihu.”  Isn’t “lo zachar” the same thing as “vayishkacheihu?”

The Sefas Emes explains that “V’lo zachar”  refers to the Sar haMashkim forgetting about Yosef; “vayishkacheihu”  refers to Yosef forgetting about the Sar HaMashkim.  Yosef did not think for a moment that the Sar haMashkim would  actually do anything to help, and so the second the words, “zechartani… v’hizkartani,” were out of his mouth,  Yosef immediately put the Sar haMashkim out of his mind.  Yosef’s complete trust was that Hashem would deliver him  from prison.

The Midrash criticizes Yosef for saying “zechartani… v’hizkartani,” but the same Midrash also calls Yosef a ba’al  bitachon (see the archives for a few approaches to this Chazal).  Yosef for whatever reason felt he had to say  “zichartani v’hizkartani,” but the “vayishkacheihu” proves where he true bitachon was.

The Chiddushi haRI”M writes that we see that there is an inverse relationship between asking for “zechartani” and  actually being remembered.  The request of “zechartani” of a Sar haMashkim actually causes “shikcha” and led to two  more years of prison of Yosef.  WHen it comes to Chanukah, the decree “l’hashkicham torasecha” led to us having a  zecher to a nes for dorei doros.

3) When the brothers return to Egypt a second time and see that they are immediately brought to Yosef’s home, to the  palace, they are filled with fear.  “Al dvar ha’kesef ha’shav b’amtichoseinu batechila anachnu muva’im…” (43:18).   The Imrei Emes explains that the brothers were not thinking of the money they found in their bags on the way home,  but rather about the original money (“batechila”), the money they took for selling their brother.  They realized  that they were being forced to pay for their crimes.

It’s interesting that we have so much detail describing how they find the money — “heim m’rikim sakeihem…”  (42:35).  The Imrei Emes sees in this an allusion to a line in mizmor shir chanukas habayis that we’ve been saying:  over the chag: “Pitachtah saki va’ti’azreinu simcha.”