Miketz (Genesis 41:1 – 44:17)

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GOOD MORNING!! Today is the last day of Chanukah and a final chance to support my appeal. I’m nowhere near my goal but always happy to accept that you can’t win them all. However, if you can help me get a little closer, I’d be deeply grateful as I really need the support right now. Thank you so much. ☺

Torah Portion

This week we read the classical story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph is appointed second in command in Egypt after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. Seven thin cows eating seven fat cows and seven thin ears of corn eating seven fat ears of corn meant seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. So, Joseph starts storing grain. Once the famine arrives, Egypt has food and everyone else is starving. Joseph’s brothers, along with the rest of the world, travel to Egypt for food. They don’t recognise Joseph as their brother – it’s been 20 years and he left them as a teenager. He gives them a merry run-around with the sole purpose of encouraging them to take responsibility for the mistake that they made – which, to their great credit, they do. There is a final confrontation between him and his brothers, however, and the portion ends with a cliff-hanger. So make sure you tune in next week!

Davar Torah

Pharaoh was more satisfied with Joseph’s interpretation of his dream than the interpretations of his magicians. But why? Surely, they came up with conceivable interpretations also? The Rabbis tell us, for example, that they suggested the dreams meant that he would have seven children and they would all die. Why is seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine a more plausible interpretation than that? I think it’s that we human beings have intuitions that transcend logic. Sometimes we know things simply because we know them. Truth somehow resonates with us. We have a sense of danger even though there is no immediate evidence for it. We know when someone is looking at us, even though we aren’t looking at them. Pharaoh knew because he knew.

But still…..based on an impressive interpretation of your dreams, you make a slave, a ‘convicted’ rapist, into your Prime Minister who is de facto in charge of all of Egypt??? It seems a just a little rash.

I believe that our intuition is particularly attuned when it comes to human beings. There are people, for example, we trust very quickly – and people we would not trust from the moment we meet them. We are not always exactly right, and hence it’s a good idea to be careful, but there is usually something in what we see. Joseph was, quite simply, a very impressive human being. It was obvious to Pharaoh that, slave or no slave, this was a man who could competently prepare Egypt for the coming famine. And how right he was. 

We human beings usually prefer the security of logic. We like things that add up, like two plus two, giving us the answer of four. We like the transparency of the rational process. It makes the world black and white; and a black and white world feels so much more controllable.

But, unfortunately, our world is not as simple as that. If Pharaoh had had only logic to rely on, he would have sent this slave back to prison and, during the seven years of famine, his empire would have collapsed – utterly and irredeemably. 

Logic is not only comfortable – it can also be arrogant. We can be seduced by the fact that it puts us in the driving seat. And not only can it be arrogant, in painting a black and white world, it paints a world without nuance; without subtlety; without the richness of many shades of grey – because both black and white have no shades. 

As I write, I realise I have more to say, so I will finish this one next week. Suffice to say, for the moment, that we are all, even an arrogant Pharaoh, blessed with an incredible gift of judgment; we sense what’s real and what makes sense. For sure, logic has a value and its role to play. But I believe that, ultimately, our intuition provides a surer and more accurate path to truth.       

Shabbat Shalom  

Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt

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