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Parashat Miketz (Genesis 41:1 – 44:17)

“Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dream of Pharaoh is a single one;
what God is about to do, He has told to Pharaoh.” (Genesis 41:25)

Something astonishing happens in Parashat Miketz. It’s not Pharaoh’s dreams of fat and skinny cows or healthy and withered stalks of grain. Nor is it the cupbearer’s recommendation of Joseph to decipher the dreams. Nor is it Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams to mean seven “fat” years followed by seven “lean” years. Nor is it Joseph’s suggestion to store food during the plentiful years to help Egypt survive the famine years. The astonishing thing is Pharaoh’s acceptance of the interpretation and his elevation of Joseph to second-in-command. Think about it: Joseph is a foreign-born former-slave and convict – and Pharaoh bets the farm on him. Astonishing.

Rabbi Cherie Koller-Fox (rabbi and President of NewCAJE) draws an eternal question out of this Biblical scene: how do you choose what to believe and whom to trust? Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787–1859; Chassidic rabbi and leader) teaches we should look for truth as if we had never seen it before. The key to recognizing it is to be a freethinking person and not let your biases cloud your vision. This Pharaoh has an open mind; he listens to Joseph’s logic (even if some of the news is grim) rather than be put off by Joseph’s history. Independence of thought and diversity of opinion serve him (and Egypt) well, at least for a while.

Pharaoh’s behavior is striking when compared to that of Antiochus in the Chanukah story we celebrate this week. Antiochus demands everybody think and behave like him; he loses his throne to the Maccabees as a result. He should have read Parashat Miketz, more closely.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom
A Freyliche Chanike/Chag Urim Sameach/Happy Chanukah

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