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Parshas Mikeitz - Vol. 5,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
V’ata yeireh Paroh ish navon v’chachom vi’shiseihu al eretz Mitzrayim (41:33)
After Yosef was freed from prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, he explained that they foretold seven years of abundance to be followed by seven years of famine. Therefore, he recommended the appointment of a wise advisor to oversee the project of storing for the famine during the years of plenty. Upon hearing this proposal, Pharaoh responded that there was nobody more fitting for the role than Yosef himself, who demonstrated great insight by suggesting this idea.
As Pharaoh had only requested Yosef to interpret his dreams, why did he offer advice on how best to deal with the ramifications of his interpretation of the dreams, something which wasn’t at all requested of him? Further, why was Pharaoh not only not upset that Yosef had overstepped his mandate, but he became so impressed with him that he appointed him to oversee the new project?
The Vilna Gaon answers with a brilliant explanation. A person who is told that his dream refers to events in the distant future has no reason to believe the interpretation, as there is no way to test its accuracy. In fact, an interpreter who doubts his abilities would be wise to offer such an explanation so that there is no way for him to be proved wrong and his reputation ruined.
Yosef, on the other hand, told Pharaoh that his dream referred to the immediate onset of seven years of plenty, which would directly be followed by seven years of famine. Logically, Pharaoh should have believed Yosef’s explanation, for he would be foolish to make up an interpretation which would promptly be proven incorrect.
Still, even when the years of plenty began, Pharaoh didn’t necessarily have to be convinced of Yosef’s wisdom. He could have insisted on waiting for seven years to see whether the famine would begin as Yosef had predicted, or even for 14 years to see if the famine would end as he had forecasted. Hashem recognized the danger of such a potential reaction, as in that case Pharaoh wouldn’t trust Yosef sufficiently to appoint him to oversee the project from the very beginning.
As a result, the Medrash says that Hashem caused Pharaoh to forget part of his dream, specifically the part in which Yosef’s recommendation to appoint a wise man to oversee the storage project was actually spelled out explicitly. Upon hearing that Yosef not only offered a plausible and verifiable interpretation of his dream but also refreshed his memory about a portion of the dream which even he had forgotten, Pharaoh exclaimed (41:39) that after Hashem has informed you of all of this, including the part of the dream which I myself forgot, surely there is nobody wiser than you in the entire kingdom.
Im keinim atem achichem echad yei’aseir b’veis mishmarchem … v’es achichem hakaton tavi’u eilai vayeiamnu divreichem (42:19-20)
In order to force his brothers to return with his beloved younger brother Binyomin, Yosef put one of them in jail and threatened that his freedom would be dependent upon their returning with Binyomin. If Yosef’s desire was simply to be reunited with Binyomin, why was it necessary to incarcerate one of the other brothers? As Yosef knew that the famine would continue for many years, wouldn’t it have sufficed to inform them that they wouldn’t be able to make any further grain purchases unless they return with Binyomin, which would force them to do so?
The Panim Yafos answers that had Yosef done so, the brothers would have been able to hire a random person off the street to escort them to Egypt and claim to be Binyomin. Since they didn’t realize that the person they were speaking to was Yosef, there would be no reason for them to think that he would be able to tell the difference, and for him to call them on their deception would require him to reveal his true identity.
Therefore, Yosef implemented an ingenious plan. He imprisoned Shimon and forced him to remain behind in Egypt. Were the brothers to return with anybody but the real Binyomin, Yosef would be able to line up a number of men, including the man they claimed was Binyomin. Were they to return with an impostor, Shimon wouldn’t be able to pick out the stranger from the lineup and their ruse would be discovered. As a result, the brothers had no choice but to return with the true Binyomin, who Shimon would be able to recognize, and whom Yosef would finally be able to able to lay his eyes on.
Vayomer hamelech zos omeres zeh b’ni ha’chai u’beneich ha’meis v’zos omeres lo ki b’neich ha’meis u’beni ha’chai (Haftorah – Melochim 1 3:23)
The Haftorah for Parshas Mikeitz, which is often pushed aside by the Haftorah for Shabbos Chanuka and won’t be read again until the year 2020, contains the famous demonstration of Shlomo HaMelech’s wisdom. Two women had recently given birth, but one of their babies died. Each woman argued that the dead baby belonged to the other woman. After repeating their claims, Shlomo discerned the truth by suggesting that the baby be cut in half.
The true mother, horrified at the thought of her baby being cut into two, rejected the proposal, even if it meant that the living baby would be given to the other woman, while the woman who was lying had no qualms about agreeing to Shlomo’s “compromise.” Their true motivations revealed, Shlomo concluded the case by awarding the live baby to its true mother. Although in hindsight Shlomo’s plan appears brilliant, how did he know that it would work, and why did he repeat each woman’s argument prior to proposing the compromise?
The Malbim explains that Shlomo wasn’t simply repeating the claims of each of the wome, but was alluding to the first clue that jumped out at him. Human nature is that when a person is speaking, he first mentions his primary focus and afterward what is secondary. Shlomo noticed a subtle distinction between the women’s claims. One woman argued, “My son is the living one, and yours is the dead one,” while the other reversed the words, maintaining, “Your son is the dead one, and mine is the living one.”
When he detected this, Shlomo already suspected that the first woman was telling the truth. She revealed that her primary concern was that the living son be hers and concluded with the unfortunate fact that the dead one must belong to the other woman. The second woman, on the other hand, seemed focused on establishing that the dead child belonged to the other woman, mentioning almost tangentially the result that the living one would be hers. This served as a red flag for Shlomo. To confirm his suspicions, he suggested the test of cutting the baby in half. While the first woman was horrified at the proposition, the second one was willing to do so. This confirmed his initial hunches, and he rightfully awarded the baby to the first woman, its true mother.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) How did Yosef know to interpret the three branches and three baskets seen in the dreams of the cupbearer and baker to refer to events which would transpire in three days (40:12, 18), while understanding that the seven stalks and seven cows in Pharaoh’s dreams correspond to seven years (41:26) when perhaps the dreams of his cell-mates referred to three years, and Pharaoh’s to seven days? (Ramban 40:10; Ibn Ezra, Paneiach Raza, and Moshav Z’keinim 40:12)
2) Why does the Torah, which teaches only what is necessary for all generations to know, record (41:45) that Pharaoh changed Yosef’s name to Tzafnas Paneiach? (Chizkuni, Taima D’Kra)
3) There is a Talmudic principle (Bava Metzia 62a) that saving one’s own life comes before all others. In the unthinkable situation in which a person may additionally save only his father or his son, who has precedence? (Emes L’Yaakov)
4) The Gemora in Shabbos (21b) teaches that the primary obligation on Chanuka is to light one flame on each night, but the mehadrin min hamehadrin – most preferred – level is to light an additional flame on each successive night for each member of the household. If a person lit one flame and realized that he forgot to say the blessings, may he still say the blessings before lighting the additional flames, or is it too late to do so because he has already fulfilled his basic obligation? (Shu”t Rav Akiva Eiger 2:13, K’Motzei Shalal Rav Chanuka pg. 240-1)
5) If a person lights Shabbos candles and then realizes (before sundown) that he forgot to light the menorah, the law is that he should appoint an agent who has yet to accept Shabbos upon himself to light the menorah on his behalf. How can this be reconciled with the Gemora in Nazir (12b) which teaches that one may not appoint an agent to do something which he himself cannot do? (Pri Megadim Aishel Avrohom 679, Shu”t Maharam Schick Even HaEzer 1:120)
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