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Parashat Miketz 5779 — 12/08/2018

Parashat Miketz 5779 — 12/08/2018

Bereishit 41:1-44:17

And in the morning, Pharaoh’s spirit was very disturbed… (41:8)

What was bothering Pharaoh, besides the fact that he couldn’t figure out what this dream was all about? The fact that all his wise men and his sorcerers couldn’t tell him either only made things worse. Clearly the dreams were related by the common theme of “seven bad eating seven good,” and Pharaoh was aware that the two dreams were really one dream in slightly different guises, for he always referred to the dream in the singular, yet his wise men apparently didn’t get that. And what did Yosef say that put his mind at ease?

R. Goldin goes into Pharaoh’s psychology by focusing on the commentary he adds to his dreams when describing them to Yosef:

The king recounts: “… Never have I seen such in all the land of Egypt for badness.”

Pharaoh is clearly disturbed by the possibility that “scrawny, emaciated cows” could even appear in Egypt at all. Like so many monarchs before and after him, Pharaoh prefers to live in a fantasy world of absolute power and success. There is no place in the king’s lush, rich empire for “weak cows.” Pharaoh, therefore, emphatically declares that no such cows have ever before appeared in his land, as he desperately attempts to avoid the ramifications of his vision.

The king recounts: “… And they came inside them and it was not apparent that they came inside them – for their appearance was as inferior as before; and I awoke.”
The world in which Pharaoh lives is governed by clear rules. In this world nations conquer other nations with regularity. Through subterfuge and cunning, the seemingly weak can even defeat the seemingly strong. The king can therefore accept the possibility of lean cows eating healthy cows.
What Pharaoh cannot accept, however, is the possibility that the victor in a battle should remain unchanged. In the king’s world, conquest invariably bestows upon the victor increased physical power and strength.
This rule is the basis of Pharaoh’s own supremacy. When, in his vision, the lean cows remain visibly unaffected after consuming the healthy cows, Pharaoh’s world is threatened and he awakens abruptly, sorely troubled and distraught.

R. Goldin summarizes why Yosef’s words soothed the king’s troubled mind:

Yosef sets the king’s mind at ease by explaining both the existence of the, lean cows and their unchanged status in symbolic terms. Pharaoh’s visions, he asserts, represent natural challenges which can be overcome through proper planning.

In a word, Pharaoh needed to be in control. His dreams seemed to portend a loss of control; Yosef’s words put him back into control, or so it seemed. Later, when “a new Pharaoh arose over Egypt who did not know Yosef” (Ex 1:8), he again needed to show that he was in control. It took 10 plagues and the virtual destruction of his kingdom to disabuse him of this idea. In fact, Pharaohs held themselves out to be gods. That is why Gd told Moshe and Aharon to confront Pharaoh as he was going down to the river in the morning. Why was he going to the river? Because he held himself out to be a god and gods don’t have to relieve themselves. Pharaoh would go to the river to immerse and take the opportunity to take care of his needs. Moshe and Aharon’s intervention was no doubt very painful and uncomfortable for the god. The prophet Yechezkel (29:3) has Gd mocking a later Pharaoh who says, The Nile belongs to me; I made it for myself.

I don’t know what it is that makes a person think they are a god when there is ample evidence to the contrary. Pharaoh was a cultured and sophisticated man, but he was unable to break out of the boundaries of his thought patterns and his press clippings. One doesn’t have to look far to find modern Pharaohs who harbor similar delusions.

Let us analyze this issue of control a little bit. The universe is a vast collection of galaxies, stars, planets, dust, gases, black holes and the like, all interacting by means of the various forces of which we are aware. When we look more deeply into the universe, we find that each particle is a mode of vibration of one underlying Unified Field. Since everything in the universe is composed of these elementary particles, the entire creation is nothing other than a great, complex web of vibrations of this one field. Everything in the universe is connected to everything else in the universe via the Unified Field. That means that every action we take has ramifications everywhere in the universe, ramifications that we cannot possibly even begin to compute! Nonetheless, Gd, perhaps working through natural law, manages to compute the workings of the whole universe, instantly and perfectly from moment to moment. So who is in control?!?!

There is a beautiful line in the Bhagavad-Gita (II:47): You have control over action alone, never over its fruits. Gd is in control of everything, and it is only by aligning our will with His Will (Pirke Avot II:4) that we can be assured that our actions will be fruitful, as we read in Proverbs (19:21): Many are the thoughts in a man’s heart, but the counsel of Gd – that will be established. But we cannot learn Gd’s Will from books, and we cannot act with our nose in a book. We have to imbibe Gd’s Will into our essence through purifying our minds and our bodies, so that our action is spontaneously in accord with Gd’s Will in the present situation. Then we will truly have control over all Gd’s creation.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parsashat Mikeitz

We have two sayings that help inform this parshah:
“Gd is in the details”;
“The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts”.

In this parshah, Joseph, an unwilling representative to Egypt-Mitzraim, the Land of Restrictions, from Canaan, the Land of Synchronicity, of Harmony, successfully interprets two dreams of Mitzraim’s ruler, Pharoah, and is given de facto control of Mitzraim.

This is Harmony bringing the parts together so they can make a Whole.

Joseph correctly interpreted Pharoah’s dreams of seven fat cows devoured by seven lean cows and of seven healthy stalks of wheat devoured by seven lean stalks to mean that seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine and therefore, Mitzrayim should store up during the fat years so it would have enough to last through the lean years.

Joseph’s Harmony was so great that Pharoah recognized the validity of Joseph’s interpretation and Joseph’s integrity was so great that Pharoah gave him control of organizing the stocking up, organizing which gave him de facto control of the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Harmony in Canaan had already been disturbed by Jacob’s failure to raise his children so that all felt equally loved – even though each might have different skills, some might be wiser, some more skilled in battle, some more skilled in leadership, in peace….

Jacob has failed to completely attend to detail and to reveal Gd in the details of everyday life and relationships in Canaan: Canaan was only partially Canaan, only partially and superficially, The Land of Synchronicity.

And the Harmony was broken further by the sons not learning to flow with Jacob’s behavior and to give love from their side to raise themselves and him to the level where they could feel Full Love, no matter what the surface appearance.

This resulted in betrayal of Jacob’s trust, selling Joseph into slavery, lying to their father, and, eventually to famine in Canaan – a solid breakdown of the Plenty that exists when Canaan is Whole, functioning to bring all details into synchronicity, into harmony, and to Reveal Gd as the Wholeness, the Totality, which brings Complete Synchronicity, The Wholeness that is Oneness, of which all the parts are Expressions.

With the famine in Canaan, in Synchronicity, Jacob’s sons had to go to Mitzrayim, raised by Gd through Joseph, to a land of Synchronicity, Fullness.

And they will abandon the land Canaan to settle in Raised Up Mitzrayim, until eventually Wholeness breaks down there and several hundred years later, they need to escape restrictions, return to Canaan within themselves and to the physical land of Canaan. Of this we will learn more in the next Parshah.

This Parshah teaches us, that even in the midst of the ups and downs of life, we can maintain our purity, our Joyful and Reverent Daily Routine, so that we can Love Gd with all our Heart and Soul, Love our Neighbor as Our Self, and bring Harmony into fragmentation, Wholeness into limitations.

Of course, there are deeper levels of interpretation: All is Gd’s Plan as Joseph later tells his brothers. There are no mistakes in Torah, no villains, no heroes, only Gd telling stories to teach us how to integrate the fragments of life into Wholeness – and at the deepest level, Torah is Gd Humming Torah within Himself, within The Self, our Self, the Only Self.

To this we in our community are rising: Joy and Love, which we have a lot of, radiate a lot of, share a lot of are signs of the return to Wholeness, Teshuvah.

Gd, the Self, is Joy, is Love and with our Love and Joy, we are returning.

Baruch HaShem