Wednesday, December 24, 2008



This week's portion is Miketz. [Note, though, that we also read two other portions this week: one for Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the month in the lunar calendar), the other for Chanukah.]

Miketz begins with the dreams of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. In his dreams, Pharaoh sees thin cows consume fat cows but remain thin, and he sees thin grain consume plump grain but remain thin. His advisors fail to provide convincing interpretations. The butler remembers Joseph, who had successfuly interpreted dreams in prison. The butler tells Pharaoh about Joseph, and Joseph is brought to Pharaoh.

Joseph interprets the dreams as a message about Egypt's economic future. There will be seven years of great crops, and then seven years of famine. Joseph advises Pharaoh to store grain during the years of glut. Pharaoh, awed by Joseph's spiritual and practical ken, assigns Joseph a top post as chair of the project, and chief advisor to Pharaoh.

Years later, as the famine begins, Joseph's brothers descend to Egypt for food. Joseph recognizes them and has them locked up, on false charges of espioniage. They don't recognize him; he was 17 and beardless when they sold him, and now he is 30 and bearded. Further, they don't expect to see him there.

Joseph hears the brothers' conversations among themselves, and specifically their recriminations for selling him, but he is waiting for something more: Joseph wants to put them back in the position of having to choose between their own welfare and that of their youngest brother, the other son of Rachel, Benjamin. So Joseph demands that they bring Benjamin to Egypt.

Jacob refuses to send Benjamin, until his fourth son, Yehudah, points out that they will all die without food. Yehudah guarantees Benjamin's safety with his own life.

The brothers return to Egypt, and then Joseph springs his trap. Joseph arrests Benjamin on false charges of theft, and tells the brothers that they can go home safely, if only they will leave Benjamin with him. The Torah portion ends with that cliffhanger.

Have a great day,

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