Parshat Miketz

How long actually was the famine in Egypt? Rashi says it lasted two years. What is the proof? Because after two years the Egyptians ask Joseph for seed to plant their fields. If there was still a draught there would be no reason to plant. (You might claim they were planting because they didn't know the third year would also be a draught.) Thus, the draught must have ended by then.

The version of the dream that Pharaoh tells Joseph is more detailed than the version he reports to his servants. The narrative is saving the details for the climactic moment of Yosef's interpreation (JT Rosh HaShana 3:5 "Divrei Torah aniim bemakom ehad V'ashirim bmakom aher"). The commentators do not believe that Pharaoh altered the story, but merely that the Torah elaborates here for dramatic effect. Contrast with Rabbinical interpretation of Eliezer's changing details when he talks to Laban.

When the narrator tells the story of the dreams of Pharaoh, the end of the first dream is described with the words, "va'yikatz (and he awoke)" and the end of the second dream is describe witht he words "vayikatz v'hineh chalom (and he awoke, and behold it was a dream)". When Pharaoh tells the dream over to Joseph, after the first dream it says "va'ikatz (I awoke)" but at the end of the second dream it does not indicate any end to the dream but immediately goes into Pharaoh's search for an interpreter. I suggest that the "and behold it was a dream" at the end of the narrative part indicates that the two dreams were one. This fact Pharaoh wanted to keep from Joseph to test if he was a good dream interpeter.

What does "Himesh" mean in verse 34? If they take 1/5 of the grain and save it, then there is not enough (see rashi). Let's do the math. If they grew 5 tons a year and consumed 4 tons and saved 1 ton , then after 7 years they would have 7 tons, leaving only 1 ton a year for consumption. Perhaps they exported the other 3/5 and only consumed 1 ton even in the years of plenty. Or maybe the word "himesh" just means "safeguarded" the grain and does not specify the amount. They would have needed to save 1/2 the grain each year. If as rashi says the draught was only 2 years, then the 7 tons would be enough. (normal consumption would have been 8 tons in two years, but this does not take into account animal fodder needs). It is worth noting that the story goes on to decribe the perminent tax status of Egyptian peasant. They gave 1/5 to the state. Perhaps this story is apply the later reality to the previous period. Interestingly, Egypt is the ideal place to store grain. Plenty of water for growing it and dry climate to prevent rotting. Cats were used to prevent rats from eating grain, hence cat worship.

The verses describing the powers of state that Pharaoh gave to Joseph can be viewed a gradual increasing of his powers. Each step is preceded by the word vayomer, indicating a new statement, and a new level. Verse 40: "You shall be on my house . . . just my throne will be above you." This means Joseph will run things from behind the scenes, in the house. Externally it will still appear that Pharaoh runs things. Verse 41: "You you shall be in charge of all Egypt" He then gives him the ring from his finger and his second chariot, and proclaims him "avrech". This is a public status as ruler. But still Pharaoh is the first ruler and Joseph second. Calling Joseph avrech might mean that people must bow before him (avrech derives fromt he word to bow") Verse 44: "I am pharaoh, without your permission no one shall lift hand or foot in Egypt." This means that Pharaoh is a recluse, Joseph has unrivalled power, even Pharaoh cannot cancell his edicts. The only power Joseph does not have is to act against the person of Pharaoh (I am Pharaoh). This is like a parliamentary monarchy. The monarch has no power but cannot be removed by the parliament.

Notice that Joseph, son of Rachel , replays the events which lead to her death. She died because she stole trafim from Lavan and was not caught . She then died because of Jacobs curse that whoever stole the trafim shall die. Similarly Benjamin is caught with a goblet that he did not steal. Joseph's planting of the goblet provided a way for the child to atone for the sin of the parent. Joeseph plays the role of Lavan and Bejamin that of Rachel, in a kind of Freudian transference. It also served as a pretext for imprisoning Benjamin and testing if the brothers hate Rachel's children.

We learn in verse 42:21 that Joseph begged his brothers to take him out of the pit into which they had cast him. They felt unto this point that they had left him to die there in the pit. It must be that the majority of them did not know that in fact he had been taken out of the pit and sold into slavery. Who ever did sell him , did not tell the other brothers. This explains there statement (verse 13) that Joseph "eineinu (is no longer alive)". Also verse 21 says they saw the suffering of his soul and did nothing. Reuven also castigates them and tells them he said not to harm Joseph. Reuven also believes that his advice was not heeded and that Joseph is dead. In verse 22, reuven says that Joseph's blood is being avenged. So who took Joseph from the pit?

In chapter 42 Jacob is called Yaakov, but in chapter 43 he regains the name Israel, showing he he has regained psychological strength.