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Mikeitz(Genesis 41:1-44:17)

Oops

The name of this parsha means "end." It refers to the end of the two-year period that Joseph spent in jail.

If you remember, last week Joseph, who found himself in jail, seemed to have a glimmer of hope after he correctly interpreted the dreams of two fellow inmates. The baker would be hanged and the butler would be restored to his previous position. As a favor for giving the butler such good news, Joseph asked for his help.

Not so fast, Batman.

Rather than being a source of reprieve, Joseph's efforts were the cause of an additional two years in prison.

I hate when that happens.

"...Because Joseph relied on him ... it was necessary for him to be imprisoned two years..." (Rashi, Genesis 41:23)

Thus, this week's parsha starts by telling us the two years were up and Joseph would soon be free.

Of course, we should be asking ourselves the question, what did Joseph do wrong?

I mean, here he was, stuck in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and let me tell you, this was no Federal-golf-club-vacation prison with separate showers. No, this would have made your average 3rd-Century hovel seem like Buckingham Palace.

Obviously, Joseph was not punished for interpreting the dreams correctly. Inasmuch as a dream itself is some kind of coded message that needs a fairly high degree of sophistication to interpret, the fact that it was a dream of prophecy leads us to another question.

Why would Joseph's cellmates need to know what will happen to them?

The answer, Joseph concluded, was so that they would appreciate his help and get him free.

Oops!

That's all well and good for the butler. But why did the baker need to know? He died.

Interpreting these dreams was not to provide a favor for the butler or baker, but rather they were part of some bigger, then-still-unknown plan. In other words, if the purpose of the dreams were to help Joseph get out of prison through some kind of reciprocity with the butler, then one dream would have sufficed. And Joseph should have realized that.

The only reason the butler needs to know that the baker is going to die is so, later on, when the butler needs someone he knows interprets dreams correctly and is not just lucky, he can call on Joseph.

And that is exactly what happened. Pharaoh had a major dream that no one could interpret and the butler suggested Joseph. But that was two years later.

Joseph needed two years to appreciate the mistake he made. It's not so obvious when we do something wrong. I am sure Joseph was not sitting on his hands waiting for something to happen, so to hone in on this incident as the one, takes a high degree of dedication. But it was necessary, if Pharaoh was going to have the dream, then Joseph needed to understand how to use that dream in the way God intended, something Joseph didn't do with the butler and baker.

In a similar way, God has a plan for all of us. The events in our lives are conversations. When we listen to the messages and understand what it is we are supposed to do with the cards we are dealt, then the game becomes a lot more fun.

Published: December 17, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) ScottGranowski, December 22, 2006 4:47 PM

Prudence

Thanks for your comments. Based on your analysis, I can also see that Joseph was pointing to personal benefit. I find that when I use God-given powers directed for personal benefit, I am manifesting a lack of faith. It seems like those two years were a growth process. The next time he interpreted a dream (Pharoah's), he did not ask for something. He recommended. Thanks for a great column.

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