Divrei Torah


In the beginning of this week’s Parsha, the Pharaoh had two dreams that are really one and the same. In the first dream seven healthy cows came up from the Nile River and grazed in the swamp. Then seven weak looking cows emerged from the Nile River, stood beside the seven healthy cows and ate them. The Pharaoh was startled by his dream and he awoke.

He fell back asleep and had a second dream. Seven healthy ears of grain sprouted on a single stalk. After that, seven thin and wind beaten ears of grain grew and consumed the seven healthy ears of grain. The Pharaoh was once again startled and woke up again. Now his dream was complete.

In the morning, the Pharaoh summoned his wise men, told them the dream and asked them to interpret it. But, none of them was able to provide a satisfactory interpretation.

Suddenly, the butler spoke up. He reminded the Pharaoh that he and the baker were thrown into jail. They each had a dream that nobody but Yosef was able to interpret. Just as Yosef predicted came true. He – the butler – was restored to his position and the baker was hanged. So, the Pharaoh ordered Yosef to be released from jail and brought to him to interpret his dreams. With G-d’s help, Yosef told the Pharaoh the correct interpretation and Yosef became the viceroy of Egypt.

When the butler mentioned Yosef’s name to the Pharaoh, he described Yosef in the following manner, “And there with us was a youth, a Hebrew, a slave of the chief butcher . . .” Why did the butler use all of these adjectives to describe Yosef? He could have just said there was a man with us – after all Yosef was 28 years old at this time?

Rashi comments, “Cursed are the wicked for their goodness is not complete. He – the butler – mentions Yosef in demeaning terms. ‘A youth’ – he acts like a child – he is a fool and not fit for a position of greatness; ‘A Hebrew’ – he is not even familiar with our language so he certainly does not understand our culture and laws; ‘A slave’ – and it is written in the protocols of Egypt that a slave may not rule and may not wear princely garments.”

Look how the butler thanked Yosef for giving him hope and assuring him his return to power! He tried to stab Yosef in the back. He had to mention Yosef, but he displayed no appreciation for all that Yosef did for him. Why would he do that?

The Book of Breishis is a blueprint for the future of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are only too happy to assist other people – other nations. However, when it comes to helping us, we can be assured that usually they won’t have our backs. If they do have our backs, it is because they marked a bulls’ eye on it. Israel gives security, technology and disaster assistance to other countries and those countries reward Israel by trying to bring it to its knees in the forum of the U.N.

We know that Joseph spent an extra two years in prison because instead of placing his faith in G-d, he depended upon the butler to mention his name to Pharoah. The question is, how can Joseph be blamed for not relying on a miracle?

Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik – the father of Rav Aharon Soloveitchik -  explained that Joseph’s problem was not that he trusted the butler. Man is allowed and even obliged to ask for help when necessary.  Joseph’s mistake was that he went beyond trust. He relied upon the butler to be his savior. We cannot forget that G-d is always part of the equation.

This week is Chanuka, when we remember G-d saving the Jewish people through a small band of devoted Jews up against a mighty enemy. The Ramban comments that Israel is not governed simply by the rules of nature. We have seen that so often in our times that Israel has survived and thrived against all odds.

G-d grants us special protection and our own set of rules. Our so-called friends might try to stab us in the back -“a youth, a Hebrew, a slave”, but G-d is the ultimate decider of fate. In essence, our entire history is the story of Chanuka. According to the laws of nature, the flame of Israel and the Jewish people should have long ago been extinguished. Yet we are still here celebrating the miracles which saved us in the days of antiquity and which, G-d willing, will preserve us in our times as well.