Our parsha begins two years after the butler’s liberation from prison by Pharaoh and restoration to his prior position. “And it was at the end of two year’s time and Pharaoh dreamed, and, behold, he was standing on the shore of the Nile.” (Beraishis/Genesis 41:1) The juxtaposition of verses and concepts is essential in understanding the Torah. What is the significance of the end of the two-year time lapse since the butler’s release and his forgetting to advocate for Yosef’s release to Pharaoh’s dreams?
The Bais HaLevi (Biblical commentary of Rabbi Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveichik, 1820-1892, one of the greatest Talmudic minds of the nineteenth century; Rosh Yeshiva/Dean in Volozhin, Rabbi of Slutsk and Rabbi of Brisk) explains that the Torah is clarifying the relationship of cause and effect. It is analogous to a merchant with wares to sell and a buyer with disposable funds. With the sale of the goods, the merchant will realize a profit. A mundane perspective would dictate the sale is the “cause” and the profit is the “effect”. But in truth, we know that it is G-d who provides us with our daily income. G-d inspires the purchaser to buy these goods at this time so that the seller will make his profit. Indeed, the profit is the “cause” and the sale is the “effect”.
So, too, continues Rabbi Soloveichik, a superficial look at the event of Pharaoh’s dream, which “happened” to be two years after the events with the butler, would indicate that the dreams led to Yosef’s release from incarceration; the dreams are the “cause” and the release is the “effect”. This is backwards. G-d had predetermined at the butler’s discharge that Yosef would spend another two years in prison. The dreams were a means to get Yosef out of prison and into the leadership position for which he was destined. Release was the “cause” and the dreams the “effect”. Therefore, the verse states it clearly as cause and effect: “And it was at the end of two year’s time and Pharaoh dreamed…”
Last week’s Kol HaKollel elucidated how we have the Divine gift of freedom to make choices that have the potential to impact our lives and the lives of others, but our choices are only “potential”. Our difficulty is comprehending how G-d absorbs our choices and shapes events to bring His ultimate plan to fruition. We invest so much of ourselves into the choices we make and the results appear obvious. Pharaoh’s dreams help us appreciate that appearances often are deceiving and the cause and effect are often not nearly as clear and they may seem at first glance.
Have a Good Shabbos and Happy Chanuka!
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