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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5761) By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner | Series: | Level:

This week we read the parsha of Miketz. “And it was, miketz {at the end} of two years, and Paroah dreamt. [41:1]” His first dream was of seven fat cows arising from the river followed by seven lean cows; the fat ones were then consumed by the lean ones. He then awoke; fell back asleep and dreamt again. In his second dream, seven healthy and full ears of corn were swallowed up by seven thin ones.

Paroah called in his wise men and his magicians but none were able to interpret the dream to Paroah’s satisfaction. Paroah, told of Yosef who had successfully interpreted dreams, had him brought from prison. “And Paroah said to Yosef: ‘I have dreamt a dream and no one has interpreted it–I’ve heard that you can understand a dream and interpret it.’ And Yosef answered Paroah saying: ‘The wisdom is not mine; Elokim {G-d} will answer the welfare of Paroah.'[41:15-16]”

Yosef explains that there will be seven fat years followed by seven lean years and Paroah must prepare accordingly. Paroah the idol worshipper’s reaction is amazing. He turns to his servants, wondering if there are any other people who have the spirit of Elokim in them like Yosef. He then turns to Yosef, acknowledges that Elokim revealed the interpretation to him, and appoints him second in command of all Mitzrayim. He’s a believer! One explanation of a dream and he believes in Hashem.

Rav Yaakov Naiman zt”l points out that this reaction is in stark contrast to the Paroah that Moshe later had to deal with. When Moshe approached Paroah to release Bnei Yisroel {the Children of Israel} from slavery, his immediate reaction was “Who is this Hashem that I should listen to Him?” Plague after plague hardly made him into a believer. Even in the end, when he finally released Bnei Yisroel, he quickly regretted it and came charging out after them.

Both Paroahs began as idol worshippers and were shown signs of Hashem’s existence and power. Why did they react so differently?

Rav Naiman tells the story of a wealthy, G-d fearing person whose fortune lay in the fleet of ships he owned. A terrible storm arose and his entire fleet was destroyed. No one wanted to be the one to inform him that he was now penniless so the task was thrust onto the Rabbi of the city.

The Rabbi summoned this man and began to discuss how the world and its riches are really illusory and false and therefore, if someone were to lose some of that wealth, it shouldn’t be such a big deal. He seemed to readily accept it.

The Rabbi continued working on this theme for a long time and then asked him how he’d react if he’d hear that one of his ships had sunk. “I understand that it’s all nonsense and I wouldn’t be upset,” he responded.

The Rabbi continued, explaining how that wasn’t really such a show of yir’as shamayim {fear of heaven} as he would still remain very wealthy. He then asked how he’d react if he’d hear that two or three of his boats had sunk. The man thought for a short while and then responded that he wouldn’t be upset.

Explaining that this was still not a display of full yir’as shamayim, the Rabbi asked how he’d react if he heard that all his boats had sunk. The man answered that to simply say he wouldn’t be upset might be easy but not totally honest. “Let me have some time to myself to really work this through and then I’ll answer your question.” He closed himself in a room and worked on truly internalizing the worthlessness of all this world has to offer. After a few hours he emerged and told the Rabbi that even if all of his ships would sink, he wouldn’t be upset.

The Rabbi turned to him saying that now that he’s reached this point, he can tell him that word arrived–all his ships had been lost in a storm. The man immediately fainted.

When he had been revived, the Rabbi asked how one minute he’s saying that he’d be fine if he’d lose his wealth and the next minute he’s fainting. The man explained that it was easy to accept that this world is worthless when he had a fleet of ships on the water. Once he heard that he lost his fleet–he fainted…

That, Rav Naiman zt”l explains, is the difference between the two Paroahs. When Yosef spoke to his Paroah he told him there is a G-d in the world and He’s going to make you rich! Tremendous wealth will be brought to Mitzrayim in order to purchase food. Such a G-d, Paroah was ready to believe in. When Moshe spoke to his Paroah he told him there is a G-d in the world and He’s taking away your wealth. The slave nation serving you must be freed. Such a G-d, Paroah was not ready to believe in.

We find a similar idea in the Talmud [Sanhedrin 92B]. At the time when Nebuchadnezer threw Chananya, Mishael and Azarya into a furnace (for refusing to bow down to his idol) Hashem instructed the prophet, Yechezkel, to go to the valley of Durra and resurrect the dead there. These bones came to Nebuchadnezer and began to tap him. Asking for an explanation, he was told that the friend of the three people he had thrown into the furnace was resurrecting the dead in the valley of Durra. Tremendously moved, Nebuchadnezer began to sing wondrous praises to Hashem. So wondrous that, had an angel not come and slapped him in the mouth, his praises would have humiliated and shown up the praises of Dovid HaMelech {King David’s praises comprise Psalms}.

Why did the angel stop Nebuchadnezer from saying Hashem’s praises? If they would be better than Dovid HaMelech’s praises then so be it! Why was favoritism shown here?

Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, known as the Kotzke Rebbe, explained that the angel didn’t stop Nebuchadnezer from saying praises. He simply slapped him in the face! To compete with Dovid HaMelech you have to sing Hashem’s praises at all times. When you’re witnessing heaven on earth and when you’re witnessing hell on earth. When you are king and when your son has ousted you and you are running for your life. When you see a miracle and when you get slapped.

That which these great Gentile kings were unable to grasp is something that we expect from every Jewish household. The standard blessing given to a groom and bride is that they should merit building a ‘bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel’–a trustworthy house in Israel. This trustworthiness refers to the ability to see Hashem’s hand, appreciate Him and sing His praises throughout the wide spectrum of situations that each couple experience throughout their life.

Good Shabbos,
Yisroel Ciner

On that note, I would like to wish warmest wishes of mazel tov to my dear friends, Moti Probkevich and Elke Fishlewitz on your upcoming wedding. The way you each handled the most difficult of situations, continuing to sing Hashem’s praises, served as a personal source of chizuk to me. May you merit to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel in the full sense of the bracha.

Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).