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Posted on December 18, 2020 (5781) By Rabbi Berel Wein | Series: | Level:

The dreams of Joseph are actualized in this week’s Torah reading. Miracles, though hidden, are somewhat natural events, and in this instance occur to facilitate this realization of the dreams of Joseph.

We all dream, but not all dreams are miraculous per se. The great Pharaoh of Egypt also had dreams. The fact that he dreamt of fat cows and lean cows is also understandable, for that was the nature of the society that he governed at that time. It was, in the main, a purely agricultural society, dependent upon animal power to produce food and sustenance. It is also not surprising that he dreamt of sheaves of grain, both full and empty.

But Pharaoh is disturbed by the fact that these dreams repeat themselves, and as Midrash teaches us, these dreams have an unusual and perplexing conclusion to them. In effect, the little destroyed the big, the weak destroy the mighty and the few triumph over the many. These conclusions were in direct opposition to the beliefs and experiences of Pharaoh. When he awoke in the morning and remembered his dreams. he was sorely troubled that they did not conform to any of his previous experiences.

It is this part of the story, the fact that the dreams were the opposite of what they had experienced previously, that sets the stage for the miraculous deliverance of Joseph and his unbelievable rise to power and fame. Thus, we see how miracles are formed by seemingly natural events, with just a little twist to those events that facilitate and hasten the arrival of the miracle.

One of the more amazing insights into this dramatic turn of events is that it seems that Joseph is not at all surprised by his being taken out of the dungeon and placed upon one of the thrones of the ancient Egyptian Empire. Simply being released from prison after having the aristocracy of Egypt against him, one would think this would have been a sufficient miracle for this lonely, defenseless Jew accused of a serious crime, Yet, from the way that Joseph immediately gets to work to store food before the famine, it seems that he knew that he was destined to be part of history. It was as if he almost expected to be appointed as the ruler of Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh.

In the house of Jacob, as in the houses of Isaac and Abraham, miracles were part of everyday life. They were expected to happen because our ancestors lived in a world of the spirit, where the presence of Heaven always felt real. Joseph had no doubt that he would be saved, and that his dreams of greatness and accomplishment were not made of imaginary straw. He only did not know how this would come about and how the dreams would be actualized. He had intended to be helped by the butler of Pharaoh, but that was not the track that the Lord had ordained for Joseph. In this week’s Torah reading, the real story unfolds with all the necessary twists and turns that make up human life.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein