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Amid Israel’s war in Gaza, there is talk of drafting yeshivah students into the army to bolster its ranks. On Shavuot, we celebrate the anniversary of receiving the Torah, so I want to write about the role of Torah in war. The Torah is not just a dusty old book …

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Home » Miketz

Miketz: Food for Thought at your Dinner table

Submitted by on December 2, 2007 – 2:19 amNo Comment | 2,771 views

Sunday: To be Affected

Pharaoh dreamed of seven robust cows that were consumed by seven gaunt cows. In retelling his dream Pharaoh observed that the gaunt cows exhibited no appearance of having eaten even after consuming the robust cows. This seemed ominous to Pharaoh. It could not portend good news. Indeed, according to Joseph’s interpretation, a terrific famine would follow the years of plenty that would obliterate all traces of the plenty that had preceded it.

Even the incidental details in Torah contain messages for us. All too often a Jew studies Torah, absorbs its ideas, but walks away unaffected. There is no question that the Torah we study leaves an impression internally, but it is often so subtle that we are unaware of it. It’s effects are completely unapparent. This is a sign of famine. Conversely, a sign of spiritual plenty is when our Torah transforms our personality, inspires passion and joy and affects change in our daily habits.

Monday: The Implicit Solution

Joseph was summoned to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and he did so admirably. The seven robust cows signified years of plenty, the seven gaunt cows signified years of famine. After completing his interpretation Joseph offered some advise. Appoint an official, he advised, to oversee a food storage campaign and provide for the coming famine. Who appointed Joseph royal adviser? Should he not have waited till he was asked for advice?

Joseph’s advice was part of his interpretation for he saw this solution implicit in the dream. The raw interpretation of robust and gaunt cows did not impress Pharaoh. Anyone could have intuited that. Joseph understood a detail that bothered pharaoh and no other interpreter managed to explain. Why did the two sets of cows stand at the river bank at the same time? Were famine and plenty to reign simultaneously? Joseph, who knew that G-d always provides healing before the onset of illness  saw in this detail a key to the solution. There could be famine and plenty at the same time if they prepared  for  famine during the time pf plenty.

It wasn’t unsolicited advice, it was a brilliant interpretation. Pharaoh, who saw that the interpretation  was inherently sound and Joseph inordinately wise, appointed him viceroy of Egypt. Likutei Sichos

Tuesday: Body and Soul

After Joseph was appointed viceroy of Egypt he toured the country in pharaoh’s second chariot. This, being Joseph’s first act as viceroy, must have contained an implicit message about Joseph’s aspirations in Egypt.

The Hebrew word for second is Mishne, a word that shares the same root letters as Neshama, which means soul. The Mishne chariot implies  the body, which is the chariot of the soul. With this act Joseph proclaimed that physical grandeur and temporal power are not  means for themselves, they are meant to serve, or be a chariot for, the soul. The body is the instrument of the soul.

This may also be the deeper meaning of the name Pharaoh granted Joseph, Tzafnat Paaneach, which means decipherer of hidden codes. The trappings of luxury and power can lure one away from G-d. Yet Joseph deciphered their true import as vehicles for the soul’s expression. Sefat Emet

Wednesday: Living the Dream

When his brothers arrived in Egypt to gather provisions Joseph greeted them with interrogation and imprisonment. He forced them to return home to bring back their brother Benjamin. Only then did he reveal his identity and send for his father. It is difficult to conceive of Joseph, a biblical character upon whom our sages conferred the title Tzadik, as one motivated by petty thoughts of revenge. What then impelled Joseph to make his brothers suffer?

When he saw his brothers, Joseph was reminded of his dreams and he now understood their meaning. When he dreamed that his brothers bowed to him it meant that his brothers were destined to visit him in Egypt, where he would be appointed viceroy. He recalled that in his dreams, all eleven brothers bowed to him before his father did. From this he intuited that all his brothers, including Benjamin, would need to see him before Jacob would be permitted to see him. But Benjamin had not accompanied his brothers to Egypt.

Loathe to change the order of his dreams, Joseph could not reveal his identity only to bar his father from visiting till after Benjamin arrived. He therefore manipulated events so that Benjamin would arrive to Egypt ahead of his father.

Thursday: The Penitent’s Motive

Interrogated, charged with espionage and imprisoned, the brothers concluded that they were being punished for selling Joseph into slavery and they repented. A this point Reuben chided them, “Did I not warn you not to sin against the lad, but you did not listen.” After twenty-two years of silence, why did Reuben choose this moment reprove his brothers and exacerbate their pain and humiliation?

Reuben noticed that their motive for repentance was the suffering that they perceived as punishment. This is an acceptable motive for repentance, but it is not the optimum form of repentance. Repentance in its most sincere form is generated by internal contrition. Repentance inspired by punishment calls our sincerity into question. Would we have been equally contrite if we were not suffering? Reuben saw this as an opportunity to guide his brothers toward true repentance. Likutei Sichos

Friday: All for his People

Joseph sent his brothers home with food and instructed his quartermaster to clandestinely return the silver, his brothers had offered for payment, into their sacks. When they discovered their silver they worried that they would be accuses of theft. Immediately upon their return they presented the silver they had found in their sacks, but the quartermaster refused to accept. “Your silver has already arrived to me,” he insisted. How could he assert that he had received their silver, when he had not?

Joseph amassed an incredible fortune through the sale of food. This fortune was stored in three great towers and when the Israelites left Egypt they left they took most of this fortune with them. Joseph’s quartermaster was not referring to the brothers’ silver, but to the silver his master had collected. All that silver, he asserted belongs to you and your children. “It is your silver that has arrived to me from throughout the region. Why then should I charge you for your food?” Noam Elimelech

Shabbat: Shameful and Mundane

Joseph planted his silver goblet in Benjamin’s sack and later accused the brothers of theft. The brothers replied, “it would be sacrilegious for us to do a thing like that.” Rashi explains, it would be mundane and shameful for people of our status to resort to such behavior.

To Jacob’s sons, a silver goblet was mundane and to be tempted by it was shameful. We too, in our own small way, must learn to emulate those spiritual giants.  We need to learn to view material trappings with disdain, our attraction to them as shameful and our desire for them as mundane. Likiutei Sichos