July 24, 2024
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In Good Times Prepare for the Bad Ones

Things finally seem to be getting better for Yosef. Following being sold to Mitzrayim, the difficult challenge of eishes Potiphar and his subsequent imprisonment, Yosef gets a major break. Paroh is very disturbed by his dreams and no interpretation satisfies him. Then Yosef comes along and explains in a way that satisfies Paroh that there will be seven bountiful years followed by seven years of famine, and the dream was repeated to indicate it will begin imminently.

For some reason though, Yosef doesn’t stop there; he’s done his job and yet he continues talking. He says in 41:33 that Paroh should therefore appoint a wise, practical person and put him in charge of Egypt. Who asked Yosef for his opinion? He was asked to interpret a dream; what a chutzpah that he should then advise Paroh how he should be running his country and how he should deal with this situation he will soon have on his hands! And it’s not just one passuk, but he proceeds to outline a very detailed plan of how it should be done over the course of three more pesukim.

Yes, in the end, Paroh is impressed and Yosef, in fact, is appointed this person, but it still seems like a risk Yosef was taking to provide unsolicited advice to the king when he was merely asked to interpret dreams. Why did Yosef do it?

Perhaps, most simply, Yosef was hoping for the result and was subtly putting in a plug for his services, but again, in the context of the king, it seems like an unnecessary risk on the part of Yosef. The answer seems to be that the advice was part and parcel of interpreting the dreams. But what in the dream hinted to Yosef this plan?

The Ohr HaChayim hakadosh sees two points that tipped Yosef off. Firstly, why else is God showing Paroh what is going to happen if not for the fact that a solution must be presented! Certainly God could have played out the abundance followed by famine scenario without revealing anything to Paroh. But why this particular solution? In the dream, the seven fat cows were swallowed by the seven skinny cows—it wasn’t simply that he saw seven fat cows followed by seven skinny cows, Yosef understood that the sustenance for the seven years of famine would come from the seven years of abundance, just like the skinny cows consumed the fatter ones.

The Shemen HaTov, without mentioning the Ohr Hachayim, takes it one step further. What Yosef gleaned from the dreams is that when Hashem gives you an abundance you need to make provisions for the future, you need to plan ahead for a time where things may not be as abundant or bounteous. Yosef took that lesson to heart. It wasn’t merely about Paroh’s dreams, this was a rule to live by: if Hashem provides generously, take advantage. So Yosef applied the dreams to himself as well. If Hashem has put me through all of this and I have the chance to use my situation that God has given me to possibly lay the groundwork for golus in the most positive way possible, I have to try.

So, did Yosef go beyond what was asked of him merely to interpret the dreams? Yes and no. He was interpreting the dreams, but he realized that the specific scenario he explained to Paroh taught him a rule he then applied to himself when he proceeded to share a plan that he hoped would impress Paroh.

And, perhaps, the connection extends to Chanukah as well. One jug of oil was found—it’s only enough for one night, so why not wait the week until new oil is made and save the oil instead of using it and then having to break for a few days? They understood that if they were able to find it, it is to be used, to invest it in the mitzvah. What will happen afterwards—we’ll probably have to wait a few days for new oil—but if Hashem sent us one jug, clearly it should be used. And then Hashem, seeing the Jews doing their part, responded in kind with a miracle.

Hashem gives us gifts, but they don’t necessarily last forever. Part of expressing the appreciation for the gift is to realize that if I have something now in excess, I need to invest some for the future when the reality may change. In the merit of the appreciation we show for the gifts Hashem bestows upon us, may He continue to shower us with brachos ad bli dai and soon we should merit once again lighting the candles of the menorah in the Beis Hamikdash.

By Rabbi Ari Zahtz

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