MIKETZ – english


One of the greatest gifts G-d bestowed on mankind is the ability to dream and imagine. Imagination is a tool that – when properly utilized – can transform the present into the future, helping us move from pain to pleasure, from confinement to liberty.  It can trigger in us both the ambition and drive to do what seemed impossible. Unfortunately, many dreams have been destroyed because they were never “supported.” No less important then dreaming and imagining is learning how to support the dreams of those who are close to us. This ability may be needed by a parent who does not really know how to support the dream of a child, or a husband/wife who does not really know how to support the dream of a spouse, or a friend or mentor who does not want to crush the dream of one who has turned to him. Often, just listening properly can do so much good.

Let us go a bit deeper. Imagination is constructed mostly of ideas or information that we already know or experienced. We draw on personal experiences and past knowledge to construct the blueprints of our future. Everyone has gone through different life experiences and perceived things from their unique personal perspective. Thus, no two dreams or goals can be identical. This is why when someone tells us of a dream or an imagined future, it is so important to hear him or her out till the end. We should be looking for something in the dream that can be put into effect – even if it is only a minor element. This can bring out the greatest in the dreamer, and greatly encourage his or her success.

This uniqueness of dreams – both “sleeping and waking” dreams – can be seen in the story of Pharaoh’s dreams, and the difficulty of interpreting them. Pharaoh dreamt that he was standing on the bank of the NileRiverobserving seven scrawny cows devouring seven hefty cows. Then he dreamt about seven thin bundles of grain swallowing seven hefty ones. These dreams troubled Pharaoh, and he looked to his advisors for an appropriate interpretation. One advisor suggested that the dreams meant that Pharaoh would have seven daughters, and then bury all seven. Another advisor interpreted the dreams as meaning that Pharaoh would capture seven countries, and then seven other countries would throw off his yoke. But the interpretations did not satisfy Pharaoh, as the Torah reports: “No-one was able to interpret to Pharaoh” (41:8). In other words, the interpretations were valid dream interpretations, but not for Pharaoh’s particular dreams.  Why not?

Another question: When Pharaoh’s chief steward finally told Pharaoh about Yosef, the “Revealer of Dreams,” didn’t he throw away a great opportunity to make it big? All he had to do was pay a visit to Yosef in jail and tell him that he tried his best to get him released – but to no avail. Then, the chief steward could have said to Yosef in an innocent voice: Oh, by the way, I had this really strange dream where I was standing on the bank of the Nile, and I saw seven thin cows swallow seven heavyset ones. And then another dream about seven thin stalks of wheat swallowing seven large ones. I would be forever grateful to you, Yosef, if you would interpret my dreams again, old buddy. And then, with the interpretations in hand, the chief steward could have run back to Pharaoh with Yosef’s authoritative interpretations – without crediting Yosef. Surely Pharaoh would have given him a reward fit for a king. Why didn’t the chief steward go this route? He could have been the hero of the story instead of Yosef!

The answer is revealing. Pharaoh had heard enough interpretations. But he had not heard, as Rashi explains, an interpretation appropriate for a Pharaoh. This was Pharaoh’s dream, and he believed that if it was his dream, then the interpretation should apply to him alone. If he dreamt it, there must be something in it that he could take action on – as a king. Seven daughters and seven funerals could happen to anyone, not only to a Pharaoh. And it was not something that required taking any action in the present. Neither was seven countries captured and seven countries rebelling. Pharaoh did not want to believe that his dreams were meaningless. He was determined to find out how he could make the most of them. None of his advisors were able to see out of themselves and into the psyche of Pharaoh. They simply could not see things from his point of view.

Now, the chief steward knew that if he would approach Yosef as if the dreams were his own, the interpretation would be one for a chief steward, not for a Pharaoh. This plan would simply not work. For this reason, he could only tell Pharaoh of the “Jew boy” who successfully interprets dreams.

Yosef himself had suffered from not being supported in his own dreams. He had revealed to his brothers his own dreams about them bowing down to him although he knew that this could get him into trouble. He did so because he believed that his dreams were nothing less than prophecy, and thus it would have been forbidden to conceal them. We can explain Yosef’s action on a deeper level. Yosef did not see in his dream of others bowing down to him any tinge of honor or fame seeking. This was not something for Yosef to act on as a seventeen year-old living at home. He did understand from his dream that he would one day have to be responsiblefor his parents and brothers. This was something for him to act on at present despite his youth and situation. This is why he would report his brothers’ actions to his father. He thought this was part of being responsible for them. His brothers, on the other hand, took his actions the wrong way, and felt that Yosef was attempting to edge them out of the picture and take over. They thought that Yosef was trying to distance them from their father Yaakov in order to become the sole inheritor and the next Patriarch of the Jewish People. They feared that this would undermine their spiritual growth and future. That is why they took pre-emptive measures against him. Yosef, in contrast, did not see his dream about rising to power as meaning anything more than taking responsibility. Yosef was punished for not being sensitive to their feelings.


Yosef, Revealer of Dreams, was brought to hear the dreams of Pharaoh. Due to his own bitter experience, he would be taking special care to try to see what such dreams could mean to a Pharaoh. Not what they could mean to Yosef. Yosef heard the dreams, and interpreted them according to Pharaoh’s life and position. The interpretation gave Pharaoh something to act on as well. If they would store grain during the years of plenty, then they could survive the years of famine. And the core dream was repeated to Pharaoh because they had to move fast. Pharaoh accepted this interpretation. And he commented that Yosef was the smartest person he had ever met because Yosef was able to hear someone else’s dreams from that person’s perspective. He listened so well that he was able to figure out exactly what Pharaoh needed to understand.


We, too, can make better use of our dreams. Imagine if every dream we had of being successful actually came true! We would dream much more often! There is something true about every dream. We just have to tap into it. And we must listen very carefully to what we can take action on – and try to make those things happen.

Let’s also listen carefully to the dreams of our children. Let’s listen carefully to the dreams of our spouses. And let us listen carefully to our own dreams. We would then all be much more successful.




There is a custom on Chanukah that women refrain from doing work while the candles of the Menorah are burning. This custom commemorates the miraculous routing of Syrian Greek troops by Yehudit, daughter of Mattityahu (Maccabee), the Kohen Gadol. Yehudit’s victory took place on her wedding day in that terrible period when all Jewish brides were forced to be with the Greek general just before starting their marital life.

On that fateful day, Yehudit approached the general with a bag containing a flask of wine and a block of cheese. Once in seclusion with him, Yehudit opened her bag and offered the general a taste of enticing cheese. The general could not resist, and ate the salty cheese – which made him thirsty. Yehudit then made her next move: she offered the general the wine she had brought along so that he could quench his thirst. As she had hoped, the wine got the better of the general, who fell into a deep slumber. Yehudit then took out a sword that was secretly passed to her by her brother Maccabees, and sliced off the Greek general’s head. She left his quarters with her bag, which now contained the head of the commander of the enemy soldiers. When the Greeks soldiers were shown that their leader had been assassinated, they fled for their lives. This well-known episode is also the source of the custom to eat dairy products during the eight day holiday of Chanukah.

Although this story is well known, its deeper meaning is not. “Why do we commemorate the cheese, but not the wine? If Yehudit’s plan was to get the general to sleep, then the main ingredient of her plot was wine. The cheese was just a means to the end of getting the general to thirst for wine. Why, then, do we ignore the wine, and make a big deal about the cheese?”

The answer is inspiring. Every general knows not to drink wine in wartime. Cheese, however, is not necessarily on the radar screen of a general at war. If Yehudit would have brought only wine, then her plot would not have gotten off the ground. The only way to have gotten the general to drink wine was to first give him some cheese that would make him thirsty. The failure of the general was in thinking that he could eat cheese, but not get thirsty enough to need a flask of wine to quench his thirst. This is why we commemorate the cheese, but not the wine.

This kind of failure is something we all have to be on guard against as well. We are all generals in a war to preserve our spiritual stature, our values, virtues, and beliefs. The people and things that can lure us away from these precious spiritual attainments are rarely ones against which we are consciously on guard. We will never consider doing certain things because they are simply unthinkable. There may, however, be an occasional “something” (metaphorically, the cheese) that we may be inclined to justify. We may say to ourselves, “Only this one time” or “The guidelines of our rabbis and mentors do not apply to me because I know where the limits are.” These rationalizations cross the minds of many generals before they make grave mistakes.

It is not the “wine” that we have to fear. “Cheese” is much more of a threat because it is, we tell ourselves, “only cheese.”

(heard from Rabbi Moshe Silberberg in his father’s name)


Shabbat Shalom, Yosef Farhi

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