The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mikeitz: Hiding his tears

In this week's Torah portion, Joseph spends two more years in prison before he is released. As you will recall from last week, the Pharaoh's wine steward forgot about him when he was released, after Joseph interpreted his dream. Two years later, Pharaoh himself has prophetic dreams. He dreams that he sees seven handsome cows grazing by the Nile, set upon by seven lean and scraggly cows, which devour the healthy cows. Then he dreams of seven lush and healthy ears of corn, which are devoured by seven weather-beaten, blighted ears of corn. None of Pharaoh's advisors can satisfactorily interpret the dream, and only then, the wine steward remembers about Joseph, and asks that he can be released to interpret Pharaoh's dreams.

Joseph is cleaned up and brought before Pharaoh, and Pharaoh relates his dreams to Joseph. Joseph interprets them both the same way: there will be seven years of abundance in Egypt, followed by seven years of famine. Joseph advises Pharaoh to ration grain during the abundant years, to prepare for the upcoming famine. He suggests that Pharaoh hire a supervisor to administrate this process, and Pharaoh chooses Joseph as that supervisor. Joseph becomes second-in-command to Pharaoh, and is given power and authority.

When the famine arrives, it spreads throughout the region, and in Canaan, Jacob and his other sons are hard hit by it. Jacob sends his sons, laden with money and expensive goods, to Egypt to buy grain. He leaves his youngest son, Benjamin, at home with him, because he adores Benjamin too much to risk losing him. The sons arrive in Egypt and are brought before Joseph. Joseph recognizes the brothers who sold him into slavery and faked his death. They tell their story to Joseph, through an interpreter, and he asks them about their family, and where they come from. He accuses them of being spies, since they speak Hebrew and yet claim to be from Canaan. At this accusation, the brothers begin to argue with each other. Reuben tells his brothers that he had warned them not to do anything to Joseph. When Joseph hears this (the brothers do not realize that Joseph understands Hebrew), he runs away and cries in another room. He regains his composure and returns.

Joseph imprisons them for three days, and then releases them (with the exception of Simeon), demanding that they prove their story by returning home to bring their brother Benjamin back with them. The brothers know that Jacob is deeply reluctant to part with Benjamin. Joseph packs their bags with grain, and hides all the money they paid for the grain in the grain bags.

On the return journey, the brothers find the money in the grain bags, and they are horrified, thinking that they will be accused of stealing. They return home to their father with the grain, and tell them all of what happened, and that Joseph expects them to return with Benjamin in order to release Simeon from prison. Jacob is very reluctant to do this, but eventually, their grain runs out, and they are forced to return to Egypt. Simeon promises Jacob that if Benjamin is killed on their journey, Jacob can kill two of his four sons. Jacob sends them back with double the money, and they return to Egypt.

Upon their return with Benjamin, they are again brought before Joseph, who offers them a lavish feast. Joseph receives the returned money along with the new money, and asks them about their father. Then he looks over Benjamin and prays before the brothers that God would be gracious to Benjamin. Overcome with emotion, he again leaves the banquet hall and weeps in another room before regaining his composure and returning to the feast. Benjamin has been given five portions of food.

Joseph orders that their bags be laden with grain for their return, and he has all the money put in their grain sacks, and in Benjamin's sack, he places his precious silver goblet. Joseph has his guards chase after the brothers' caravan and overtake it, and they accuse the brothers of stealing the goblet. The brothers swear their innocence, and suggest that if they find a stolen goblet, that brother be executed and the others sold into slavery. The guards instead suggest that if they find the goblet, the one who has the goblet would be enslaved, and the other brothers would go free. The guards find the goblet in Benjamin's sack. They all return to the city.

Joseph judges them for stealing the goblet, and the brothers fall on their knees in supplication. At this moment, the dreams that Joseph had twenty-two years earlier, which so enraged their brothers in the first place, have come true. Joseph reiterates that they can all go free except Benjamin, who is to be enslaved to Joseph. Here the portion ends.

I find great emotional resonance in the two times that Joseph hides and weeps. He has been terribly wronged by his brothers, and yet, they have inadvertently set him upon the path that has lead to Joseph becoming a very fortunate and powerful man. Despite all they have done to him, Joseph loves his brothers and misses his father. Next week, we will see Jacob come down to Egypt himself.

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