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Parashat Miketz - 5775

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the portion of Miketz which deals with Joseph in Egypt. Last week's portion ended with Joseph being put in prison after having been falsely accused by his master's wife. There, he interprets the dreams of two important people from Pharaoh's court, the butler and the baker. The portion ends with Joseph asking for the butler's help to get him out of jail, but the butler "did not remember Joseph and he forgot him."

Two years later, Pharaoh has two dreams that none of his advisors and wise men are able to interpret. The butler then remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh that he knows this young Hebrew slave in Pharaoh's jail who was able to interpret his and the bakers dreams correctly. Pharaoh sends for Joseph and shares his dreams with him.

In his first dream, Pharaoh is standing by the river. He sees seven sturdy, fat and beautiful cows rise from the Nile and they go and graze in the reed grass. There followed them seven other cows that were scrawny, bad looking, and emaciated. Pharaoh says that he had never seen cows that were as bad. But then these cows swallowed the fat and good looking cows, and you could not tell that they had consumed them, because they still looked as bad as before. And Pharaoh awoke.

He then told his second dream. This time he saw seven ears of grain full and healthy growing on a single stalk. But right behind them sprouted seven ears shrivelled, thin, and scorched by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed the seven healthy ears. Pharaoh told Joseph that he shared his dreams with his magicians, but none had an explanation for him.

We all know what Joseph's interpretation was. The number seven stood for seven years that were coming up that would be years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. The seven years of famine will be so bad that people will forget the good years. And the reason for the two dreams is that G-d is letting Pharaoh know that this is coming real soon. Joseph's interpretation pleases Pharaoh and his servants. Joseph is appointed in charge of administering the program that would save Egypt from the famine that will follow the seven good years.

This portion of Miketz always falls and is read on the Shabbat of Hanukkah. Is there a connection?

It would seem that what the Egyptian wise men and magicians could not fathom was the idea that skinny cows could swallow fat cows, or that thin stalks of grain could swallow healthy stalks. The Egyptians, just like the Greeks of the Hanukkah period believed that physical power and great military numbers are what is needed to impose dictatorial will and defeat the weak and the few. Hanukkah teaches us what the Prophet Zechariah said:

"Lo bechayil velo bekoach, kee im beruchi amar Hashem tzevaot." - "Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit - said the L-rd of Hosts." (Zechariah, 4:6)

Judaism and the Jewish people have survived throughout the centuries, not because of our numbers or because of the power we had, but because of our spiritual strength which enabled us to prevail over many forces of evil, many forces of darkness. That is the miracle of Hanukkah and that is the message in Joseph's interpretation of the Pharaoh's dreams.

Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights. There is much darkness in the world. Willingly or unwillingly, many countries are closing their eyes to the evil around them and continue in their historical past of hating the Jews and Israel. If only they could see the light before they are swallowed by the forces of darkness.

Hag Sameach - Happy Hanukkah,

Avram