This week’s Torah Portion Mikketz continues the story of Joseph now in Egypt. This week Joseph rises from the depth of prison to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream and ends up the Viceroy of all of Egypt! This is true rocket power! Joseph a foreign slave catapults himself to be the #2 in Egypt. Joseph correctly explains the Pharaoh’s dream of seven fat cows and seven skinny cows predicting the coming cycle of boom and bust. Joseph of course attributes the message not to Pharaoh’s own power but to God.
“Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dream of Pharaoh is a single one: what God is about to do, God has told to Pharaoh; the seven good cows are seven years and the good ears (of corn) are seven years. Now the seven emaciated and bad cows that emerged after them –they are seven years; as are the seven emaciated ears scorched by the east wind. There shall be seven years of famine. (Gen 41:25-27).
Not only does Joseph interpret the dream but he then presents a plan for preparation for these years. His skills are transformational. And Pharaoh recognizes this wisdom in Joseph. Pharaoh takes a risk and names him in charge of this plan to manage the seven good years so that in times of famine Egypt will be prepared.
The Torah teaches us in these passages two profound things. First faith in God matters. Joseph’s success and protection came not because of his skills alone. It came because he was aware of his Higher Power. Joseph acknowledges his truth that God lights his way in the world even above that of the Pharaoh. This is a radical political statement as well as statement of faith because the Pharaohs of Egypt were seen as gods. Joseph stands up to power, speaks truth and honesty, and also keeps his faith in God.
The second profound message of this section of Mikketz has to do with disaster preparedness. One must always be prepared; for good times and for bad times. It is not if they will happen but when. If we ignore the warnings and put blinders on we will sacrifice our own lives. So like a good Girl Scout: Be Prepared. That means putting something away for a rainy day.
This portion comes as we celebrate Chanukah. This is a holiday of light that reminds us that God helps us fight our battles against our enemies. Just as God inspired the faith of the Maccabees, we pray that God inspire us and help us draw near to our faith.
The story of the Maccabees also helps to remind us that we must be prepared. That we can last and last and last even when we think we have no more to give, this is the analogy of the jar of oil. But that cruse of oil is re-filled each day from our storehouse of faith and hope. It’s time to rekindle your faith. Let the chanukiah help you do so.