Let’s face it, Joseph was a bit of a pain as a young lad. Snitching on your brothers, especially when they are bigger, older and more numerous than you, is not wise. To follow such behaviour by telling them your dreams in which all eleven brothers, plus your father and mother in one dream, seemed to be bowing down before you, related, what’s more, without so much as a self-deprecating intro or summing-up, these are not things which are likely to endear you to them, or to anyone, for that matter. Small surprise that Joseph was not greatly loved by his older siblings. By the time he is sold into slavery, however, a profound change is working away inside him. Thus, when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him, he refuses her solicitations. The reasons he gives, to his great credit, have nothing to do with concern for his own wellbeing and everything to do with loyalty, gratitude and righteousness. To give in to the importunate lady would be a sin against his master and against God. Falsely accused and condemned, Joseph quickly rises to prominence again, this time as a kind of prison warder, and he seems more concerned with the welfare of his fellow prisoners than with enforcing a harsh regime. Noticing, one morning, that two of them are unhappy, he tries to help. After the fortunate chief wine steward and unfortunate chief baker tell him that they each had a dream they don’t understand, in complete contrast to the boy who had declared his own dreams as though they were a mark of his own greatness, he prefaces his explanation with the words, “Interpretations are God’s business.”
Which brings us to Mikkeitz. Summoned into the Pharaoh’s presence and asked to interpret his troubling dreams, Joseph again attributes any insight he might have to God: “It is not in my power. But God may provide an answer concerning Pharaoh’s fortune.”
Joseph’s own moral development prefigures that of his brothers later in the story, as they repent and make amends for their previous cruelty towards him. Among the brothers, Judah shines out for his sincerity and courage, qualities which have themselves been heralded in the previous sedra in the episode of his daughter-in-law Tamar.
There is much to ponder here and to help us do this most unponderously Adam Feldman will be leading us at this Saturday’s service, beginning at 10:30.