- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On December 30, 2016
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move into Shabbat.
From the pit to the prison to the palace. These are the places the Biblical Joseph has occupied as we move to the final portions of Genesis. This week’s Parashah places us right in the middle of the Joseph cycle.
In last week’s Torah portion, the favored son, Joseph, received a “coat of many colors” from his father, Jacob. Joseph also interrupted his own dreams with him elevated while others bowed down to him. Such favoritism and self-promoting dream interpretation doesn’t foster positive sibling relationships. It causes something much worse. It drove Joseph’s brothers to throw him into a pit and then to sell him off to a caravan headed down to Egypt.
But the action can’t stop there because the Biblical storyteller is building suspense to explain how the Jewish people ended up in Egypt and as slaves. Joseph did arrive in Egypt but he landed in jail after being falsely accused of a crime. He did well there, was even assigned a job for his leadership and, of course, continued to interpret dreams, which then led him out of the prison into the presence of Pharaoh.
Pharaoh had disturbing dreams of thin emaciated cows eating up healthy cows. Joseph explained them to him. Famine would strike the land after seven years of plenty. Joseph did more than interpret, however, he also provided Pharaoh with a way to “operationalize” the response to the years of abundance followed by devastating scarcity.
“Accordingly, let Pharaoh find a man of discernment and wisdom, and set him over the land of Egypt. And let Pharaoh take steps to appoint overseers over the land, and organize the land of Egypt in the seven years of plenty. Let all the food of these good years that are coming be gathered, and…Let that food be a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will come upon the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish in the famine.” (Genesis 41: 33-36)
Not only was Pharaoh pleased he also recognized that Joseph had a gift:
And Pharaoh said to his courtiers, “Could we find another like him, a man in whom is ruach Elohim, the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38)
Rashbam, a 12th century, commentator explained Pharaoh’s reasoning:
if he is able with God’s help to interpret intangibles such as dreams, he must certainly be smart enough to arrange administrative earthly affairs in a competent manner.
It turned out to be true. Joseph became second only to Pharaoh and ended up in the palace after all.
From the pit to the prison to the palace. We can’t predict the trajectory of our lives but this we do know: it will have its low moments, its times of feeling boxed in and at other points glorious honored exaltations.
As we end this calendar year of 2016 and move into new possibilities for 2017, I pray we find ruach Elohim, the spirit of the divine, within each of us to reach for the intangibles and to “competently arrange our earthly affairs” as well. And in doing so, we discover new uplifting and inspiring paths in the trajectory of our lives and the world.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!
Join us for a celebratory Shabbat of Hanukkah with latkes and sufganiyot (donuts) at Qabbalat Shabbat at 6 p.m. Spend Shabbat morning studying the portion in an inclusive, accessible, illuminating gathering. A short morning service and Torah reading begins at 9 a.m. followed by Torah study which ends around 10:45 a.m.
I truly welcome your comments, reflections and thoughts. Connect with me here.