- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On December 18, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast HERE.
This is the story of two Pharaohs, one was infamous and the other merely famous.
In last week’s portion, Joseph arrived to Egypt as a slave sold by his brothers to some Midianites who then sold him to some Egyptians. He ended up in the house of Potiphar, a courtier of Pharaoh. That is the first time we hear of Pharaoh. Through circumstances beyond Joseph’s control, Joseph ended up in prison in the same place as the cupbearer and baker of Pharaoh. Joseph interpreted their dreams. The baker did not fare well but the cupbearer did. Joseph asked the cupbearer as he prepared to return to his post with the Pharaoh to be remembered for his kindness. Though the cupbearer forgot him, he remembered Joseph when Pharaoh woke up agitated from two dreams.
In one, seven fat cows get eaten by seven ugly and gaunt cows.
In the other, seven thin scorched ears of grain consume seven healthy ears of grain.
Pharaoh’s people brought Joseph out of the dungeon to stand before Pharaoh. Joseph listened as the Pharaoh recounted his dreams. Joseph’s life was about to change. He interpreted the dreams. The land would have seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph did not stop there. He presented a plan on how to respond to the dreams. This time, Pharaoh listened to Joseph.
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 the grain be collected under Pharaoh’s authority as food to be stored in the cities. 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)
In our analyses, we usually shine light on Joseph. He attributed his own success to the Divine. He saw himself as part of a greater plan. (More on that next week.) But there is great significance in the reaction of this Pharaoh. He was not afraid to take advice from an outsider who was also in his dungeon. You could imagine that moment with Pharaoh surrounded by his servants, advisors, and attendants whereas Joseph only had himself. Pharaoh did not lord over him but accepted his words as wisdom. This King who was regarded as divine, allowed Joseph to instruct him. This Pharaoh attained greatness not by fear and retribution but through appreciation of Joseph’s gifts. He knew Joseph. He trusted him and placed him in charge of all of Egypt, second only to him.
Pharaoh further said to Joseph, “See, I put you in charge of all the land of Egypt.” And removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; and he had him dressed in robes of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck. He had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command, and they cried before him, “Abrek!” Thus he placed him over all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh; yet without you, no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41: 44-46)
This is a leader worth our attention and admiration in the context of the world in which he lived.
The other Pharaoh knew not Joseph. He operated from a place of constriction, fear, and threat. When the book of Exodus opened this new Pharaoh did not welcome the kind of person Joseph was. This Pharaoh operated through xenophobia and violence. This Pharaoh will meet Moses and be brought down by his own stubbornness. The second Pharaoh sows the seeds of his own destruction through his egotistical hubris. His hardened heart and stubborn response led to his own demise.
There are two Pharaohs. One welcomed the outsider to save his own people. The other sought to protect himself and damaged his legacy into eternity. Two Pharaohs. Two models of leadership. I know which one I prefer.
- We join together for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Following the service, we will share another virtual oneg. We can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. Or, just find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI .
- Riverway and OneTable are partnering for Ladino Hanuká at 6:30 p.m. Register HERE.
- Tonight at 5:00 p.m. our littlest congregants join for Tot Rock Shabbat. Join us on Zoom here
- Torah study engages everyone. We start with a short Shabbat morning service at 9:00 a.m. with Torah reading and then launch into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
- Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat takes place at 10:00 a.m. Join us on Zoom here.
- Join us at 8:00 p.m. for Havdalah, then stick around as we begin our new week together with mindfulness meditation. Led by Rabbinic Intern Andrew Oberstein, we will also have an opportunity to express gratitude and set positive intentions for the coming week. Join HERE on Zoom, or watch along on the website HERE, or on Facebook HERE.
- On Sunday Rabbi Intern Andrew Oberstein will be leading his class, Making Prayer Meaningful at 11:00 a.m. Sign up HERE to get the link.