In this week's parashah, we continue to engage in dreams. Last week, we marveled along with Joseph's family, at the self-aggrandizing spins Joseph put on his dreams . . . and the seeming cluelessness of that young dreamer regarding the effect of is dreams on those around him.
From a dream about sheaves of wheat and heavenly bodies, Joseph cheerfully and unhesitatingly notifies his family of his expectation of grandeur. For the most part, Joseph's dreams will, as we know, come true . . . his brothers and his father will come to bow down to him at Pharaoh's court. But, unforeseen by Joseph, his beloved mother who waited so long for his birth, will be spared that particular humiliation: Rachel will die before her husband, his other progeny and her youngest child are forced to settle in Egypt.
Rabbi Chaim Stern in his rich anthology, Day by Day: Reflections on the Themes of the Torah, remarks: "Joseph is called [from prison] to interpret Pharoah's dreams. Pharaoh says to Joseph: I have heard this about you: you have but to hear a dream to interpret it (Genesis/Breishit 41:15). Pharaoh, struck by Joseph's brilliant understanding, gives him control over Egypt: he is to be second only to Pharaoh. The boy who once dreamed of glory, gains it by understanding the dreams of others."
It seems that Joseph did a lot of growing up somewhere between the pit his brothers threw him into and the prison Pharaoh threw him into: Joseph learned humility. When credited with a certain genius regarding the interpretation of dreams that confound even Pharaoh's most seasoned seers, Joseph steps out of the limelight and credits his insight to God. When given the opportunity to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, the newly matured Joseph sees not himself, but others, at the center of the royal scene.
Ironically, it is when Joseph steps aside, publicly deferring to the inspiration of the God of Israel, that Joseph rises in the Pharaoh's esteem. Faith, leadership, wisdom, respect and perspective all seem to benefit from a capacity to learn from life's lessons and a willingness to live in the shadow of God.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.