Miketz (Genesis 41:1-44:17) Can We Forget Where We Have Come From?

Miketz is a dream! Yes, the main focus of this portion is the ability of Joseph to interpret  dreams. It is his ticket from prison to the court of Pharaoh, from lost boy to in charge of the economic policies of Egypt. It was his power to decode the dreams of people, from baker to Pharaoh, that was his salvation. No doubt this dream power will be discussed this Shabbat. Dr. Freud will be there in spirit!

But now, I want to put forth a another, often overlooked part of our story. In 41 Pharaoh raises up Joseph, acknowledging that he is gifted with a ruach elohim (spirit of God) (41:38), a gift that Joseph accepts not from his own talents, but in a sign of growth, gives credit to God. He has been blessed. His rise to power in Genesis 41 is well documented as he is given an Egyptian name, and Egyptian wife (41:45) and names his first born Manasseh (“God hs made me forget my hardship and the house of my father”), and his second son Ephraim (God has made me fertile in the land of my affliction) (41:51,52). Joseph becomes a good and loyal Egyptian. He has assimilated. He is powerful. And then he meets his brothers! In 42, his brothers arrive seeking relief from famine. They bow down before Joseph, whom they do  not recognize, symbolizing a fulfillment of Joseph’s early dream. One can only imagine what Joseph was thinking as he gazed down from his royal perch at this band of ragged men.

Here is a choice that is part of our world as American Jews, a cohort that is very well assimilated into American culture. In many ways we are like Joseph. We are comfortable, somewhat secure even these times of unrest. Our involvement in our Jewish world is often marginal. What brings us back? What jolts us into remembering who we are and from where we have come? Like Joseph, it is often family. Like Joseph, it sometimes takes time and circumstances to remind us that no matter how hard we may try to be something or someone else, the Jewish sense runs through us. For Boomers, many of whom have led marginal Jewish lives, we find it interesting that, as we age there is a renewed desire to reconnect with Jewish roots. The reasons may  be many, from a confrontation with death to the pull of memory and family. People who left formal Jewish study as a teen or young adult are now flocking to life long learning. These portions of Torah (especially next week’s) are riveting in their power to reinforce the pull of family and tradition. So it is with so many of us. May it continue to be so as the richness of our tradition is continually revealed to us in the power of texts and tradition.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Richard F Address

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