As “they” say, “timing is everything”! Just ask Joseph in this week’s portion. From the pit in last week’s portion to the prison cell in this week’s, Joseph seems in trouble. But the story takes a turn when Joseph is able to interpret dreams for the Royal baker and cupbearer. As the story unfolds, word spread and when Pharaoh had two puzzling dreams, Joseph was called. Joseph, as commentaries note, says the power to interpret is not his, but that it comes from God (41:16). Much is made of this as a sign of Joseph’s maturation from egotistical youth who saw the world, and his brothers, bowing to him, now changed to a humbler and more mature person. Of course, some would argue that years in prison may have helped this maturation process. Another curious incident in this story is that after Joseph succeeds in serving Pharaoh and providing him with what Pharaoh’s dreams meant, Pharaoh acknowledges Joseph’s god (41:37-39).
As you know, Joseph is rewarded with power of Egypt’s economy, a wife and status. He assimilates into Egyptian culture, accepting his new name and even gives his children Egyptian names. (41:44-46). The challenge, of course, is the question of can Joseph every forget where he came from and who he really is? That begins to emerge as the portion moves to Canaan and Jacob’s demand that the brothers that remain go to Egypt to secure food during the famine, thus setting in motion the events of next week’s portion.
There is so much in Miketz to unpack. One lesson for us, I suggest, can be taken from the interpretation of the dreams of Pharaoh. Joseph creates the plan to save Egypt from the famine that was predicted. A plan was set in motion and carried out, saving people and society. We are at the stage in life when many of us look to the future and contemplate what plans we need to make for our stage of life. If we are fortunate to have the economic resources and family support, we can be somewhat comforted in the hope that our plans will be carried out. Indeed, the development of an end-of-life plan; advanced medical directive and health care proxy is a necessity in today’s world.
Equally important is the creation of a family “care-plan”, for example, who will take care of me if needed, what are my preferences for living arrangements etc. A challenge for many now is that many of our generation are what is called “solo-agers”; people who have no family and whose friends may be in the same situation.
Among the many messages in this portion, we can see a call to plan for contingencies we know may impact us. Joseph can be a model for us. Make the plan, revise it as needed and secure some peace of mind for yourself and your family.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.