Miketz presents us with a portion of drama, pathos, triumph and chance. Joseph emerges from prisoner to person of power thanks to his ability to interpret dreams. He begins this portion in prison and ends the portion as a powerful member of Pharaoh’s court as he welcomes a group of people in search of food and comfort. The drama of the end of the portion sets up the powerful reunion scene for next week, as his brothers, as if fulfilling a previous dream, bow down to him (42:6-8).
Dreams play a powerful role in these portions. Likewise, Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams in chapter 41. The theme of good years and bad years is one that I wish to suggest to us for this Shabbat, for it struck me that this speaks to so many of us at this stage of life. It is reflective of the Alvin Fine prayer “Birth is a beginning and death a destination” that we find in prayer books. The image of the journey of life speaks to us in so many ways, reminding us, as we look back and ahead, that our own journey is often made up of good and bad moments and again, how we choose to deal with this reality often determines who we are.
There is a wonderful interpretation on this idea found in Etz Hayim, the commentary from the Conservative movement. The commentary cites the classical commentary of S’fat Emet on Genesis 41:5 ff (the two dreams of Pharaoh) who asks what we can learn from the portion when we face moments of holiness and then moments when holiness is absent? “The author of S’fat Emet answers his own question. We must store up resources of faith, even as the Egyptians stored grain, to nourish us spiritually when events turn against us.” (p.250)
Each of us have these “resources of faith”; moments, memories, people that gave us strength, meaning and purpose, comfort, inspiration or support. When the lean years or moments of life visit us, we need to tap into that reservoir of faith that allow us to bridge the moments of challenge. This idea can be life affirming, for each of us deals with these moments of challenge in life. Our own journey is that cycle of growth and retreat, defeat and victory. So tis Shabbat, the Torah can ask each of us, what have you stored in your storehouse of memory that can support you when life’s challenges confront us?
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.