Saturday, December 24, 2016

Pharaoh's ministers

After Pharaoh's two ministers had their dreams interpreted by Yosef, one was returned to his position, while the other was executed. Why did they deserve these different fates?

Perhaps the answer comes from how they decided to seek Yosef's interpretation. The cupbearer heard Yosef say "Does not God have interpretations? Tell me [your dream]". Thus, he wanted to hear God's message (as conveyed by Yosef). Meanwhile, regarding the baker, the Torah says "The baker saw that [Yosef] had interpreted well". This can be understood to mean that Yosef gave a positive interpretation to the first dream, so the baker expected a positive interpretation as well.

If the first minister wanted to listen to God, while the second minister only cared about his selfish good, is it surprising that the first was rewarded and the second punished?


Over Shabbat I heard the following idea, which was apparently thought of by a contemporary secular Israeli Tanach enthusiast (I forget the name, I heard it from my friend MS). The idea: In Yosef's second dream, there were 13 heavenly bodies bowing down to him. Yosef was 17 years old when his story began, and 30 years old when he became deputy to Pharaoh. Just as the 7 cows represent 7 years, so the 13 heavenly bodies represent 13 years. Yosef should have known that he would only be elevated at age 30, and so when at age 28 he begged the cupbearer to remember him, this was considered improper behavior.

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