Dreams play a significant part in the story of Yosef and this week’s parsha begins with a description of Pharoh’s dreams. In order to underline the significance of these dreams to the ongoing saga of Yosef the parsha begins “Vayehi miketz shenatayim yomim, uPharoh cholem..” At the end of two years, Pharoh dreams. The two years obviously refer to the time that has elapsed since the previous chapter, which took place in the Egyptian dungeons, and the Torah takes up the story with the dreaming monarch, Pharoh.
It would appear that the tale of Pharoh’s dreams and more specifically his awakening, are the impetus for the choice of Haftara for this parsha, Miketz. This begins ” Vayikatz Shlomo vehiney chalom.(Shlomo awoke and behold it was a dream). 1 Melachim 3:15″ recalling the phrase in our parsha “Vayikatz Pharoh vehiney chalom. Breishit 41:7.
This haftara is very rarely read, as Miketz is almost always Shabbat Chanuka, as is the case this year. The choice of this particular section from Nevi’im is nevertheless worth examining and, in doing so, we hope, will shed light on one of the major themes in the story and life of Yosef.
On a basic level the choice of haftara would seem obvious. The linguistic and therefore thematic parallel highlighted above would seem to be the reason for connecting these two sections of Tanach. We must acknowledge that one of the primary reasons for the selection of a particular haftara was its ability to enable its readers to recall the parsha, and therefore the choice was governed by similar phraseology and events. [Many haftarot begin with, or contain phrases, that remind us of pesukim in the corresponding parsha. In periods in Jewish history when Torah reading was proscribed, the reading of a familiar phrase from Nevi’im served to remind the audience of the “real” parsha for that week. The fact that we, today, do not often make that simple connection is testimony to our lack of knowledge of, and familiarity with, the text of Tanach.]
Nevertheless, thematic connections are also inherent between a parsha and its corresponding haftara. Yet, in our case the two dreams could not have been more different!
Pharoh’s dream left him no clue as to its meaning. The efforts on the king’s behalf to decipher the dream lead to the re-entrance of Yosef into the story. Until the interpretation offered by Yosef, Pharoh had no idea as to the significance of the dreams.
The meaning of Shlomo’s dream, on the other hand, could not have been more clearly stated. The narrative records a conversation that takes places between Hashem and Shlomo in which Hashem offers Shlomo the chance to make a request. The ensuing verses result in the gift of wisdom being bestowed upon Shlomo HaMelech. Both the imagery and the ramifications of this dream were very clear. (It is recommended to review the pesukim 1Melachim 3:5-15.)
What is the actual similarity between these two events? One could suggest, that, as a dream would be used as a form of “nevuah”, prophecy, then what we see here are two similar forms of communication between Hashem and human beings. The two subjects are both monarchs and the disparity in the clarity of the two visions could be explained by the differing spiritual levels of the recipients. Shlomo HaMelech, the man who will in the future be responsible for the construction of the Bet Hamikdash, merited a direct conversation with G-d in his dream. In contrast, Pharoh, a leader on a lower spiritual rung, was given a vision that he himself was unable to understand. This is, of course, a further demonstration of how Hashem orchestrated the chain of events such that Yosef appearance was crucial in order for Pharoh’s dream to be clarified.
Thus far we have compared the dreams of Pharoh and Shlomo. The haftara, however, begins after the actual recording of the dream and merely tells us of Shlomo’s realization on awakening that he had in fact dreamt his conversation with G-d. The details of the dream are not included in the haftara. What ensues is the famous “Mishpat Shlomo” the trial involving the argument over a baby by its “two” mothers. This trial is seen as an example of Shlomo Hamelech’s far reaching wisdom and of his ability to reach the truth in judgement. The attribute of wisdom is the subject which Shlomo requested of Hashem in the dream. This trial is a proof to the fact that Shlomo’s request was granted. We therefore note that the main emphasis of this section of Sefer Melachim is the supreme wisdom of Shlomo which itself is a gift from Hashem. It is also important to note that Hashem views Shlomo’s request favorably because it was for this particular attribute or skill and not long life or great wealth that he asked.
Returning to the story of Yosef, the episode of Pharoh’s dream represents a turning point in Yosef’s life.
Yosef had been sold and resold several times prior to this and he had risen and fallen in his various roles. After arriving at the Egyptian monarch’s palace Yosef moves one way only, upwards. It seems that the interpretation of Pharoh’s dream is when Yosef becomes the true leader that he is destined to be. Why is this?
First of all, Yosef relates his ability to interpret dreams to Hashem. ” Yosef answered Pharoh and said, without me, Elokim will answer the peace of Pharoh.” (Breishit 41: 16) In other words, Yosef states that he is of no significance in this process; it is performed by G-d. Although in offering his services to the butler and baker in the previous chapter Yosef also invokes the word Elokim, it is here, standing before the Egyptian ruler, that he states categorically who is the real interpreter of dreams.
Secondly, although he has been presented to the king as a lowly slave, Yosef does not hesitate to instruct Pharoh as to the practical corollary of his dream. He lays out a plan for the economic welfare of the entire Egyptian empire when only a few hours earlier he had been an inmate in that same empire’s prisons with no future whatsoever. One could describe this as sheer audacity! Pharoh, however, sees in this suggestion great foresight and finds Yosef to be a man of undertstanding and wisdom.
Pharoh summarises his impressions of Yosef in two key verses (Breishit 41: 38-39)
Pharoh said to his servants: Is there to be found like this (man) a man within who is found the spirit of G-d.
Pharoh said to Yosef: After G-d has told you all this, there is no one as sensible and wise as you.
It can be seen from these comments that Yosef demonstrated great vision and wisdom but that both of these characteristics were deemed to have stemmed from G-d. It is quite clear from the continuation of this parsha and ensuing parashot that Yosef was indeed a visionary and a leader with great insight and wisdom. The episode of Pharoh’s dream and their subsequent interpretation on the part of Yosef demonstrates for the first time that these gifts are in fact to be found in Yosef and stem directly from Hashem.
The parallel between the two cases is now very clear. The comparison is not between Shlomo and Pharoh but between Shlomo and Yosef. The parsha and its designated haftara recall the initial stages of two great visionaries, of two of the wisest men in the world. Both Yosef and Shlomo Ha Melech made good use of the gift they were given by Hashem. It is up to every one of us to put our particular talents and abilities to good use for the good of AmYisrael and all of humankind.
Points for further investigation:
1. ” Mishpat Shlomo” is a very interesting section of navi in its own right. In order to uncover its greater significance it is worth looking carefully at the way each women presents her case to Shlomo. Pay close attention to the wording.
Also, why is this particular case chosen as an example of the wisdom of Shlomo Hamelech?
2. In his commentary to Breishit 37:15, Rashi points out that the “Ish” who guide Yosef to his brothers was none other than the angel, Gavriel. Rashi adds “as it says “Vehaish Gavriel”. This quote is taken from Sefer Daniel chapter 9. Look through that chapter and try to discern the relevance of the connection between Gavriel there and in the story of Yosef. The above shiur may help!
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Shabbat Shalom and Chag Urim Sameach, Rav Yonatan.