We all have our ups and downs. That’s normal. But we must never give up hope.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Miketz” (Genesis 41:1–44:17,) and have Joseph interpreting dreams, Joseph going from prison inmate to virtually king of Egypt, and Joseph’s brothers coming to him begging for food. Lots of ups and downs, family politics, and changing fortunes…something we can all relate to.
When Joseph first arrived in Egypt he was sold as a slave to Potiphar. We are told that Joseph was exceptionally good-looking and took good care of his appearance and grooming. Mrs. Potiphar took an “interest” in Joseph and tried seducing him many times. Each time Joseph stood his ground and would not give in.
He explained to her that her husband had been so good to him, trusting him with everything. He told her that he could not sin against him by engaging in relations with his wife.
Eventually Mrs. Potiphar had enough with rejection and decided to punish Joseph for not accepting her advances. She made up a story that Joseph tried to rape her, which got Joseph landed in prison. You can imagine that an Egyptian prison 3000 years ago was no Club Med. Especially if you were a Hebrew.
One day, Pharaoh’s butler and baker, who were in prison with Joseph, had nighmares which Joseph correctly interpreted. The interpretation of the baker’s dream was that he would be put to death, while the interpretation of the butler’s dream was that he would be freed and given his job back. Both events transpired as Joseph had predicted.
Joseph asked the about-to-be-freed butler to bring his case to Pharaoh and do what he could to get him out of prison. But the butler was ungrateful to Joseph and forgot about him.
Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream of cows and sheaves and demanded that someone interpret his dreams but he could not find anyone who could offer a satisfactory interpretation. The butler then remembered Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams and begrudgingly recommended “the Jew from the prison” as a possible dream interpreter. They brought Joseph from the jail and he satisfactorily and accurately interpreted the dream (that there would be seven good years of plenty followed by seven years of famine).
The rest is history. Pharaoh made Joseph second-in-command of the country with the mandate to prepare for the famine.
Those two last years in prison were probably harder for Joseph than all the previous years combined. There he was, probably thinking that the butler promptly went to Pharaoh to plead his case and that any day he would be free. It didn’t happen. Two full years passed until Joseph saw the light of day.
But when it happened, it was instant, without warning. As our sages say, “God’s redemption can arrive in the blink of an eye.”
And so it was with Joseph. He was freed when God deemed it to be the right time. Joseph’s freedom played out like a game of dominoes with one event leading to another, ending in his freedom and authority over Egypt.
It would be challenging to create such script for a movie. Joseph went from the bottom of the totem pole to the top in a matter of hours. He had no idea what was playing out before his eyes.
We all have our ups and downs. That’s normal. But we must never give up hope. We have to always be cognizant that things can change in a second. It has happened countless times throughout history on the national scale, and I’m sure you can think of times that it happened for you on the personal scale. Health, jobs, marriage, corona restrictions… you name it. Life as we know it can change in a second.
So, when you’re down, remember that “God’s redemption can arrive in the blink of an eye.”Remember the story of Joseph.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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