Realizing that God is in control, one can remain calm no matter what the challenge.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Miketz” (Genesis 41:1–44:17), and it we read about Joseph’s release from prison, among many other episodes. Joseph’s release from prison was a result of his dream-interpreting capabilities. When Pharaoh had a disturbing dream that he just could not figure out, one of his advisors told him about Joseph (who was in jail on false charges) and his perfect track record of correctly interpreting dreams.
When Pharaoh heard about Joseph, he ordered that he be brought before him without delay. Joseph was “rushed from the prison.”
We are then told that Joseph took a haircut, changed his clothes and was only then taken to Pharaoh. Furthermore, the haircut and change of clothes was due to the need to show honor to kings and royalty. It would have been unbecoming for Joseph to appear before the most powerful man in the world at the time in prison rags and unkempt hair.
Sources teach that all this took place on Rosh Hashana, the day when God decides what kind of year we are going to have. It goes without saying that Joseph was certainly inscribed for a good year on Rosh Hashana!
The sages teach us that getting a haircut and change of clothes was actually Joseph’s idea, not a suggestion from Pharaoh or the servants who were sent to bring Joseph to him. This is actually quite remarkable. Think about it. Joseph had been sitting in jail for many years.
At the end of last week’s Torah portion, which takes place two years before the start of this week’s, Joseph asked the butler — who was released from prison and restored to his post — to say a good word to Pharaoh on his behalf. But he didn’t. Joseph was forgotten and left in jail on his own. Now, all of a sudden, after two years, Joseph is told that Pharaoh wants to see him. Imagine the emotions.
Imagine the pressure. Imagine the shock.
But nonetheless, Joseph says, “Hold it! I want to get a haircut first!”
After the haircut, he probably said, “I want a shower.” After the shower, “And now I want a new suit.”
All because he knew the importance of showing honor to royalty no matter how evil the king may be.
The sages explain that this proves that Joseph was a calm person, able to think things over before acting. He didn’t rush into things, but made sure that whatever he did was done right. Indeed, even when standing before Pharaoh, Joseph responds to the questions in a calm and gentle manner. In fact, he is not scared to even contradict Pharaoh.
When Pharaoh asks him if he is really the one who correctly interprets dreams, Joseph responds by saying that his success is not natural, but rather comes from God, and then shares a few words about God with his pagan patron.
How is it that Joseph keeps his cool under every circumstance, no matter how threatening or difficult? How does he stay calm and reserved? What’s Joseph’s secret for being able to properly think things out and keep his dignity in all situations?
It is explained that Joseph had an extraordinary level of faith and trust in God. When one realizes that God is in control, one can remain calm no matter what the challenge.
Sure, it’s not always easy to remain calm. Life throws us many challenges, but those challenges are that much easier when one simply decides to make the effort and then lets God take care of the rest. This is the lesson we need to take from the Hebrew slave who spent a decade in an ancient Egyptian dungeon.
If he can keep his cool under life’s challenges, so should we.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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