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Joseph Gets An Audience Before Pharaoh (Parashat Miketz)


But there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh (Gen 41:8).


From Midrash Genesis Rabba 89:6 as found in Bialik's The Book of Legends pp. 52-53:

R. Joshua of Sikhnin said in the name of R. Levi: They did interpret them, but Pharaoh did not like what they said. For example, they said: The seven fat cows mean that you will beget seven daughters; the seven lean cows mean that you will bury seven daughters. Or: The seven full ears of corn mean that you will conquer seven principalities; the seven thin ears that seven principalities will rebel against you.

What was the purpose of all of this? So that Joseph would come at the end and be raised to high rank. For the Holy One said: If Joseph were to come right away and interpret the dream, he would not receive the recognition that should be his. The magicians would say to Pharaoh, "Had you asked us, we would at once have interpreted the dream for you in the same sense." Therefore He waited for the magicians to wear themselves out in their attempts and to exhaust Pharaoh's spirit, until Joseph would come and restore it.


  1. Suppose Jewish commentary is like a game of Jeopardy. What is the question that this midrash is answering? Possibilities include:
    • How is it possible that in Pharaoh's court there were no dream interpreters?
    • What does "unto Pharaoh" teach us? Wouldn't it have made fine sense if the Torah said, "But there was none to interpret"?
    • Isn't Joseph just too lucky?
  2. The second paragraph suggests that it was Joseph's timing that was key, not his dream interpreting skills that gained Pharaoh's attention. Think about ways in which the timing of something was critical to success. Even though a person may be "right" and have the most reasonable request or the most just cause, the presentation of that cause may be critical to its success. Give examples from your own experience about how presentation and timing made a difference in the success of your request.
  3. In the midrash, God seems to be scheming for Joseph's promotion to high rank. If we assume that God doesn't actually behave that way, what lesson can the midrash teach and how is it relevant today?
  4. Mordecai says to Esther when she balks at taking the risk to save the Jews, "Who knows if it was not for a time like this that you have risen to royalty" (Esther 4:14). Esther and Joseph are both unlikely suspects to gain their positions. Haven't we all in some small way reached an unlikely position that contains some privilege that could affect a positive outcome? Is it possible that we all might act more like heroes if we understood that our brave good works were our purpose for living, part of a destiny we have the opportunity to pursue?
  5. Bring to mind your most difficult problem. Now imagine, "When I'm long passed this problem looking back, I'll understand that the place I'm in right now was a critical step on the path to my liberation." With that awareness, look again at your current problem. Know that it is a step toward your liberation. Let hope replace fear. What opportunity does this current problem provide for learning? What might the next step be that takes you just one step closer to freedom? What is the necessary darkness that you can bear? What must be changed right now?


Type: Text Study

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