Pharaoh

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About Midnight

And Moses said: “Thus saith the Lord: About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill; and all the first-born of cattle.  (Ex. 11:4-6) In the original verse, in Hebrew, Moses uses an unusual expression “k’hatzot halayalah.” The normal way of saying would be, “hatzot halailah” – at the midnight. (in Heb. laila means “night,” and hatzot means “the middle,” i.e., the middle of the night, or midnight.) However, the verse says, “k’hatzot halayalah.” Every commentator struggles with the addition of “k” before “hatzot.” Grammatically, the prefix “k” in Heb. is called kaf hadimiyan and signifies a likeness or [...]

By |2019-01-15T09:57:44-05:00January 15th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Dreams of Pharaoh—a Lesson in Symmetry

In the Torah portion Miketz, Pharaoh sees two dreams. He wakes up agitated and calls on all wise men of Egypt to interpret his dreams. Nobody is able to come up with an acceptable interpretation, so they fetch Joseph from a prison and he successfully interprets dreams of Pharaoh—there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph proceeds to instruct Pharaoh on how to prepare for the seven years of famine. In the previous posts, Interpreting Dreams and Joseph—the Master of Time—we already explained how Joseph was able to interpret dreams in terms of units of time and why Pharaoh appointed Joseph as the Viceroy of Egypt. This story, however, is still puzzling. Perhaps it can teach us more lessons… In Talmudic and Kabbalah literature, Joseph is called [...]

Joseph—the Master of Time

The story of Joseph’s incarceration ends with his successful interpretation of the dreams of the Pharaoh’s chief butler and the chief baker.  He ingeniously interpreted ordinary objects (tendrils of grapes and baskets of bread) as symbols of the units of time (Interpreting Dreams). Even greater insight was Joseph’s understanding that the engagement in time, manifested by the chief butler’s personally squeezing the grapes into the cup and placing the cup in Pharaoh’s hand, symbolized life for the chief butler. And, conversely, the passivity of the chief baker, who dreamt of baskets of bread sitting on his head, with birds eating from the baskets, symbolized the opposite of life. Girolamo Brusaferro (Venice C. 1684 - C. 1760) Joseph Interpreting the Dreams In the Torah portion Miketz (Gen. 41:1-44:17), this story is followed by [...]

Joseph teaches Pharaoh a lesson in fundamental forces

This week, we read in the Torah portion Vayigash (Gen. 44:18–47:27) about Joseph revealing himself to his brothers and Jacob coming to Egypt with his family. This storyline culminates by Joseph presenting his brothers and his father to Pharaoh. A curious thing, though—instead of presenting all eleven brothers, Joseph presents only five. This fact does not escape the attention of Rashi, who comments as follows: Joseph chose the weakest of his brothers to avoid conscription of the brothers to the military service in the Pharaoh’s army. This explanation always left me dissatisfied. Even if it explains why Joseph presented fewer than all of his brothers to Pharaoh, it does not explain the number—why five? Why not one, or two, or three? The number five in Hebrew is represented by the letter Heh. I submit to [...]

It’s the time, stupid!

There is a continuous thread about the mastery of time that weaves through the last chapters of the book of Bereshit (Genesis) and continues through the beginning of the book of Shemot (Exodus). The story of Joseph’s incarceration ends with his successful interpretation of the dreams of the Pharaoh’s chief butler and the chief baker. Joseph's genius was not only in interpreting ordinary objects (tendrils of grapes and baskets of bread) as symbols of the units of time but in understanding that the engagement in time (manifested in the chief butler’s personally squeezing the grapes into the cup and placing the cup in Pharaoh’s hand) symbolized life for the chief butler and the passivity of the chief baker (who dreamt of baskets of bread sitting on his head, with birds eating from the baskets) [...]

Interpreting Dreams

In the Torah portion Vayeishev (Gen. 37:1–40:23), we read about Joseph interpreting dreams of the Pharaoh’s chief butler and the chief baker: And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him: “In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; and in the vine were three tendrils...” And Joseph said unto him: “This is the interpretation of it: the three tendrils are three days.”  (Gen. 40:9-12)   Joseph interpreting dreams, Benjamin Cuyp (1630-1652) How did Joseph know that three tendrils are three days?  The story repeats itself with the chief baker: When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph: “I also saw in my dream, and, behold, three baskets of white bread were on my head…” “This is the interpretation thereof: the three baskets [...]

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