In Miketz, Pharaoh dreams of 7 large cows standing along the Nile. Soon 7 smaller cows come along and eat the 7 large cows. Pharaoh then wakes up but he fell right back asleep and had a second dream. In that dream, he saw 7 big ears of corn and 7 small ears of corn.The 7 small ears of corn ate the 7 big ears. Then Pharaoh woke again. He called his interpreters but none of them could tell him what his dreams meant. Then the butler remembered a man in jail (Joseph) who can interpret dreams.
Joseph, who was still in jail, was prepped and dressed to meet Pharaoh. Pharaoh tells Joseph about his dreams and then Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and says: “there will be a long famine in 7 years and he should start collecting crops now for the 7 long years of famine.” After hearing this interpretation, Pharaoh makes Joseph his head chief and they starts collecting and saving crops for all of Egypt and for people from other lands.
One important theme I have learned from this Torah portion is always to be mindful to save. My grandparents have often said it is important to save for a rainy day. To me this means you should save for when you need it the most and that is what Joseph and Pharaoh were doing.
It’s not just money that you can save, but you can save time too. Like after getting a homework assignment, it makes sense not to wait until the last minute to complete it so you have more time to review and fix mistakes you might have made. During the time of Pharaoh’s dream there was plenty of food and things were going well in Egypt. He shared the wealth of his community with the people outside. And that is another important theme: to give to people in need.
Just as Pharaoh did, we must give back to the community. But what happens when you have no more food and clothing to give? You can still be compassionate in other ways. For example, this year my family and I adopted a dog from an animal shelter who was desperate for a good home. Like Joseph, who gave of himself by providing and interpreting the dreams of others while in jail, doing something for someone is another example of tzedakah. Whatever it is we save – money, time or energy – it is important to share it with those in need.
Often times when I am caught up in stress, homework, and very busy with activities I forget that there are those who are not lucky enough to attend a good school and to have the opportunities that I have. This relates to Miketz because the people who did not live in Egypt had to come from far away to get help from Pharaoh in order to survive. I cannot imagine what they had to go through to get that food from Pharaoh. In Miketz the people who came to Egypt had to pay Pharaoh for the food. But there is no mention that the Egyptians had to pay for the food. Perhaps this is an example of separating in an undignified way those who have from those who need. The shelters that I have donated to provide food and other materials to people anonymously.
When Pharaoh required that people from outside Egypt pay for the food they needed, this could be interpreted as people going to a grocery store and paying for their food, but the difference is that Egypt was the only available grocery store. Pharaoh wanted to donate and provide for the people but he also wanted to make a profit. This made me think what, would I do in Pharaoh’s shoes? Although tzedakah is important it, is also important to take care of your own family, friends, and community.
When Pharaoh allowed food to be sold to others, this was not truly tzedaka. It appears that Pharaoh’s true intention was to only make money for himself and his future heirs. In fact, in Miketz, the focus is greater on Joseph’s actions than Pharoah’s. Joseph was able to help others through tzedaka and his ability to forgive his brothers for selling into slavery. Joseph’s actions may be considered as “True Tzedaka.”
Sarah Burd ’20