The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 28 Kislev, 5775; December 20, 2014
“Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, when out of the Nile there came up seven cows” (Genesis 41:1-2)
Pharaoh dreamed that he stood by the river, and out came seven fat cattle, who fed in the reed-grass. And then seven lean cattle came up out of the river and ate the seven fat cattle, and Pharaoh awoke. He went back to sleep and dreamed that seven good ears of corn came up on one stalk, and then seven thin ears sprung up after them and swallowed the good ears, and Pharaoh again awoke.
In the morning, Pharaoh was troubled and sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt and told them his dream, but none could interpret it. Then the chief butler spoke up, confessing his faults and relating how Pharaoh had put him in prison with the baker, and a Hebrew there had interpreted their dreams, correctly predicting the future. Pharaoh sent for Joseph, who shaved, changed clothes, and came to Pharaoh. Pharaoh told Joseph that he had had a dream that none could interpret and had heard that Joseph could interpret dreams, but Joseph said that God would give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
Pharaoh told Joseph his dreams, and Joseph told him that the two dreams were one, a prediction of what God was about to do. The seven good cattle and the seven good ears symbolized seven years of plenty, and the seven lean cattle and the seven empty ears symbolized seven years of famine that would consume thereafter. The dream was doubled because God had established the thing and would shortly bring it to pass. Joseph recommended that Pharaoh set over Egypt a man discreet and wise, that he appoint overseers to take up a fifth of the harvests during the years of plenty, and that he store that food for the years of famine. Pharaoh told Joseph that inasmuch as God had shown him all this, there was none so discreet and wise as Joseph, and thus Pharaoh set Joseph over all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh gave Joseph his signet ring, fine linen, a gold chain about his neck, and his second chariot, and had people cry before him “Abrech.” And Pharaoh renamed Joseph Zaphenath-paneah and gave him Asenath the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On to be his wife.
Joseph was 30 years old when he stood before Pharaoh, and in the seven years of plenty he gathered up grain as plentiful as the sand of the sea. Joseph and Asenath had two sons, the first of whom Joseph called Manasseh, for God had made him forget all his toil and all his father's house, and the second of whom he called Ephraim, for God had made him fruitful in the land of his affliction. The seven years of plenty ended and famine struck, and when Egypt was famished, Joseph opened the storehouses, and sold food to the Egyptians. People from all countries came to Egypt to buy grain, because the famine struck all the earth.
Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, asked his sons why they sat around looking at each other, and sent them down to Egypt to buy some. Ten of Joseph's brothers went down to Egypt, but Jacob kept Benjamin behind, so that no harm might befall him. Joseph's brothers came to buy grain from Joseph and bowed down to him with their faces to the earth. Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him, for he made himself strange to them and spoke roughly with them.
Joseph remembered his dreams, and accused them of being spies. But they protested that they were not spies, but upright men come to buy food, ten sons of a man who had twelve sons, lost one, and kept one behind. Joseph told them that to prove their story, they would have to send one of them to fetch their brother, and he imprisoned them for three days. On the third day, Joseph told them that because he feared God, he would allow them to prove themselves by letting one of them be bound in prison while the others carried grain to their houses and brought their youngest brother to Egypt. They said to one another that surely they were guilty concerning their brother, and so now this distress had come upon them. Reuben said that he had told them not to sin against their brother, but they had not listened. They did not realize that Joseph understood them, for he used an interpreter, and Joseph turned aside and wept. When Joseph returned, he bound Simeon before their eyes, and commanded that their vessels be filled with grain and that their money be restored to their sacks.
They loaded their donkeys and departed. When they came to a lodging-place, one of them opened his sack and found his money, and their spirits fell, wondering what God had done to them. They went home and told Jacob all that had happened, and Jacob accused them of bereaving him of his children, first Joseph and now Simeon, and told them that they would not take Benjamin away. Reuben answered that Jacob could kill Reuben’s two sons if Reuben failed to bring Benjamin back, but Jacob insisted that his son would not go down with them, for Joseph was dead and only he was left, and if harm befall Benjamin then it would be the death of Jacob.
The famine continued, and Jacob told the brothers to buy more grain. But Judah reminded Jacob that the man had warned them that they could not see his face unless their brother came with them, so if Jacob sent their brother they could buy food, but if Jacob did not send him they could not go. Jacob asked them why they had treated him so ill as to tell the man that they had a brother. They explained that the man asked them directly about their kindred, whether their father was alive, and whether they had another brother, and they answered him; how were they to know that he would ask them to bring their brother down? Judah then asked Jacob to send the lad with him, so that they could go and the family could live, and Judah would serve as surety for him, for they could have been to Egypt and back by then if they had not lingered. Relenting, Jacob directed them to take a present for the man, double money in case the return of their payment was an oversight, and also their brother, and Jacob prayed that God might show them mercy before the man and that he might release Simeon and Benjamin to them.
The brothers went to Joseph, and when he saw Benjamin with them, he directed his steward to bring the men into the house and prepare a meal for him to eat with them at noon. When the brothers were conducted into Joseph's house, they grew afraid that Joseph was going to hold them as bondmen because they had taken the money that they found in their sacks. So they explained to Joseph's steward how they had discovered their money returned to them and had brought it back with them, plus more money to buy grain. But the steward told them not to fear, for their God had given them treasure in their sacks; he had their money. The steward brought Simeon out to them, brought them into Joseph's house, gave them water, and fed their donkeys. When Joseph came home, they brought their present and bowed down to him. Joseph asked after their welfare and that of their father. They said that Joseph’s servant their father was well, and they bowed their heads. Joseph looked upon Benjamin and asked them whether this was their youngest brother of whom they had spoken, and he prayed that God would be gracious to Benjamin. Joseph left hastily for his chamber and wept, washed his face, returned, and called for the servants to serve the meal.
Joseph sat by himself, the brothers sat by themselves, and the Egyptians sat by themselves, because it was an abomination to the Egyptians to eat with the Hebrews. The brothers marveled that the servants had seated them according to their age. And Benjamin's portion was five times so much as any of his brothers’.
Joseph directed the steward to fill the men's sacks with as much food as they could carry, put every man's money in his sack, and put Joseph’s silver goblet in the youngest one’s sack. At dawn, the brothers were sent away, but when they had not yet gone far from the city, Joseph directed his steward to overtake them and ask them why they had rewarded evil for good and taken the goblet with which Joseph drank and divined. They asked the steward why he accused them, as they had brought back the money that they had found in their sacks, and they volunteered that the one with whom the goblet was found would die, and the brothers would become bondmen. The steward agreed, with the amendment that the one with whom it was found would be a bondman and the others would go free. Hastily, every man opened his sack, starting with the eldest, and they found the goblet in Benjamin's sack. They rent their clothes, loaded their donkeys, and returned to the city. Judah and his brothers came to Joseph's house and fell before him on the ground. Joseph asked them what they had done, did they not know that a man such as he would divine? Judah asked how they could clear themselves when God had found out their iniquity; they were all Joseph’s bondmen. But Joseph insisted that only the man in whose hand the goblet was found would be his bondman, and the others could go in peace to their father.
Hebrew and English Text
Hear the parshah chanted
Commentary from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University (Conservative)
Commentary from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Conservative)
Commentary by the Conservative Yeshiva
Commentary by the Union for Reform Judaism (Reform)
Commentaries from Project Genesis (Orthodox)
Commentaries from Chabad.org (Orthodox)
Commentaries from Aish HaTorah (Orthodox)
Commentaries from the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (Reconstructionist)
Commentaries from My Jewish Learning (trans-denominational)