Miketz – 5783
Rabbi Baht Weiss
This week’s parsha is almost always read during the week of Hanukkah. Although that is only a coincidence of the calendar, we can find thematic connections. Just as Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the weak over the powerful, the parsha begins with Pharaoh’s dream of the lean cows conquering the fat ones. As the parsha opens, Joseph is in prison and it ends as Joseph as prime minister, the story of Hanukkah begins with Israel oppressed and ends with Israel triumphant and independent.
Hanukkah is a holiday about miracles—about believing in dreams that may seem unlikely. From a young age Joseph had dreams. Initially we do not know whether his adolescence dreams are genuine predictions for the future or merely the overactive imagination of a spoiled child with delusions of grandeur. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out that Joseph had three gifts that some people have in isolation, but few have in combination.
- He dreamed dreams.
- He was able to interpret his dreams and
- He found a way to implement dreams.
When we are young, we are full of idealism and hopeful for our futures. As we grow older, we may develop cynicism and self-doubt. How do we keep the light burning and believe in ourselves and the possibilities to make our dreams come true.
Even when Joseph was in prison, he was able to tap into his interpretive powers. In this week’s parsha he interprets dreams for the butler and the baker, and most importantly for Pharaoh. Not only is he able to predict 7 years of productive growth, followed by years of famine, but even more importantly, he was able to devise a plan to store and save food to prepare for the famine. He did not just mourn misfortune but actively worked on a plan to listen to his instincts and trust himself even when it may have seemed crazy.
Elie Wiesel once told a story that there was a time that Sigmond Freud and Theodore Herzl lived in the same district of Vienna. Herzl, to whom more than any other person we owe the existence of the State of Israel, used to say, “If you will it, it is no dream.” “Fortunately,” Wiesel said “they never met. Can you imagine what would have happened if they met? Theodore Herzl would have said ‘I have a dream of a Jewish State.’ Freud would have replied, “Tell me, Herr Herzl, how long have you been having this dream? Lie down on my couch and I will psychoanalyze you.’ Herzl would have been cured of his dreams and today there would have been no Jewish state.”
As Jews, we are taught to be dreamers—to believe in miracles, and to act courageously and faithfully. We are a people who are small in size, but mighty in resilience and influence. Both Hanukkah and Miketz encourage us not to be afraid to follow our dreams and trust in our own inner strength. The days are shorter this month, which leaves more time for dreaming. As we close out our secular year, let us feel motivated to believe in our dreams for the future—let us dream dreams, understand their meaning and find a way to make our dreams reality.