Don’t Just Stand There!

Parashat Miketz

During the darkest part of the year, the dream state seems to be readily available to all of us. Whether dreaming about warmer days to come, or decompressing from the sensory overload we all suffer from during the holiday season, we welcome a chance to transport ourselves out of the material world, if only for a few winks..

Last week’s Parasha began with a dream, ended with two, and now we begin Parashat Miketz with two dreams from Pharaoh, which we learn are one and the same.

The literary flow of this section of the torah is sublime. After the famous story of the ascension of Yosef (Joseph) from prisoner to powerful government minister there is a dissolve to 8 years hence, and Yosef’s prophetic interpretation of Pharoah’s dream has beome reality, and famine spread out past the Egyptian borders, causing a swarm of nations to approach Yosef to buy food.

Indeed, the famine has spread to the land of plenty, Eretz Canaan, the holy land, where Yaakov (Jacob) and his remaining 11 sons and their families are living. Conditions would call for action that would bring the family to Egypt, and after some dramatic interaction, ultimately result in the reunification of  father and brothers, and the fulfillment of Yosef’s prophetic dreams.

We now cut to Yaakov, in the beginning of chapter 42, and have some dialogue that begs for interpretation, just as the previous dreams.

וַיַּרְא יַעֲקֹב, כִּי יֶשׁ-שֶׁבֶר בְּמִצְרָיִם; וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב לְבָנָיו, לָמָּה תִּתְרָאוּ

Yaakov saw that there was food in Egypt, and Yaakov said unto his sons: Why do you TITRA’U ..??

The question marks are there because there doesn’t seem to be a clear way to translate תִּתְרָאוּ(titra’u). It is a plural reflexive verb formation, some are doing something to themselves.

Rashi first translates it as “Why do you make yourselves seen?”, and the Talmud in tractate Taanit comments that Yaakov’s family did in fact have food, but by not going to Egypt to buy more they would attract attention from the families of Ishmael and Esau. (Why they would be hanging around in that neighborhood is another story..). Perhaps there is a larger point here- when in times of hardship, do not flaunt your own personal success, rather, be sensitive to the greater population, and to the fact that most are suffering. Certainly a good message in these difficult economic times.

Rashi then mentions that others translate this as, “Why should you make yourselves lean through hunger?”.

The RaMBaN (Nachmonedes) does not like that last translation, and offers another, and is supported by the Sforno (a 15th century commentator). They say it means, “Don’t look at each other”, meaning, don’t just stand there, do something!. The Sforno brings a saying from the Talmud (Eruvin 3A), which states, “a pot belonging to partners is neither hot nor cold”- If you assume that someone else will take care of it, nothing will get done.

This message seems right in line with the story of Hanukah. The Maccabees were not content to stand there looking at each other, they instead sprung into action, and ultimately prevailed.

People of faith, when highly motivated, and proactive, enter into a partnership with the Almighty, and the possibilities are limitless.

That’s the stuff dreams are made of..

Shabbat Shalom, and Chag Hanukah Sameach,

Rabbi Greg

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