Dreams of Hope - מקץ

Friday, 7 December, 2018 - 8:12 am

J.jpgDreams of Hope 

Joseph was appointed to be the viceroy of Egypt because he alone was able to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. Joseph explained that the dreams foretold that seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine were to come. Joseph suggested that Pharaoh appoint officers to collect food during the years of plenty in order to sustain the land of Egypt during the seven years of famine.

Pharaoh was so taken by the interpretation of the dreams that he appointed Joseph, an unknown prisoner from a foreign land, to be the ruler of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself:   

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has let you know all this, there is no one as understanding and wise as you.

You shall be [appointed] over my household, and through your command all my people shall be nourished; only [with] the throne will I be greater than you." (Genesis 41:40)

The story seems strange. Why would Pharaoh appoint Joseph as leader, instead of Pharaoh’s government ministers and agencies? Even if Pharaoh liked Joseph’s interpretation, why could he not have accepted Joseph's advice while instructing his own government agents to implement the policy?

Egypt was a pagan society which believed that everything on earth was controlled by the pagan gods. According to Egyptian philosophy, the human being was bound to the will of the gods, trapped by destiny and had no power over his own future and moral choices. In Egyptian culture, the circumstances to which one born, was where he would forever remain, bound by the gods of the natural forces. Thus, Egypt did not allow for social mobility, freedom or moral free choice.

From the perspective of the Egyptian professional dream interpreters, if the gods were planning seven years of famine there was nothing the human being could do to save society. If the gods of nature were about to bring hardship and pain then the people would have no choice but to accept the suffering.

Which is why Pharaoh was so taken by Joseph.

Joseph explained to Pharaoh that G-d informing him of the seven years of famine was a Divine call to action. G-d wanted the people to take action, make the right choices and prepare for the future. Joseph received the promotion because Pharaoh understood  that Joseph’s interpretation and his policy suggestion were so foreign to Egyptian culture that only a Hebrew, foreign to Egyptian philosophy and culture, could succeed in preparing for the seven years of famine. Pharaoh understood that there was no one in all his kingdom that could embrace the optimism and proactive approach that came from Joseph’s perspective. Only Joseph could infuse the Egyptians with the spirit of hope and the commitment to action.

Pharaoh's dreams served a more profound purpose than just to help the Egyptians  survive the economic downturn. The dreams and their interpretations were supposed to be the first step in changing Egypt’s perspective. Human choice matters. G-d gives us the freedom to choose the path we take. Without the gift of free choice there can be no freedom and no morality.


Each year the story of Joseph, the quintessential optimist, the dreamer who never loses hope for a better future, is read on Chanukah. It is the spirit of Joseph which inspired the Maccabees to take action, to be hopeful and to persevere in their efforts to fight for their religious freedom.

May the flames of the Chanukah candles inspire hope and optimism, which, in turn, fuel our actions, to fill the earth with the light of goodness and kindness.  


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