Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17) Learning to Recognize the Right People

[While Joseph is still in prison, Pharaoh dreams of cows and sheaves and demands that someone interprets his dreams. The wine steward remembered Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams, mentioned it to Pharaoh, and Joseph was freed and brought before Pharaoh, who acknowledges the truth of Joseph’s interpretation (about the impending famine) and raises Joseph to be second-in-command of the whole country with a mandate to prepare for the famine.]

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “after the Almighty has informed you of all this, there is no one who is as understanding and wise as you. “ (Gen. 41:39).

Pharaoh was astounded by Joseph’s dream interpretations and appointed him to be the architect of Egypt’s economy. But how could Pharaoh put such enormous trust in Joseph, whose resume seemed suspect? After all, the only knowledge Pharaoh had of Joseph was the testimony of the wine steward, who suddenly remembered that he had met a young man in prison with the uncanny ability to interpret dreams. This man was Joseph. Instead of saying, “there was a uniquely talented guy in with me prison who can interpret dreams; why not give him a chance,” the wine steward said something else.

And there was with us a youth, a Hebrew, a slave… (41:12)

He referred to Joseph in a derogatory way. Even when he (the wine steward) was forced to mention Joseph’s skillful dream interpretation, he attempted to disparage him (Joseph) by referring to him as an immature kid who wasn’t even versed in Egyptian language or culture. In addition, Joseph was a slave, a fact that made him unfit to be the ruler of free people.

After such a derogatory introduction, what is it about Joseph that allowed Pharaoh to respect and have confidence in him? Pharaoh saw Joseph’s integrity in something Joseph said before he rendered his interpretation of Pharaohs’ dream. He said he had no innate power to interpret dreams, it was entirely a gift from the Almighty.

Joseph answered Pharaoh saying, “that is beyond me; G-d will respond to Pharaoh’s welfare. (41:16)

By not taking credit for his wisdom, Joseph demonstrated that he was honest and humble, traits we look for in someone we choose to trust.  The wine steward associated Joseph with negative traits—a young Hebrew slave—but in one short encounter Pharoah saw enough in Joseph to trust him with an entire economy of the country. When we speak with someone, it behooves us to find their strengths, even a small strength.

Pharaoh wasn’t a righteous king, but he was perceptive and recognized humility and modesty when he encountered it. He didn’t see a childish Jewish slave; he saw a man who could be trusted with the welfare of an entire nation.

Whom do you trust? What traits do you look for in the people you keep company with?

Good Shabbos