Although the Egyptians stored up grain during the seven years of plenty, as Joseph directed them to, as soon as the seven years of famine began, everyone’s grain except for Joseph’s rotted. The populace of Egypt thus found themselves dependent upon Joseph for food. Joseph agreed to give them grain on the condition that they circumcise themselves first.
Refining the World
וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה לְכָל מִצְרַיִם לְכוּ אֶל יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר יֹאמַר לָכֶם תַּעֲשׂוּ: (בראשית מא:נה)
Pharaoh said to all Egypt, “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you to.” Genesis 41:55

Egyptian society was steeped in the pursuit of self-serving carnal pleasure, which is reduced by circumcision. Thus, by having the Egyptians circumcised, Joseph subdued their obsession with carnal indulgence. Pharaoh himself instructed them to go along with Joseph’s condition; thus, even the living symbol of Egyptian corruption was willing to be refined, at least somewhat.

We follow Joseph’s example by remaining spiritually uncontaminated by our materialistic environment and even refining it. By strengthening our own commitment to Judaism, we influence our fellow Jews to strengthen theirs. Moreover, we influence the broader community of non-Jews to keep the Torah’s laws that apply to them (the “Noahide” laws). Thus, we will ultimately transform the entire world into G‑d’s home.1