The etymology of the word “Torah” is “hora’ah” which means “teaching” and “guidance.” Torah is not a set of five books that contain a compilation of interesting stories about our forefathers, nor is it a set of history books which records the history of the world until the passing of Moshe Rabbeinu (see Zohar vol. 3, p. 53b, 152a).

Everything written and recorded in the Torah is meant to convey a lesson. From some stories we learn what to do and from others we derive what not to do in our relations with our fellow man and G‑d.

Parshat Mikeitz begins with an account of Pharaoh’s dreams. The common denominator between the Chatan and Pharaoh is that Pharaoh was a king and the Chatan, too, is a king. I base this on the saying of our Sages “Chatan domeh lemelech” — “A Chatan is compared to a king” (Pirkei D’Reb Eliezer 16). Consequently, the Kallah, too, is of royal demeanor, for she is the queen. There are some very important dos and don’ts which you as a young king and queen should learn from this old venerable king of Egypt.

Firstly, let us discuss a “do.”

On the words “uPharaoh choleim” — “and Pharaoh dreamed” — the Midrash (Rabbah 89:4) asks, “And do not all people dream? “True,” says the Midrash, “but a king’s dream embraces the whole world.” I.e., it is not something which is merely personal, but rather it affects everyone.

The lesson to you, dear Chatan and Kallah, is to remember that you are royalty — your actions and deeds are not personal but have an effect on the Jewish nation. Thus, you must think like a king and queen during the day and dream like a king and queen during the night. Don’t think small, but make your dreams vast and expansive. Set your goals high as befits royalty, and G‑d will help you achieve them.

On the other hand, beware not to emulate the thoughts of that old Gentile king. In the same pasuk which relates that Pharaoh dreamt we are also told of something in his dream that sounds foolish. He dreamt that “hineih omeid al haye’or” — “behold he was standing on [over] the [Nile] River.” (In fact, Pharaoh himself realized how foolish this sounded, and when he retold his dream to Yosef, he said “In my dreams, behold, I was standing al sefat haye’oron the bank of the River” [41:17])

Though it sounds foolish, the Torah is revealing the profundity of his thoughts. The Nile, which was the source of Egypt’s prosperity, was venerated as the country’s god. Therefore, Pharaoh’s position “over” [al — על] the Nile suggests that he arrogantly imagined himself superior to his god.

In the Midrash (Rabbah 89:4), Rabbi Yochanan observes an interesting contrast between the dreaming of Pharaoh and Yaakov: “The wicked stand over their gods, as it says ‘Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing over the River.’ But as for the righteous, their G‑d stands over them, as it says, ‘He dreamt, and behold, a ladder was set earthward and it reached heavenward, and behold, G‑d was standing over him’ ” (Bereishit 28:12-13).

This is a “don’t” to learn from King Pharaoh: never be haughty and think you can make it in this world on your own. Always remember that “it is the blessing of Hashem that makes one prosperous” (Proverbs 10:22).

I would like to add one more contrast between Pharaoh and Yaakov. The Torah (41:4) says that when Pharaoh dreamed the strange dream of healthy cows being devoured by lean ones, “vayikatz” — “he awoke.” What did he do? Nothing! He just turned around and “vayishan” — “he went back to sleep” (41:5). It is amazing that although he knew that his dreams affected the entire world, his few minutes of sleep were more important to him. He did not care if the world would be destroyed: he would not give up his few minutes of slumber.

Yaakov, on the other hand, dreamt of a ladder standing on earth and reaching heaven. He dreamt of reaching spiritual heights. There too, the Torah (28:16), tells us that “vayikatz” — “he awoke” — but there was no going back to sleep for Yaakov. He realized that his dreams affected him and the destiny of his people. How could he go back to sleep? And very early in the morning he built an Altar, prayed, vowed, and made pledges.

It is related that the old Lithuanian Rabbi Yosef Kahanaman of the city Ponovez, who was a holocaust survivor, was once asked how he succeeded in building the largest Torah citadel in Israel? He replied, “My name is Yosef and like my namesake I’m a dreamer.” But the interviewer asked, “Doesn’t everyone also dream?” With a smile in his eye he answered, “Everyone dreams while they sleep and I dream while I’m awake.”

My dear King Chatan and Queen Kallah, to dream while awake may be difficult, but to dream and arise and go back to sleep is an absurdity. Only an arrogant king like Pharaoh, who haughtily thinks that he controls his god and doesn’t recognize Hashem, can do such a foolish thing. Resolve to emulate Yaakov’s dream of reaching the heights, arise and do everything you physically can to attain your aspirations, and Hashem will then bless your endeavors and you will witness the realization of your lofty dreams.


King David, emphasizing the greatness of Hashem, says “Who is like Hashem, our G‑d. He raises the needy from the dust, from the trash heaps, He lifts the destitute, to sit them with the nobles” (Psalms 113-5-8). A living example of this was Yosef. He was the poor Jewish boy who was sold as a slave, accused of attempted adultry and incarcerated, and then appointed by the King of Egypt to be viceroy — the second highest position in the land.

Pharaoh planned a gala installation and coronation for Yosef. He had him dressed majestically in garments of linen, he placed a gold chain around his neck, he personally put his own ring upon Yosef’s hand, and he had him ride in his second chariot (41:42-43). Yosef had indeed attained what everyone would call success and what many a Yiddishe mama would define as nachas. Then Pharaoh went a step further — since he witnessed Yosef’s ability to reveal (uncover) that which was hidden (unknown), he gave Yosef a new name, Tzafnat Paneiach, which means a decipherer of the cryptic. It seems to be a beautiful name and a vivid description of one of Yosef’s unparalleled qualities. Nevertheless, though the name sounds appropriate, Yosef was not impressed at all. In fact, he never used it. Moreover, in the same pasuk it says “vayeitzei Yosef al eretz Mitzraim” — “Yosef went out over the land of Egypt” (41:45)

Amazing! Yosef accepted all the honors and gifts Pharaoh bestowed on him, so how is it that such a beautiful name, given to him by Pharaoh himself, should be so rejected and discarded?

Pharaoh’s cabinet objected to Yosef’s appointment as viceroy. They argued that the law of their land prescribes that “a slave cannot be a king” (Rashi, 41:12). Pharaoh was convinced, however, that it was not so much Yosef’s past that bothered them — his being a slave — but his present, his being a Jew. And not only was he a biological Jew, but one who proudly proclaimed his Jewishness and tenaciously held fast to his religious convictions.

The new name was given not just for its beautiful connotation. It was a scheme which Pharaoh hoped would detach Yosef from his roots and ultimately assimilate him with Egyptian thinking and the Egyptian way of life.

Pharaoh knew that whenever anyone would address his new viceroy by the name “Yosef,” it would instantaneously awaken in him his ties to the Jewish people. It would remind him of his past and make him cognizant of what Torah expects of a Jew. Therefore, he decided that the best alternative was to give him a new name, a beautiful one in essence, but at the same time an Egyptian one.

Yosef knew very well that one of the things that would help him maintain his identity and bring him close to Yiddishkeit was his original Jewish name. The name “Yosef” would be a barrier between him and the Egyptian elite society. It would stop him from mingling and associating with them socially and thus he would not be tempted by their glitter. Forsaking his Jewish name for the sake of an Egyptian one would ultimately bring about his assimilation and spiritual downfall.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, I wholeheartedly wish you the utmost success throughout your married life. But, I beseech you to always remember the lesson Yosef taught for posterity. Never forget your roots. Don’t let the gold and glitter of your success go to your head. Never permit it to affect one iota of your attachment to Torah and Yiddishkeit. May you become a noda bagoyim — a notable personality in the world — but simultaneously be a noda biYehudah — prominent members of G‑d’s people and a couple that is proud of their Jewish identity.


In this week’s parshah we read about Yosef’s rise to glory in the land of Egypt and we also learn about his marriage and family. He was privileged to marry Asenat (who incidentally, according to most opinions, was the daughter of his half-sister Dinah [according to Yalkut Shimoni, Joshua, remez 9, she was a convert]), and he was blessed with two sons, Menasheh and Ephraim.

The Torah relates that “Yosef called the name of the firstborn Menasheh: for G‑d has made me forget all my toil and my entire father’s house. The second one he called Ephraim: for G‑d has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (41:51-52).

Now, we can easily understand the reasoning for naming a son “Ephraim,” but that the righteous Yosef should express happiness and gratefulness for forgetting his father’s house is very puzzling. Why would Yosef be happy to forget the home of Yaakov and its spiritual atmosphere?

A visitor once entered a presumably kosher restaurant. Unimpressed with the religiosity of the personnel, he began to inquire about the kashrut standards. The proprietor confidently pointed to a picture on the wall of a Jew with a long beard and peiyot. He said to the visitor: “You see that man up there? He was my father!” The visitor replied: “If you were hanging on the wall, and your father was behind the counter, I would not ask any questions. But since your father is hanging on the wall, and you are behind the counter, I have good reason to question the kashrut.”

How many people do you and I know whose only attachment to Yiddishkeit is through nostalgia? They remember their mothers’ lighting candles before Shabbat, they recall their fathers’ long beards and peiyot, and they reminisce about their parents’ Shabbat table. They proudly tell their children about it, but unfortunately, they do not emulate or practice this way of life themselves.

Living among the Egyptians, Yosef was in danger of becoming totally assimilated into upper class society. Fortunately, he remained tenacious in his Torah observance. Thus, it was unnecessary for him to tell his children about his parents’ observance. He conducted his home exactly the same way as his father had done and was able to “forget” his father’s house. When Yosef spoke to his children about Torah and Yiddishkeit, he did not have to suffice with reminiscing nostalgically about what went on in his father’s house. Rather he was able to show his family his own home as a living example. It was a place where Torah study was in full vibrancy and doing mitzvot was a daily way of life.

Dear Chatan and Kallah, I bless you that the home you will build, please G‑d, should emulate Yosef’s home. May it be a place where Judaism is alive and not just nostalgia. May your lifestyle be such that studying and observing Torah is in vogue and performing mitzvot is the way of life.

(שמעתי מזקני הרב צבי ז"ל הכהן קאפלאן)