Pharaoh's Dreams

41:1 At the end of two full years, Pharaoh had a dream. In his dream, there he was, standing by the Nile River,

2 when seven good-looking, robust cows emerged from the Nile River and started grazing in the marsh.

3 Then seven other cows, ugly and scrawny, emerged after them from the Nile River, and they stood next to the good-looking cows on the bank of the Nile River.

4 The ugly, scrawny cows ate up the seven good-looking, robust cows. Pharaoh then woke up.

5 He fell asleep and dreamed a second time. In this dream, there were seven ears of grain, healthy and good-looking, growing on a single stalk.

6 Then seven ears of grain sprouted after them, gaunt and parched from being battered by the east wind.

7 The gaunt ears then swallowed up the seven healthy, full ears. Pharaoh awoke and behold, it was clear to him that he had dreamed a complete dream that now needed to be properly interpreted.

8 In the morning, his spirit was agitated, so he sent for and called all the necromancers and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but none of them were able to interpret them to Pharaoh's satisfaction. Since Egypt's agricultural bounty depended upon the annual overflow of the Nile, the cows and the grain emerging from the river were obvious symbols of material sustenance, and it seemed plausible to interpret them as signifying successive years of agricultural plenty and famine. But Pharaoh's advisors were confused by the fact that the seven scrawny cows and the seven robust cows were standing next to each other in his dream, since years of famine and years of plenty cannot occur simultaneously. On the other hand, if the cows and grain did not symbolize agricultural seasons, how could it be explained that the Nile produced healthy food and deficient food at the same time? They therefore offered other interpretations, such as, "You will have seven healthy daughters and bury seven other daughters." True, these interpretations ignored the prominent appearance of the Nile in Pharaoh's dream, but Pharaoh's advisors assumed that this detail was one of the inaccuracies that inevitably occur in prophetic dreams. 1 Nevertheless, Pharaoh knew that these types of interpretations could not be correct, for, as the ruler of Egypt, he knew that his dreams would bear more than personal significance.

9 The chief cupbearer then spoke up and said to Pharaoh, "I must mention my transgressions today.

10 Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and he put the chief baker and me into custody in the house of the chief butcher.

11 We both had a dream on the same night, he and I, each having a dream that accorded with its interpretation.

12 And there, in custody with us, was a person who interpreted our dreams. Despite his abilities, he is not fit to hold any political office, for firstly, he is an unsophisticated youth; secondly, he is a Hebrew, who cannot speak our language fluently; and finally, he is a servant of the chief butcher—and as you know, Egyptian law does not allow anyone who was ever a slave to hold public office or even don royal raiment. We told him our dreams and he interpreted them for us, interpreting them for each of us according to his dream and its details.

13 And just as he had interpreted them for us, so it transpired: Your Majesty reinstated me to my post, while Your Majesty hanged him, the chief baker."

14 Pharaoh sent messengers and had Joseph summoned, and they hurried him out of the dungeon. He had his hair cut in honor of his audience with Pharaoh, changed from his prison clothes to ordinary clothes, 2 and then appeared before Pharaoh.

Second Reading 15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream, but there is no one who can interpret it, and I have heard reliable reports 3 about you that you can understand a dream and interpret it."

16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, "It is not by my own power; God will provide an answer through me for Pharaoh's welfare."

17 Pharaoh then spoke to Joseph: "In my dream, I was standing on the bank of the Nile River.

18 And then, out of the Nile River emerged seven cows, robust and well-formed, and they grazed in the marsh.

19 Then seven other cows emerged after them, meager, very ill-formed, and emaciated; I have never seen such bad-looking ones in all Egypt. They stood next to the robust cows on the bank of the Nile. 4

20 The emaciated, ill-formed cows then ate up the first seven robust cows.

21 These were ingested whole inside them, but it wasn't visibly apparent that they had been ingested whole inside them: their appearance was just as ill-formed as before. Then I woke up.

22 I then saw in my dream that seven full, good-looking ears of grain were growing on a single stalk.

23 Then seven ears of grain, shriveled, gaunt, and battered by the east wind, sprouted after them.

24 The gaunt ears of grain then swallowed up the seven good-looking ears. I told this to the necromancers, but not even one of them could explain it to me."

25 Joseph said to Pharaoh, "The two parts of Pharaoh's dream are actually a repetition of one and the same dream. God has told Pharaoh what He is about to do.

26 First of all, both the cows and the grain symbolize sustenance.5 Next, the seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are the same seven years; it is all one dream.

27 The seven emaciated, ill-formed cows that came up after them are seven years, as are also the seven empty ears of grain that were battered by the east wind. They will be seven years of famine.

28 It is as I have told Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do.

29 Seven years are coming during which there will be great abundance in the entire land of Egypt. The fact that the seven robust cows were 'fine-looking' means that there will be so much abundance that no one will be jealous of anyone else's wealth; everyone will 'look favorably' upon each other's prosperity.6

30 These seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine, when all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, just as the scrawny cows ate up the robust cows.7 The famine will ravage the land.

31 The former abundance will not be discernible in the land, due to the famine that is to follow—just as the scrawny cows remained scrawny even after swallowing up the robust cows—for it will be very severe.

32 As for Pharaoh having dreamed the same dream twice, this is because the matter stands ready before God, and God is moving quickly to carry it out.

33 So now, let Pharaoh seek out a man of discernment and wisdom and put him in charge of Egypt.

34 Let Pharaoh take steps to appoint officials over the land and prepare Egypt for the seven years of famine during the seven years of plenty.

35 Let them gather all the food during these coming good years, and let them store grain to be under Pharaoh's control for food in the cities, and guard it. Preparing for the seven years of famine during the seven years of plenty will fulfill the dream's indication that the seven years of famine and the seven years of plenty will occur 'simultaneously' (as symbolized by the robust cows and scrawny cows standing simultaneously on the bank of the Nile).8

36 The food will then be held in reserve for the land for the seven years of famine that will be in Egypt, so that the land will not be depopulated by the famine."

37 The way in which Joseph explained the dream according to its obvious reference to Egypt's sustenance while simultaneously resolving the anomaly of the robust and scrawny cows standing together on the bank of the Nile pleased Pharaoh and all his courtiers,

38 and Pharaoh said to his courtiers, "Could we find another man like this, who clearly has the spirit of God within him?"

Joseph as Viceroy

Third Reading 39 Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one as discerning and wise as you to be in charge of the operation that you recommend we undertake.9

40 You shall be in charge of my court, and by your orders will all my people be provided for. Only by the throne—i.e., by the fact that I am king whereas you are only viceroy—will I outrank you.

41 Except for this," Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am hereby giving you the same power that I myself have over the entire land of Egypt." Pharaoh paid no heed to the cupbearer's remarks about Joseph's unfitness to hold public office.

42 As a sign that he was making Joseph viceroy, Pharaoh removed his signet ring from the finger of his own hand and put it on a finger of Joseph's hand. He had him dressed in robes of linen, a fabric highly prized in Egypt,10 and placed the gold chain of office around his neck.

43 He had him ride through the capital city, next to his own chariot, in his second royal chariot, and they proclaimed before him, "The king's counselor! How wise he is for his young age! Bend the knee to him!" He was thus given kinglike authority over the entire land of Egypt. Nonetheless, Pharaoh commanded his subjects to only bend their knees to Joseph and not to prostrate themselves before him (as would befit someone with kinglike authority) because he wanted to retain some indication that Joseph owed his position not to his birth but to Pharaoh's goodwill.11

44 Pharaoh then said to Joseph, in the presence of the crowd, "I am Pharaoh; only I now wield authority higher than yours. By my authority as Pharaoh, I decree that without your say, no man may lift his hand to bear weapons or his foot to mount a horse in the entire land of Egypt."

When they heard that they, too, would be subordinate to Joseph, Pharaoh's advisors exclaimed: "How can you grant a slave authority over us?!" Pharaoh replied to them, "I discern royal characteristics in him." They said to him, "If you are correct, he must know all seventy languages,12 as is expected of all royalty." But before they had a chance to test Joseph, the angel Gabriel came and taught him whatever languages he did not already know. After that, no matter what language Pharaoh addressed Joseph in, Joseph replied to him in that same language.

But when Joseph then tried to converse with Pharaoh in Hebrew, Pharaoh did not understand him, for the Hebrew language had been preserved only by the line of Shem.13 When Pharaoh saw that Joseph knew this language—and therefore was more suited to be the ruler of Egypt than he—he said to Joseph, "Swear that you will not divulge this," and Joseph swore to him.14

45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Tzafnat Paneiach ["He who deciphers the cryptic"], and gave him Asnat, daughter of Joseph's former master Potiphera, lord15 of On, as a wife. Joseph thus went out to oversee Egypt.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. He left Pharaoh's presence, and he traveled throughout the entire land of Egypt in order to implement his program of storing up produce from the seven years of plenty.

Even though he was now free to act as he chose, Joseph made no attempt to inform his father that he was alive, for he had been present when his brothers made their pact forbidding any of them to tell their father the truth about Joseph's disappearance until receiving a sign to do so from God.16 Since God had not yet given any such sign, Joseph understood, as his grandfather Isaac had before him,17 that God did not yet want Jacob to know the truth.18

The Seven Years of Plenty

47 During the seven years of plenty, the inhabitants of the land gathered grain and brought it to the storehouses by the handful, that is, unhurriedly.

48 Joseph collected all the surplus food during the seven years that had now come to pass in Egypt, and he placed the food in storage complexes in the cities. It was a well-known fact that soil's composition varies from one locale to the next, the soil of each locale possessing its own unique properties that enable it to sustain different crops. It was further known that, because of this fact, the crops of any specific locale are best preserved when stored with some of the soil in which they were grown. Joseph therefore placed with the food some soil taken from the fields surrounding the city where it had grown.19

49 Joseph amassed quantities of grain as abundant as the sands of the sea, until the treasurer had to stop counting it since there was too much to count.

50 Two sons were born to Joseph before the first year of famine arrived, borne to him by Asnat, daughter of Potiphera, lord of On.

51 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh [Menasheh, "causing to forget"]—"because," he said, "by granting me success, God has made me forget all my past hardships, but this could also cause me to forget all I held dear in my father's household." Joseph knew that prosperity carries with it the danger of assimilation; in order not to forget his family and heritage, he gave his firstborn son a name that would constantly remind him of this danger.20

52 He named the second child Ephraim [from peri, "fruit"]—"because," he said, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering." Joseph did not attempt to father any additional children after these two sons, because he knew that seven years of famine were coming. Whereas a single, occasional year of famine results from factors connected to that year alone, two or more consecutive years of famine indicate that, for whatever reason, God has temporarily suspended His desire that the world grow and thrive. In such times, it is understood that He is in parallel also suspending His desire that humanity be "fruitful and multiply." 21

The Years of Famine Begin

Fourth Reading 53 The seven years of plenty that came to pass in Egypt came to an end.

54 The seven years of famine then began, just as Joseph had said they would. There was famine in all the other lands, but throughout Egypt there was bread, thanks to Joseph's storage program.

55 Nonetheless, even though everyone had stored up enough grain for themselves for seven years, everyone's grain rotted except for what Joseph himself had put away. When all the inhabitants of Egypt therefore were starving, they asked Joseph to provide them with grain. Joseph knew that God had commanded Abraham and his descendants to circumcise any servant they purchased.22 When he became officially responsible for the welfare of Egypt, this in effect made all its citizens into his property, and he thus became liable to circumcise them. When they came to him for food, he saw this as an opportunity to prevail upon them to do so. He therefore responded that he would only give them grain on condition that they first consent to circumcise themselves. The people then cried out to Pharaoh for bread, objecting to Joseph's stipulation. Pharaoh asked them why they had not stored grain for themselves during the seven years of plenty. They replied that they had, but that it had all rotted. Pharaoh responded, "If that is the case, Joseph evidently put a curse on the grain, making it rot. There is therefore no point in my commanding him to give you grain, because he can just as easily curse whatever grain he gives you, making it also rot." True, at least until it rotted they would have what to eat; or perhaps Joseph would not even curse the grain; and even if he would, they had nothing to lose. Nonetheless, Pharaoh feared that if he would try to force Joseph into giving them grain, Joseph might react by cursing him for trying to force him and cursing the people for causing Pharaoh to take this course of action. Since they were already in imminent danger of starving to death, any further curse would only mean a curse that they die immediately.23 So Pharaoh announced to all Egypt, "Go to Joseph, and do whatever he tells you to." So all the males in Egypt had themselves circumcised.

56 When the famine became so severe that it even struck all the wealthy people of the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses containing all the grain, and he sold it to the Egyptians, but the famine in Egypt intensified.

57 People from the entire region came to Egypt, to Joseph, to buy produce, for the famine had grown severe in the entire region.

The Torah will continue the narrative of Joseph's administration of Egypt during the years of famine further on.24 In the meantime, it will describe how Joseph's family came to settle there.

Joseph's Brothers' First Journey to Egypt

42:1 The famine struck not only Egypt; it also affected the Land of Israel, whose inhabitants were going hungry just as were the inhabitants of Egypt. Jacob heard that there was produce in Egypt, and, at the same time, he saw in a prophetic vision that there was some type of cure for his anguish over having lost Joseph awaiting him in Egypt. Despite the famine, Jacob and his family miraculously still had enough grain to last them at least for a short time. Jacob's sons were therefore confident that God would continue to sustain them miraculously, and made no secret of their optimism. They knew that when Abraham and Isaac were forced to leave their homeland due to famine,25 it was because God was testing them and not because they did not deserve His miraculous intervention in their lives. (After all, once Isaac passed his test, God made his crops miraculously productive even though it was a year of famine.26) The brothers had no reason to think that God would test them, too, by not sustaining them through the famine.

Jacob, however, knew that the Ishmaelites and Edomites were not aware that it was in order to test them that God did not sustain Abraham and Isaac miraculously during the famines that occurred in their lifetimes; they simply assumed that Abraham and Isaac were not sufficiently righteous to deserve God's miraculous protection in these cases. Jacob therefore feared that the Ishmaelites and Edomites, seeing his sons' conspicuous optimism, might accuse them of considering themselves more worthy of God's protection than their forebears. This accusation might in turn cause a similar accusation in the Heavenly Court, which could result in Jacob's family indeed being sentenced to leave their homeland in search of provisions.27 Jacob therefore said to his sons, "Why do you pretend to the Ishmaelites and Edomites that we have enough provisions to last us through the famine, when in fact we only have enough for a short while? Why should you draw attention to yourselves by not actively seeking some means of providing for yourselves before our provisions run out? There is no guarantee that God will continue to sustain us miraculously, so if you do not make provisions for the future, you may well end up going hungry. Why should you allow yourselves to risk becoming lean through hunger?"

2 He then said, "Look, I have heard that there is produce in Egypt. Go down there and buy us produce from there, so that we may live and not die." The numerical value of the word for "go down" (רדו) is 210, alluding to the 210 years that they and their descendants were destined to reside in Egypt (2238-2448). He further told them,28 "Enter the city, each of you by a different gate; since you are all of impressive appearance, it is imperative that you avoid arousing the evil eye against yourselves."29

3 When the brothers saw that Jacob had a premonition that Joseph was in Egypt, they understood that the time had come to ascertain Joseph's whereabouts and state, and if possible, return him to their father.30 By this time, they had all regretted selling Joseph, although each one to a different degree. Joseph's brothers thus went down to Egypt as ten individuals, each feeling a different degree of brotherly love toward him, but equal in their resolve to redeem him at whatever price necessary, just as they were equal in their awareness that it was necessary to buy grain from Egypt.

4 But Jacob did not send along Joseph's brother Benjamin with his other brothers, for he said, "Lest some disaster befall him." Knowing as he did that Benjamin's mother Rachel had died while on a journey31 and that Benjamin's brother Joseph had been killed by a wild beast while on a journey, Jacob was worried that it was particularly dangerous for this branch of his family to travel. True, there were additional causes responsible for Rachel's death—Jacob's own unwitting curse,32 as well as her complications in childbirth—so in truth, there were not sufficient grounds to assume that traveling per se posed any real danger to this branch of the family. But Jacob also knew that people need to draw on their accrued merits as self-protection in dangerous situations, and that Satan, the prosecutor in the Heavenly Court, therefore prosecutes against people in just such situations in the hopes that their depleted reserves of merit will tilt the balance against them. Since for Benjamin, traveling was potentially risky, given his family history, Jacob felt it imprudent to send him on a journey.33

5 The sons of Israel came to buy produce, each entering the city by a different gate, as their father had suggested, and mingling among all those others who had also come to buy, as their father had instructed them, for the famine had extended to Canaan.

6 Joseph, as viceroy of the land, was the one who sold produce to all the people of the region, and Joseph's brothers prostrated themselves before him with their faces to the ground.

7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he did not reveal his true identity to them. He understood that he first had to ascertain whether they regretted selling him and were ready to take the next step in the development of their family into the chosen people. Therefore, he acted like a stranger toward them and, playing his role as viceroy of Egypt, spoke to them harshly.

At the same time, in the ensuing interactions with his brothers, Joseph also made it a point to occasionally act congenially toward them, and even to hint that he knew who they were, so that when he would eventually reveal his identity to them, they would recall these displays of kindness and therefore be more inclined to believe that he really was their brother.34

Pretending to not understand their language, he asked them, via his interpreter, his seven-year-old son Manasseh,35 "Where are you from?"

They, not knowing the Egyptian language, replied, also via an interpreter, "From Canaan, to buy food."

8 Although, as stated, Joseph recognized his brothers—for all their beards had been fully grown before they had parted and therefore, their appearance had not changed drastically in the interim—they did not recognize him, for when he left them, his beard had not yet grown, and now it was fully grown. Nonetheless, Joseph did not take advantage of the fact that his brothers did not recognize him. Even though they were now in his power and he could have easily taken revenge on them for having sold him, Joseph treated them as his brothers, pitying them, despite the fact that they had not treated him as their brother, pitying him, when he was in their power.

9 He recalled the dreams that he had dreamed about them, and saw that they had now prostrated themselves before him in a matter regarding grain, just as they had in his first dream.36 Understanding that the dreams were coming true, he realized that he had to contrive some way for Benjamin to join them so he, too, could prostrate himself before him, completing the rest of the dream. Therefore, he said to them, "You are spies! You have come to see where the land is vulnerable."

10 They said to him, "No, my lord! Do not say such a thing, for we, your servants, have come just to buy food.

11 We are all the sons of the same man." Saying this to him, they unwittingly included him, implying that he, too, was a son of their father. "We are honorable men; your servants have never been spies!"

12 He said to them, "No! I'm sure you are spies! You have come to see where the land is vulnerable! If, as you say, you are brothers, what other reason could you possibly have had for entering through different gates? And if you are not brothers, then you are liars!"

13 They answered, "No! We can explain. We, your servants, were twelve brothers, the sons of one man who is in Canaan. The youngest is today with our father, and the other one has gone missing, and we separated in order to look for him."

14 Joseph said to them, "And if you find him, and his captors demand a huge sum of money for his release, will you pay it?"

They answered, "Of course."

He then asked them, "And if they refuse to release him, even for a huge ransom, what will you do?"

They answered, "Then we will take him by force, even if we have to kill to save him or be killed trying!"

He said to them, "Then it is exactly as I told you before: you are spies, and you have come to kill the people of this city. Don't think I don't know that you are capable of murder; I have divined by my goblet that two of you destroyed the city of Shechem!

15 By this you shall be put to the test: I swear to you on the life of Pharaoh that you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here.

16 Send one of you to bring me your youngest brother, while the rest of you remain imprisoned here, so that the veracity of your words may be put to the test. If he does not bring him, then by the life of Pharaoh, you are indeed spies!" Whenever Joseph swore falsely, as part of his imposture, he did so in the name of Pharaoh.

17 He then held them all in custody for three days in order to give them time to consider their situation calmly and rationally.37

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, "I have decided to make my test easier than I had originally planned. Do, then, as follows, and you will live. You can trust me, for I am a God-fearing person.

Fifth Reading 19 If you are being truthful, prove it in the following way: Let one of your brothers remain as hostage in your present place of detention, while the rest of you go back to your homeland and bring back the produce you have purchased in Egypt for satiating the hunger of your households.

20 You shall then bring me your youngest brother, and thus your words will be substantiated and you will not die." They agreed to do this.

21 They moved away from the interpreter so he would not hear them speak,38 remaining within earshot of Joseph, whom they assumed could not understand them anyway. They then said to one another, "We are indeed guilty regarding our brother, for we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this misfortune has come upon us."

22 Reuben responded to them and said, "Did I not tell you, 'Do not sin against the boy'? But you would not listen. And now that it is clear that he is dead, we are being called to account for spilling his blood. We will be called to account for our father's life, too, if he dies of grief when he hears that Benjamin must come down to Egypt."

23 They did not realize that Joseph understood them, for, as above, whenever they conversed, there was an interpreter between them.

24 He turned aside and moved away from them so that they would not see him, and wept over the fact that they regretted having mistreated him. But then he resumed his act in order to get them to bring Benjamin to Egypt. He came back to them and spoke to them, and had Simeon taken away from them and bound before their eyes. He chose Simeon because he was the one who had instigated the brothers' plot to kill him39 and who had thrown him into the pit,40 and also in order to separate him from Levi so that the two not devise some way to kill him.

25 Joseph then gave orders that when their containers were filled with grain, each one's money should be returned to his sack, and that they should be given provisions for the journey. This order was carried out for them. Although Joseph detained Simeon, he did not detain his donkey; he had Simeon's container loaded up with provisions for his family, placed on his donkey, and sent back with the other brothers.41

26 The brothers then loaded their produce onto their donkeys, and they departed. After they left, Joseph had Simeon unbound and fed a meal.

27 As Levi—the one of them who was now left without his usual companion, Simeon—was opening his sack at the inn to give fodder to his donkey, he saw his money, right there at the opening of his pack.

28 He said to his brothers, "My money has been returned! Not only is the grain here, but it, too, is here in my pack!"

Their hearts sank. Trembling, they turned to one another, saying, "What is this that God has done to us? The money can only have been put back into his pack as a pretext to accuse us of having stolen it!"

29 When they came to their father Jacob in Canaan, they told him about all that had happened to them, as follows:

30 "The man who is the lord of the land spoke to us harshly and charged us with spying out the land.

31 We said to him, 'We are honorable men; we have never been spies.

32 We were twelve brothers, sons of the same father; one of us went missing, and the youngest is today with our father in Canaan.'

33 The man who is the lord of the land said to us, 'By this I will know that you are being honest: Leave one of your brothers with me, take the grain you have purchased for satiating the hunger of your households, and go home.

34 But you shall bring me your youngest brother, and then I will know that you are not spies, but are rather being honest. I will give your brother back to you, and you will be able to move about in the land freely.' "

35 While they were emptying their sacks, there, in each one's sack, was his money-pouch! When they and their father saw their money-pouches, they became afraid.

36 Their father Jacob did not believe their story. Now that two of his sons were missing, he began to suspect that the other brothers had behaved either maliciously or negligently: they had either killed Joseph and Simeon or let them be killed.42 He said to them, "You are bereaving me of my sons! Joseph is gone because of you, Simeon is gone because of you, and now you would take Benjamin away from me as well?! All this has befallen me!"

37 Reuben then said to his father, "You may put my own two sons to death if I do not bring Benjamin back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I promise that I will bring him back to you."

38 Jacob ignored Reuben's offer. He thought, "How foolish are my firstborn's words! Does he think that I would really kill his sons, my own grandsons?!" He replied, "You have shown yourself to be irresponsible! My son Benjamin will not go down to Egypt with you! For his brother Joseph is dead and he alone remains from his mother, and should disaster befall him along the road you travel, due to your malice or negligence,43 you will bring my white-haired head down to the grave in grief." Judah had additional arguments he could have used to convince his father to let them take Benjamin back with them, but seeing Jacob's obstinacy, he understood that they would prove more effective when there would be almost no food left. So he told his brothers, "Let us not trouble our elderly father now; let us bide our time until the food runs out."

Joseph's Brothers' Second Journey to Egypt

43:1 The famine in the region continued to be severe.

2 When they had fully consumed the produce that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, "Go back to Egypt and buy us a little food."

3 So Judah said to him, "The man in charge of the food supplies there sternly warned us, saying, 'Do not appear before me again unless your brother is with you.'

4 If you agree to send along our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food.

5 But if you do not send him, we will not go down, for the man told us, 'You may not see my face again unless your brother is with you.' "

6 Israel said, "Why did you do me such a terrible disservice by telling the man that you have another brother?"

7 Although the brothers understood the viceroy of Egypt's harsh behavior toward them as a Divine response to their having sold Joseph, they obviously could not explain it that way to Jacob. They therefore described his behavior as being the result of a natural sequence of events.44 They replied, "The man kept asking about us and our families, saying, 'Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?' He even asked us what kind of wood our cradles were made of, and then guessed correctly. We told him that we had a father and another brother in response to his questions. Could we have known that he would say, 'Bring down your brother?!' "

8 Judah then said to his father Israel, "If you send Benjamin with me, he might be seized or he might not be. But if you don't send him, we cannot go buy food and we will all surely starve to death. Therefore, send the boy with me and let us set out and go, so that we should live and not die—we, you, and also our little ones." When Judah said, "that we should live," including his father, he unwittingly prophesied that Jacob's Divine inspiration would be restored to him as a result of this journey.45

9 Judah continued: "I understand that you suspect us of malice or negligence. In order to assure you that we will protect him at all costs, I offer myself as a guarantee for him; you can demand him from my hand. If I do not bring him back to you and present him to you alive, I will have sinned against you and hereby forfeit the privilege of being associated with you for all the days of my afterlife.

10 For had we not lingered due to your exaggerated caution, we could have been there and back twice by now! We could have long ago returned Simeon to you, and you would have thus been spared the ordeal of worrying about him all this time."

11 Their father Israel said to them, "If it is so, as you say, that the viceroy's attitude is the result of a natural chain of events, leaving me no choice but to send Benjamin with you, then we must use all natural means at our disposal to ensure the best chances for success. Therefore, this is what you must do: Take some of the land of Canaan's most celebrated, choice products in your containers, and bring them down to the man as a gift—a little balsam, a little honey, and some wax, lotus, pistachios, and almonds.

12 Take along a double amount of money, for the price of food there might have risen; and take with you the money that you found returned at the opening of your packs; perhaps it was an oversight on the part of the seller and he forgot to take the payment due him.

13 And take your brother, and arise and return to the man.

14 These are all the natural preparations we can do; besides this, we must also ask God for His help. We all know that prayers offered up by those who need them are more effective than prayers offered by others on their behalf.46 But since you feel that our situation does not indicate any extraordinary Divine involvement, I know that you will not overly exert yourselves when you pray. I, however, sense that God is involved here in a more-than-natural way, and therefore, I will also pray for you. I will pray that47 God Almighty—for whom nothing is impossible—grant that the man have pity on you. And that God—who, when He was creating the world, stopped the process of creation by saying, 'Enough!'—say 'enough!' to my troubles, for I have had nothing but trouble my whole life: trouble with Laban, trouble with Esau, trouble over Rachel, trouble over Dinah, trouble over Joseph, trouble over Simeon, and trouble over Benjamin. And finally, I will also pray that the man release for you your other brother, Simeon, from his bonds and send Benjamin back unharmed." When Jacob used the word "other" when referring to Simeon, he unknowingly prophesied that Joseph, too, would be "released" from obscurity. "As for me," Jacob concluded, "just as I have been bereaved of Joseph and Simeon, so, too, will I be bereaved of Benjamin until he returns safely with you."

15 The brothers took this gift, and also took along a double amount of money, as well as Benjamin. They set out and went down to Egypt, and they presented themselves before Joseph.

Sixth Reading 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the overseer of his household, "Bring the men into the house and have animals slaughtered and their meat prepared, for these men will dine with me at the first meal of the day." Joseph said this in his brothers' presence so that they would hear that he was having a special meal prepared for them. As was mentioned above,48 he occasionally acted congenially toward them so they would believe him when he would eventually tell them that he was their brother. In addition, Joseph wanted them to hear that he was giving specific instructions to the overseer to have the animals slaughtered rather than simply killed, in order to plant the thought in their mind that he actually knew who they were and that he knew that in their household, animals had to be slaughtered. Nonetheless, Joseph did not serve them meat slaughtered according to the Torah's stipulations for consumption by Jews, i.e., kosher meat. In his youth, Joseph had considered them guilty of transgressing the prohibition of eating flesh torn from a living animal.49 Since, in his opinion, they were not even properly observing laws that they were required to observe, he was certain that they had not voluntarily undertaken to observe the Torah's laws in their entirety, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had done. He therefore did not think twice about serving them non-kosher meat. And in fact, although Jacob had educated all his sons in the ways of the Torah, Joseph's brothers had never undertaken to observe the Torah's laws in their entirety, at least not to the same extent that their forebears had, as is clear from the fact that they married their sisters,50 which the Torah forbids.51 Certainly, voluntary observance could in no way obligate them to endanger their lives (by not eating the meat served them by the viceroy of Egypt himself, thereby possibly insulting him and risking making him angry enough to kill them).52 Although they were specifically forbidden to eat the sciatic nerve,53 Joseph did not order his overseer to have it removed; he relied on the brothers to do this themselves when they would be served.54

17 The man did as Joseph said, and the man escorted the people into Joseph's house.

18 The men were fearful because they had been brought into Joseph's house, whereas travelers typically lodged at inns around the city. They said, "It is on account of the money that was returned to our packs when we were here the first time that we are being brought here, so that we may be falsely accused, attacked, imprisoned, and seized as slaves, along with our donkeys."

19 They approached the overseer of Joseph's household, backing him out of the interior of the house,55 and spoke to him at the entrance of the house

20 as follows: "If you please, sir, we originally came down to buy food. Believe us, the very fact that we had to do so is humiliating to us; we are used to giving food to others. So you see, we would not have done this were it not necessary.

21 Then, when we arrived at the inn and opened our packs, we saw that each man's money was at the opening of his pack, our own money, in its exact weight. We have brought it back with us.

22 We have also brought down additional money with which to buy food. We do not know who replaced the money into our packs."

23 He replied, "All is well with you; do not be afraid. Your God, in your own merit, and if your own merit be insufficient, then the God of your father—in your father's merit—has placed a hidden treasure for you in your packs. Your money reached me." With that, he brought Simeon out to them. Their fears allayed, they agreed to follow the overseer back into Joseph's house. In the meantime, Simeon related to them that Joseph had unbound him and fed him a meal as soon as they had left, and that he had treated him well. As was noted above,56 this kind treatment was another way Joseph was preparing them to accept him as their brother when he would eventually reveal his identity to them.57

24 So the man brought the brothers once again into Joseph's house, gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he provided fodder for their donkeys.

25 They got their gift ready for when Joseph would come for the first meal of the day, arranging it in elegant dishes, for they heard that they would be dining there.

26 When Joseph arrived home, they presented him with the gift they had brought into the inner chamber, and they prostrated themselves on the ground before him.

27 He inquired as to their welfare and asked, "How is your aged father of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?"

28 They replied, "Your servant, our father, is well; he is still alive." They bowed their heads and prostrated themselves once again, in acknowledgement of Joseph's interest in their welfare.

29 Joseph raised his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and he said, "Is this your youngest brother of whom you spoke to me?" And then he said, addressing Benjamin, "May God be kind to you, my son." Benjamin had not yet been born when Jacob referred to his children as gifts of God's kindness,58 so Joseph wished to bestow upon him this distinction, too.

Seventh Reading* 30 Joseph then engaged Benjamin in conversation, pursuing the notion that children are gifts of God's kindness,59 and asked him, "Do you have another brother from your mother?"

Benjamin replied, "I do, but I do not know his whereabouts."

"Do you have any children?"

"I have ten sons."

"What are their names?"

"Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Na'aman, Eichi, Rosh, Mupim, Chupim, and Ard."60

"What do these names mean?"

"They all refer to my lost brother and the troubles he underwent. Bela refers to how he was swallowed up (nivla) and disappeared among the gentiles. Becher refers to the fact that he was the firstborn (bechor) of our mother. Ashbel refers to how God sent him into captivity (shavo el). Gera refers to how he was a sojourner (ger) among the gentiles. Na'aman refers to how he was of pleasant nature (na'im). Eichi refers to the fact that he was my brother (achi). Rosh refers to how, as my elder brother, he was my superior (rosh, 'head'). Mupim refers to how he learned from the mouth of (mipi) my father. Chupim refers to how neither of us was present at the other's marriage to see each other under the wedding canopy (chupah). Ard refers to how he descended (yarad) to live among the gentiles.

When Joseph heard that Benjamin had given all his sons names that recalled him or his misfortunes,61 Joseph immediately hurried out, for he was overcome with compassion for his brother and was on the verge of tears. He went to another room and wept there.

31 He then washed his face and came back out, restraining his emotions, and said, "Serve the meal."

32 They served him and his family separately, and them separately, and the Egyptians who were eating with him separately, for the Egyptians could not eat a meal together with the Hebrews, since the Hebrews ate meat from animals worshipped by the Egyptians,62 and this was an abomination for the Egyptians. Thus, Joseph could not eat with his brothers since he was pretending to be an Egyptian, and the Egyptians could not eat with Joseph since they knew he was a Hebrew.

33 Pretending to divine by use of his goblet, Joseph struck it and announced, "Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun were all born, in that order, to the same mother, so they shall sit at one table. Dan and Naphtali were born, in that order, to a second mother, so they shall sit at a second table. Gad and Asher were born, in that order, to a third mother, so they shall sit at a third table. Benjamin's mother is no longer alive, and neither is mine, so he shall sit at my table." The brothers were thus seated before Joseph, the firstborn according to his seniority and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at each other in amazement, wondering how Joseph was able to know all this exact information about their family. Joseph did this once again with the intention of planting the thought in their minds that they knew each other, so that they would then be more inclined to believe him when he would eventually identify himself.63

34 He had portions served to them from his table. After they all had been served, Joseph announced, "The ten others came here of their own free will, but Benjamin came only because I forced him to, so he deserves another portion." He sent him another portion. When Joseph's wife Asnat saw him do so, she also sent Benjamin an additional portion, and then Joseph's sons Manasseh and Ephraim did likewise.64 Benjamin's portion was thus five times as much as the others'. Ever since the brothers had sold Joseph, neither they nor he had drunk wine. On that day, however, they drank with him and became intoxicated.

44:1 After the meal was over and the brothers had taken their leave, Joseph gave orders to the overseer of his household, as follows: "Fill the men's packs with as much food as they can carry, and place each man's money at the top of his pack.

2 And put my goblet—the silver goblet I use for divining—at the top of the youngest one's pack, together with the money for his produce." He did exactly as Joseph instructed him.

3 With the first light of morning, the men were sent on their way, together with their donkeys. When the brothers had previously left Egypt, they had taken Simeon's donkey and sack with them;65 thus Simeon now left on foot and empty-handed, intending to buy another donkey on the way.66

4 They had barely left the city and had not yet gone far, when Joseph said to the overseer of his household, "Set out and pursue those men, and when you catch up with them, say to them, 'Why did you repay good with evil?

5 After all, this is the goblet from which my master drinks; indeed, he also uses it for divination. What you have done is an evil thing!' "

6 He caught up with them, and told them these very words.

7 They said to him, "Sir, why do you say such things? It would be a disgrace for us, your servants, to do such a thing! May God protect us from ever doing such a thing!67

8 After all, we brought you back the money that we found at the top of our packs when we returned from Canaan. This is clear proof of our integrity. How then could we have stolen silver or gold from your master's house?

9 Whichever of your servants with whom it is found shall die, and the rest of us shall become slaves to my lord."

10 He replied, "Although it should be as you have now declared—for if a stolen object is found in the possession of one member of a group, the whole group is implicated—I shall deal with you leniently: only the one with whom it is actually found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall go free."

11 Each man quickly lowered his pack to the ground, and each man opened his pack.

12 The overseer searched each one, beginning with that of the eldest and ending with that of the youngest, searching in this order so that they should not suspect that he already knew whose pack it was in, and the goblet was found in Benjamin's pack.

13 The brothers rent their clothes. Each one loaded his donkey by himself, since they were all strong men and did not require each other's help. They returned to the city. Convinced that they were victims of a plot, they began to formulate strategies for possible eventualities, and confidently noted that they could easily overcome the city if the need arose.

Maftir** 14 When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph's house, he was still there, anticipating their arrival, and they threw themselves on the ground before him.

15 Joseph said to them, "What is this deed that you have done? Did you intend to undermine my power by stealing my divination goblet? Do you not know that people of rank rise to their posts by virtue of their own intelligence, and therefore such an important man as I can determine the truth as to who stole the goblet by logic, even without a divination goblet?"

16 Judah replied, "What can we say to my lord? We know we are innocent of this crime, but how can we speak convincingly, and how can we prove our innocence? Since we have no way to do so, it is clear that God has uncovered your servants' old transgression and found a way to punish us for it. Here we are, then, slaves to my lord, we together with the one in whose possession the goblet was found." Seeing that they were trapped, Judah assumed that God was now fulfilling His prophecy to Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land.68

17 But Joseph replied, "It would be a disgrace for me to do that! The one in whose possession the goblet was found shall be my slave, while the rest of you can go up in peace to your father." When Judah heard that Joseph only wanted to enslave Benjamin and not the rest of the brothers, he understood that God was not yet fulfilling the prophecy of slavery, as he had assumed. He therefore resolved to do whatever was necessary to keep Joseph from retaining Benjamin.69