In this week’s sidra of Miketz, Pharaoh dreams two troubling dreams. In the first dream, he sees seven fat cows and seven emaciated cows, and the emaciated cows devour the fat cows. The second dream has the same theme, but features fat and emaciated stalks of wheat. Pharaoh summons his sorcerers and bids them interpret his dreams, but he is not satisfied with their interpretations. Somehow he feels that they have not hit the mark. But what specifically is the basis for Pharaoh’s skepticism, and how does he know that Joseph’s interpretation is correct?
The Midrash presents a number of interpretations that Pharaoh’s sorcerers may have given him. However, the Midrash does not tell us the reason, based on the language of the Biblical text, why Pharaoh rejected those interpretations. I believe that a careful reading of Miketz tells us Pharaoh’s reason for rejecting his sorcerers’ interpretations, and also the reason that he was willing to accept Joseph’s words.
When Pharaoh relates his dreams to the sorcerers, pay attention to the unusual phrasing of the text: “Pharaoh told them his dream, but there was none who could interpret them for Pharaoh” (Genesis 41:8). Note the sudden switch from singular to plural: Pharaoh told them his dream (singular), but there was none who could interpret them (plural) for Pharaoh. Why the sudden change from singular to plural? What is the Torah telling us? I believe the Torah is saying that Pharaoh knew his two dreams were one, that both dreams had the same meaning; but his sorcerers were viewing them as two separate dreams with two separate meanings, and that was the basis for Pharaoh’s unwillingness to accept their words.
In contrast, when Pharaoh finished telling his dreams to Joseph, the first words out of Joseph’s mouth were, “Pharaoh’s dream is one” (Genesis 41:25). Immediately, Pharaoh knew that Joseph understood the import of the dream, and therefore he was willing to trust Joseph’s interpretation.
© Copyright 2009 by Ben Roshgolin. All rights reserved.