The Family Moves Part Four: Who’s In Charge
We have come full circle with the Master of Memory back to his dreams, and his guiding his brothers to restore their relationship with each other and with Jacob, and all the way back to Adam just outside the entrance to the Garden.
“Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it (Genesis 37:6-7).” Parts of the dream have been realized; the brothers bowed as they came to Joseph for grain. We have already explained how the dream was about the brothers, not Joseph, their greatness and unity, and, how one can bow with a sense of greatness without forfeiting his dignity. Yet, there is still far more to this dream: This was not the first time that Egypt fed the world during a famine leading to a meeting between Egypt and an Ivri. “There was a famine in the land, and Abram descended to Egypt to sojourn there for the famine was severe in the land (12:10).”
There was almost, but not quite, another meeting between Egypt and an Ivri; “Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar. God appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions (26:1-5).” Isaac was an unblemished offering, and, as such, it did not befit him to reside outside the Land (Rashi), although I would rephrase it and say, it did not befit him to ‘go down to Egypt!’ The verse stresses Egypt as representing the, yes, “Outside!”
This is a dream of how God feeds His creations. Egypt is watered by the Nile. Israel is dependent on rain. Egypt has food when the Land of Israel does not. Egypt represents a certain distance from God as the Sustainer, the very issue that led to the sins of the generation of the Flood, of The Tower of Babel, and of Sodom; the archenemy of Abraham. Egypt, “independent” of rain, is separated from the, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when God the Lord made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for God the Lord had not sent rain on the earth and (Rashi: Because) there was no man to work the ground (Rashi: pray for rain and acknowledge God’s continued sustenance of His creation), but mists came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground (Genesis 2:4-5).” Egypt is separated from the primal human and his work.
Although separated from Adam’s original responsibility, even in the Garden, Egypt helped “feed” him: “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold (2:10-11).” Rashi explains; “Pishon is the Nile; because its waters gallop and rise and water the earth, it is called Pishon, as in, “Their cavalry gallops headlong – u’Fashu parashav (Habakuk 1:8).”
Joseph’s dream deals with the question of Divine Providence and how we should relate to it. Egypt, as did Adam, desired independence from God.
Cain, of the original battle over the birthright, attempted to repair Adam’s drive for independence. The Sages teach that he brought flax in the form of linen as his offering, and, guess which land is known for its flax: “A prophecy against Egypt: Those who work with combed flax will despair, the weavers of fine linen will lose hope (Isaiah 19:1 & 9).” [There’s more to the prohibition of mixing Cain’s linen with Abel’s wool than meets the eye!]
Joseph’s dream is how his brothers who so struggled with control, would come to the realization that God controls our destiny, our food, our lives: “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but the Lord. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt (Genesis 45:8),” and, when they refused to accept Joseph’s message, he repeated, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of the Lord? You intended to harm me, but the Lord intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children (50:19-20).”
From the moment he awoke from his dreams, Pharaoh understood and debated with Joseph this issue of Divine Providence.
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