Chanukah Torah Portion: Joseph The Dreamer

The sages believed there was a reason why the story of Joseph and his brothers is in the weekly Torah portion (Parsha) we read on Chanukah. Certainly, we can see themes of adversity, oppression, arch nemeses, and triumph over all odds in both. 

Parashat Miketz 5783 / פָּרָשַׁת מִקֵּץ

Genesis 41:1 – 44:17 — 24 December 2022 / 30 Kislev 5783

Backstory Genesis 37 – 39

Joseph’s father Jacob, loved and favored his son Joseph, over all of his other sons. Teenage Joseph is a gossip bringing “bad reports” about his brothers to their father. In return, he receives preferential treatment and a “fine coat of many colors.” To add insult to injury, young Joseph tells his family he had dreams where they are bowing down to him in subservience.

As manager of his father’s herds, Joseph is sent to check on his brothers and the herds they are pasturing. When his brothers see him from afar, they plot to kill “that dreamer” and put an end to his dreams once and for all. The eldest, Reuben, objects to “bloodshed,” so they settle on tossing Joseph into a pit without water, stripped of the “fine coat of many colors” that was such a big source of his pride and identity.

When the brothers see a caravan of Ishmaelites approaching, they agree to sell Joseph into slavery at brother Judah’s behest. Before the brothers get the chance to sell him, traveling Midianite merchants pull him from the pit and beat them to it, selling him to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of sliver. From there he is taken to Egypt, where he is sold to Potiphar, an Egyptian court official.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, his brothers dip his distinctive coat into the blood of a slaughtered goat and bring it to their father. Jacob believes he has been torn asunder by wild animals and begins to mourn him inconsolably. In the desert, his carcass would be fiercely guarded and devoured by deadly predators and his bones eaten by bearded vultures. In his father’s mind, Jospeh is gone, with no remains that can be retrieved from the shifting sands for his father to bury.

Scene shift to Egypt where Potiphar promotes the young, pious slave to the position of household manager. Described as a “beautiful man with a fine complexion,” Potiphar’s wife tries unsuccessfully to seduce him. After being rebuffed, she tears his “garment” off of him as he flees and loudly profiles him as “the Hebrew” and “Hebrew slave” that tried to sexually assault her. Potiphar is enraged and Joseph is thrown into an Egyptian prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Joseph, who brought bad reports about brothers, finds himself stripped down once again in another pit of sorts, with a bad report against him.

During his time in prison he rises up from “the Hebrew slave,” to prison manager and overseer, appointed by the warden.

Several years later, he becomes a powerful Egyptian official and dream interpreter to the Pharaoh, accountable to no one except Pharaoh himself. 

After becoming the Pharaoh’s right hand man, why didn’t Joseph, the favored child, send a message to his father to let him know he was alive and thriving? Whatever befell him, he made a life for himself apart from his family and never attempted to contact them.

Joseph is described as a vain and precocious kid, who made the mistake of disclosing his dreams of greatness to his family. Jacob is to blame more than anyone, but Joseph does bear some karmic responsibility as we can see threaded throughout his story. He undergoes a process of humiliation while learning how to use his gifts judiciously and compassionately. 

Despite his well-noted vanities in Midrashic literature, he is referred to as Yosef HaTzaddik (Joseph the Righteous), for he always introduces himself as a God-fearing Hebrew and Israelite, remaining faithful to his roots and the God of Israel, even when his “foreignness” endangers him.

His father spoiled him and his brothers despised him, but once he is forced to exist outside the toxic family dynamic, he is viewed as a wise and charismatic visionary with great leadership qualities. 

He excelled in whatever position he found himself in, whether as a household slave, a prisoner, or the Pharaoh’s viceroy and dream interpreter.

At age 30 he strategically prepared Egypt to withstand the famine he foresaw in the Pharaoh’s dream, predicting seven years of famine following seven years of plenty. 

Seven good years are known as The Joseph Effect, while the seven bad years are known as The Noah Effect. This seven-year cycle is still used in modern day economic analysis as a predictor of recession timing. (Investopedia)

When his brothers journey to Egypt for food supplies, he recognizes them but they do not recognize the prestigious man standing before them, looking like Egyptian royalty. As in the dream he had as a teenager, his brothers bow down to the ground before him. Joseph needs closure and has to play it out as he sees fit. He accuses them of being “spies,” as they obsequiously squirm and plead their innocence.

Not knowing he understands their language, they bemoan their current distress as retribution for the sins they committed against their brother Joseph, while Reuben cries, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against that child? But you did not listen, so now there is a reckoning for his blood.”

Joseph is stern and official on the outside, but inside he’s so moved by their presence, he retreats to weep in secret. 

When he could no longer control his emotions, he sent all his attendants away and privately revealed his identity to his brothers.

I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! Do not be distressed and angry with yourselves for selling me here, for it was God who sent me here ahead of you, to save lives from the great famine and to preserve an allotment for all of you. It was God that put me in Egypt to rise up as a leader of the land and fatherly figure to the Pharaoh.

Joseph to his brothers

He kissed them and wept so loudly over them, he was the talk of Egyptian society and the Pharaoh’s household. The young Pharaoh was happy for Joseph and bestowed all the best goods Egypt had to offer upon his elderly father Jacob, his brothers and their families. 

Joseph had a knack for getting into jams and getting out of them quite spectacularly by winning friends and influencing people. There was much more to Joseph than vanity, but his journey to self-actualization was fraught with pitfalls. (Pun intended).

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16 thoughts on “Chanukah Torah Portion: Joseph The Dreamer

  1. Abi, you really shed light on the different aspects of this story. There were many parts that I have never learned until now. Thank you for enriching my life through education. You are informative, interesting, and relatable. You put the compassion back into the Torah.

      • I feel the Ruach Ha Kodesh enter my being when you share with me. You are a joy and a delight. You are comforting a tormented soul. When my two year old son died, many years ago, my spirit died with him. YOU are the one giving me relief. You are my Rebi who soothes me on my tumultuous journey. You are generous of spirit. I am grateful to be cared for, cared about, and heard. Thank you.

  2. Avigail, your Gift for retelling this Biblical story and interpreting it as you do, is exquisitely beautiful. Being forthright and honest if we so do choose, we can see patterns parallel in our own lives to what Joseph experienced. How often times then not we go through pits of despair, hitting rock bottom, to only rise and shine like never before. There in that pit is where we learn to face ourselves and to learn great humility, putting ego aside. When we follow God as our Inner Guidance does, we step into our dreams, into our greatness.

    I really enjoyed this story and how you wrote what you did. Amazing Gift God has given you …. the ability to see and to clearly speak and write truth according to Divinity. Thank you for sharing this, Avigail. Bless you for showing those who visit here that the stories from the Bible are reverent today.

    Much love to you! xoxoxo

    • Many thanks for reading and taking this journey with me, my dear friend. You have blessed me with great happiness and inspiration to continue with this work. It is my most cherished goal to preserve the reverence of bible stories by making them come alive as relevant and relatable to our contemporary lives.

      I have been thrown into that pit many times in my life. I love the phrase “when we step into our dreams, into our greatness” and all of your beautiful insights.

      Blissings and blessings galore to you! I’m so jazzed by your feedback. We rise up from the pit by the grace of sharing love, affirmation and light. 😍🥰

      • Stay on course that holds your dreams, Avigail. So many of this world and so much of this world will and do discourage anyone who holds dreams sacred. When you embrace your cherished goal and don’t let go, you show the Universe you mean business and then! Gifts from heaven begin falling in your lap! This may take years. It may take days. There is no “time limit” when you get the opportunity to burst through to hold your entire potential in your hands. Step by step. Yet know I this without doubt …. when you walk your talk, Divinity sees and Divinity assists to guide you to that goal post …. and stay there.

        I have been thrown in that pit as well and those are the times I question …. what still must be changed (in ME!) in order for this pattern to change that still holds me prisoner? It’s painful. It’s lonely. It hurts. At times you want to give up as you ask when when when will the time come I’m finally free to fly fly fly? With Joseph, he had to hit rock bottom several times in order to shed his materialistic skin to don God’s skin. That is when we fully step into our Purpose with All There Is 100% behind us.

        I know that I have The Universe’s approval and what is opened and given is so much it takes “time” to digest. When I saw these “pictures” in the Natural, when I walked through that wilderness, I “felt” God through Mother everywhere. It was a Holy Journey.

        When we learn how not to depend on others for approval that is when encouragement comes in many forms to reinstate the knowing we are truly walking true. Blessings SO many right back to you. We mirror each other, dear friend, and I am SO grateful to have these holy interchanges with you. We both grow from them. I do love you!! xo

  3. Dearest Avigail, once again your knack for deciphering these biblical tales in a way for all to understand and see a clearer picture of events resonates deeply..
    I feel many are often at times thrown into their own pits of despair before they raise themselves up and into the Light.. And into their own true selves..
    Joseph found his through his intuitive abilities through interpretive dream time, which gained him trust.

    Perhaps if we all trusted our inner intuition more, we would see that often we are tested to overcome those shadows and it is only by experiencing those lower denser moments in life, we then appreciate the higher lighter ones..

    Many thanks dear Avigail for your beautiful insights into these stories… I am afraid I have not had as much time in computer blog land to read all recently..

    Wishing you and your family a very Happy and special Holiday Season.. And all the very best for a bright, peaceful, and abundant 2023…
    Much love your way.
    Sue ❤

    • My dear Sue, your feedback is a blessing that shines brightly in my life.

      Your insights into the “pits of despair” we are thrown into and the trust we must cultivate is wisdom we all need to embrace and share. I’m so grateful for your presence in my world. I love to watch classic Christmas movies and listen to the classic carols at this time of year. Have you done a burning bowl ceremony for the New Year? I find it very cathartic. I wish you and yours a delightful holiday season and a new year full of peace, joy and blessings. 😍🥳🥰

      • I write letters to which I burn of all burdens as I let go of the old to bring in the new, I burn sage to cleanse,
        I make positive affirmations of what I wish to manifest.
        And the year will start back in that old leather-bound journal thanks to your reminders .
        Something to share in the future.
        Have a blessed holiday Avigail.
        Much love and gratitude. 🎄✨️☃️✨️❄️

  4. I think this lesson is a great one in learning humility and it is saying to us, if we don’t want to face great trials and tribulations, we should learn the lesson the easy way. But, it also says that if we learn from our mistakes in behavior and change our attitude, we can face adversity and be successful in overcoming the obstacles we encounter, and become much wiser from the experience. That is exactly what happened to me. My life mirrored Joseph’s, in that I was arrogant and haughty as a young man and didn’t listen to my father’s advice. I was humbled when I joined the Marines and became a lowly private, facing all kinds of adversity. As the years went on, I learned from my mistakes in attitude and behavior and was given increasing rank and responsibilities. It is an excellent lesson set before us about attitude and the proper way to treat family and others we encounter!

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