SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, December 2, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Towards the beginning of Parashat Vayeishev, we read of the dreams that Yosef dreamt which foretold his future status of leader and ruler over his brothers.  In the first dream, Yosef and his brothers were gathering sheaves of grain, when suddenly the brothers’ sheaves bowed to his (37:7).
            One commonly overlooked detail of Yosef’s dream is the fact that before the brothers’ sheaves bowed to Yosef’s, his sheaf “rose and then stood in place.”  Rashi explains this to mean that it first stood up straight, and was then firmly planted into place.  Only then did his brothers’ sheaves then turn around to bow to his.
            Clearly, this first stage of Yosef’s vision symbolizes his rise to power in Egypt.  Yosef’s dream prophetically foresaw not merely his brothers’ prostrating themselves before him, but also his rise to the position of vizier in Egypt, after which his brothers bowed to him when they came to purchase grain.
            It has been suggested that the sheaf’s two-step process which Yosef beheld in his dream – its rising, and its then being firmly planted in its position – symbolizes an important aspect of Yosef’s experiences in Egypt.  In his commentary to the beginning of Sefer Shemot (1:5), Rashi says about Yosef, “The same Yosef who shepherded his father’s sheep was the same Yosef who was in Egypt, became a ruler, and remained pious.”  Rashi writes that Yosef was “omeid be-tzidko” – he “stood” in his stature of piety – an expression which perhaps hearkens back to Yosef’s dream of his sheaf, which stood in place (in Rashi’s formulation, “la-amod al amdah”).  Yosef’s dream included the point that he was firmly stationed in place, that despite being violently uprooted from his family and his homeland, and being driven to a foreign land where he went from being a slave to being a prisoner to being second to the king, amid all these upheavals, he remained faithful to his values and principles.  His vision foretold not merely his brothers’ subservience to him, but also his extraordinary consistency, his being “stationed in place,” remaining steadfastly loyal and devoted to his father’s teachings even amid all his travails and after becoming the ruler of a foreign nation.
            Yosef’s dream, then, reminds us that religious commitment is not contingent upon any specific conditions or set of circumstances.  We are to follow the example of Yosef’s sheaf of grain – to not only “rise” and elevate ourselves, but to “stand in place,” to ensure, as much as we can, that we are firmly implanted in our religious lifestyle, so that we retain our commitment and remain true to our Torah values despite whichever upheavals we experience over the course of our lives.