Yesterday, we discussed the first of the two dreams which Yosef dreamt during his youth, foretelling his future leadership over his brothers (Bereishit 37:7). In this first dream, Yosef saw a vision of all the brothers binding sheaves in a field, when suddenly his brothers’ sheaves all bowed to his. We noted an oft-overlooked detail of that dream, namely, that Yosef’s sheaf first rose and stood in place before the other sheaves prostrated before it.
Another detail of this dream which should catch our attention is the fact that the other brothers’ sheaves are said to have “gathered around” (“tesubena”) before bowing to Yosef’s sheaf. Yosef told his brothers, “…and behold, your sheaves gathered round and bowed to my sheaf.” The sheaves did not bow in their original places, but rather approached Yosef’s sheaf and then bowed.
Netziv understands this aspect of the dream as foretelling the efforts which the brothers would make to find favor in Yosef’s eyes. When they came to Egypt to purchase grain, they did not just bow out of respect, but actively tried to earn his favor, as symbolized by the sheaves leaving their places and going to Yosef’s sheaf. (This theory is advanced by Malbim, as well.)
Netziv makes reference to his comments later, in Parashat Miketz (43:26), where he writes that this aspect of Yosef’s prophetic vision was fulfilled the second time his brothers came to Egypt. As the Torah there relates, when the brothers returned to Egypt with Binyamin, as Yosef had requested, they were brought to Yosef’s home, where they would later be hosted for a meal with the vizier. They had brought with them a gift from Canaan in order to earn Yosef’s favor, afraid that they might be accused of theft because the money with which they had purchased grain the first time had been mysteriously returned to their luggage. The Torah tells that when Yosef came to his home, the brothers presented him with the gift, and Netziv understands the Torah’s formulation as indicating that each brother frantically rushed over to Yosef to personally take part in the presentation. This frenzied, desperate attempt to earn Yosef’s favor, Netziv explains, fulfilled the vision of the sheaves gathering around Yosef’s bundle of grain in the field, which symbolized the brothers’ efforts to show him respect and honor so he would treat them well.
We might add that this aspect of the dream perhaps contributed to the brothers’ angry reaction to Yosef’s vision. They not only resented his aspirations to rule over them, but were also repulsed by the notion that they would one day need to desperately seek the favor of the brother whom they despised.