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The Dreams of Kings

The phrase, "At the end," is the opening of Parashat MiKetz (41:1-44:17). These words have a profoundly prophetic connection to Joseph and the future redemption. The narrative in this portion of the Torah tells how Joseph becomes leader of the Egyptian empire. He initially wins release from prison when the king, aka the pharaoh, is told that the young Hebrew prisoner can interpret dreams. Joseph understood from the principle that HaShem places every ruler in power, that the dreams of a king have implications for the nation under their rule. Joseph may have understood this since his own dreams seemed to foretell he would one day be treated like royalty when his father, mother and his brothers would bow to him. But that dream was only partially accurate because his mother, Rachel, passed away before he went to Egypt. From this, the Sages draw a another principal that a dream is only one-sixtieh prophecy, thus a dream is partially prophetic.


In the Hebrew of the Torah, the word “pharaoh” is closely related to the word parah which means cow. The Torah is alluding to an ancient Egyptian practice of the king being personified as great bull. That allusion is seen in Genesis, Chapter 41, when the pharaoh dreams of seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Those years are symbolized by seven cattle coming from the depths of the Nile. The dream is a nod to the ancient Egyptian cosmology in which the Nile and a specific cow are considered holy and also associated with the pharaoh himself.


A linguist might take exception to linking the Hebrew parah with “pharaoh.” They would rightfully explain that the Hebrew word for bull or ox is shor. The affinity between the ancient Egyptian and Hebrew languages allows for this association. The general term for the animal whether male or female is still a par or cow.

Joseph was not cowed by pharapoh and boldly outlines a detailed plan to save Egypt.


Recognizing Joseph’s wisdom, the pharaoh promotes him to Viceroy, second only to the King. Thus, Joseph gains the mantle of power at the age of thirty and soon distinguishes himself as an intelligent and skilled administrator by developing a national effort to store enough produce for the expected disaster. Joseph’s wisdom is demonstrated again when he directs that the grains be stored on a layer of soil taken from the locale where each crop was produced so the grain would not spoil.


When the seven-year famine arrived, its influence was experienced well beyond the borders of Egypt. Because the ravages of the famine were so severe, most Egyptian landowners sold their property to the crown. Joseph developed an ancient feudal system allowing the former landowners to stay on their property. As the nations came to Egypt for its abundant grains and bountiful produce, the country’s economy was greatly enriched.


After two years of distress, the need for food brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy grain. Though unrecognized by his brothers, Joseph witnesses the fulfillment of his dream of their bowing before him. They do so because the brothers do not recognize the younger sibling they once tossed into a well. Even so, Joseph initiates what will be a vital reconciliation with them. In one sense, Joseph is now at the end of an old way of life as a prisoner at the bottom of society who, literally over night, ascends to the halls of power. This shift will also impact Jacob and his family who will flourish and prosper thanks to Joseph's influence as the leader of a nation. Joseph is symbolic of Moshiach who, “at the End” will handed the keys to power because he will be recognized—like Joseph— as a great Jewish administrator, capable of leading his nation with God-given wisdom, just as Moshiach will usher in an era that sees Israel become the head of the nations, then a joyous Jewish People will return to their land in masses and they "...shall be like dreamers. - Psalms 126:1

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