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Vol. 22 No. 10
Mordechai ben Yitzchak z"l
by his son
Interpreting Paroh's Dream
(Adapted from the Ramban)
The following is the Ramban's explanation of Yosef's interpretation of Par'oh's dream:
"And behold from the River there came up seven cows, good-looking and of healthy flesh" (41:1).
he slept and dreamt a second time, and behold seven ears of corn, came up on one stalk
" (Pasuk 5).
Par'oh dreamt about cows and ears of corn emerging from the Nile, says the Ramban, since the Egyptians' water-supply was the Nile. Consequently, whether each year would be one of plenty or of famine was determined by the Nile. And he dreamt about cows and ears of corn, since they constitute plowing and reaping respectively.
Hence, when the Nile produced weak cows and thin ears, it was to inform Par'oh that there would be little plowing done during the years of famine and the fact that the stalks were
"beaten by the east-wind" (Pasuk 6) was a sign that even the corn that did manage to grow in areas that remained moist would be smitten by the east-wind and shriveled up.
and they (the healthy-looking cows) grazed in the marshland." (together - see Unklus [Pasuk 2]).
After the thin cows swallowed them, Par'oh did not see where they went, suggesting that they spread out across the land. This led Yosef to inform Par'oh (See Pasuk 48 & 30) that, whereas the famine affected other countries too, the bountiful years were confined to Egypt and to Egypt alone - thereby enabling Egypt to control the sale of crops to all the surrounding countries when the famine struck.
they (the poor-looking cows) stood beside the (healthy-looking) cows on the river-bank" (Pasuk3).
This was an indication that the seven years of famine would follow the seven years of plenty without a break in between.
cows swallowed the healthy-looking cows" (Pasuk 4).
From here Yosef learned that the good years would serve to supplement the years of famine - prompting him to set up a storage system during that period. It was not a piece of advice on Yosef's part, as Rashi explains, since the king had not asked his advice on the matter and it would have been extremely presumptuous on his part to have offered it.
it was not known that they (the healthy-looking cows) came into their midst and their appearance was bad (Pasuk 21)". He made the statement "and the entire era of plenty will be forgotten" (Pasuk 30), indicating that the food that was stored would suffice only to cover their basic needs during the famine, but no more. The fact that the thin cows became no fatter indicated that even after they ate the produce of the good years, they would not become satiated - but would merely survive, just as the thin cows did not die after swallowing the fat ones.
Here too, the Ramban disagrees with Rashi, who explains the phrase in Pasuk 30, as the interpretation of the thin cows swallowing the fat ones.
"And behold, seven thin ears
grew after them" (Pasuk 6).
This does not mean that Par'oh actually saw them growing, but that they sprouted up immediately after the healthy-looking ears - a hint that the seven bad years would begin immediately after the seven good ones (as he explained regarding the two sets of cows in Pasuk 3).
"And now, let Par'oh seek out a discerning and wise man
In spite of what the Ramban said earlier in Pasuk 4, this is what he writes in his commentary on this Pasuk: 'He (Yosef) told him (Par'oh) that he would require a discerning and wise man who would take charge over the whole of Egypt, and that he should appoint other officers under his jurisdiction, who would travel the land and gather all the food, as the appointee would not possibly be able to cover the entire country on his own. And he told him that the man would have to be 'discerning and wise'; 'discerning' - in order to organize the food according to the number of children in each Egyptian family, that every family should receive enough to live, and to sell the surplus to foreigners, in order to fill Par'oh's coffers with the proceeds; 'Wise' - to know how to preserve the corn that it should not go bad by the time the years of famine arrived.
And finally, the Ramban, quoting the Pasuk in Koheles, 2:14) "The eyes of a wise man are in his head", points out that Yosef added this in order that Par'oh should appoint him to take charge of the operation - even though there was nothing in the dream to suggest it.
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(Adapted from the Ramban)
Defining a Ye'or
"And behold, he (Paroh) was standing on the ye'or" (41:1). Rashi maintains that other rivers are not called 'ye'orim (but naharos). Only the Nile is called 'ye'or' (which he translates as a canal), he explains, because it fed all the minor canals that watered the fields throughout Egypt.
The Ramban however, citing a Pasuk in Daniel (10:4 & 5) which refers to the River Chidekel as 'Ye'or' concurs with Unklus, who translates"Ye'or" as 'a river'. In his opinion, 'Ye'or' is synonymous with 'Nahar'.And he suggests that this is because the root of 'ye'or' is 'or' (light) and the flow of rivers is governed by the sun (which is the source of light).
The Ramban might have added that 'Nahar' too, is clearly linked to 'Hehora', which is the Arama'ic word for 'light'.
The Other Brother
and he will send you your other brother and Binyamin" (43:14).
The Ramban explains simply that "your other brother" referred to Shimon, with whom Ya'akov was still angry for killing the town of Sh'chem, and whom he therefore declined to mention by name.
After citing Rashi, who explains that "your brother" refers to Shimon (whom Yosef had incarcerated as a guarantee that they would bring Binyamin, as promised), and "other", to Yosef, whom Ya'akov saw with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh, was destined to be returned, he cites the Medrash, who explains the exact opposite - that "your brother" refers to Yosef and "other" to Shimon.
In an alternative explanation also cited by the Ramban, the Medrash explains the Pasuk by way of hinting to the two exiles, Bavel and Edom. Quoting Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi, he says: ' "And G-d Almighty will grant you mercy before the man" - This is Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu, who is called "a man of war" (in the Shirah).
"And He will send you your brother" - with reference to the Ten Tribes.
other brother and Binyamin" - with reference to Yehudah and Binyamin.
"And as for me, just as I have been bereaved" - at the time of the first exile
"So too, will I be bereaved" - at the time of the second exile' - there will not be a third!
Ya'akov prophesied far into the future and Davened for salvation with regard to his current situation and with regard to the events on which he was prophesying.
With the Brothers' Knowledge
"Then he instructed the manager of his house (Menasheh) saying 'Fill the men's sacks with as much food as they can carry and place each man's money in his sack
' " (44:1).
In his first explanation, the Ramban presumes that all this was done with the brothers' knowledge with the exception of course, of Yosef's royal goblet, mentioned in the next Pasuk.
Menasheh informed them, in his father's name, that he (Yosef) had been too harsh with them and that he was now making amends for that. Had they again found their money in their sacks, he argues, it would have aroused their suspicions and would have underscored Yosef's accusation that they were thieves.
He does however, concede, that the contents of their sacks may well have been concealed from them, as the simple explanation of the Pasuk suggests. In that case, Yosef, or Menasheh, would have once again ascribed the money in their in their sacks to a Heaven-sent treasure - something that could hardly be said about Yosef's goblet.
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