Mikketz: How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying?)

Judeo-Persian illuminated manuscript on a rectangular sheet. Drawing depicting Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and Judeo-Persian inscription (written in Farsi using Hebrew characters) within an black and red double frame.
Accession no. 85.46.2 (Gift of Chimon Mayeri and Family).
View Magnes Collections Online database record

Welcome to parashah Mikketz, which is always read on the Shabbat of Hanukkah, and continues the story of Joseph.

When we last left our hero, Joseph, he was languishing in prison, having been put there for allegedly sleeping with his boss’ wife. After successfully interpreting the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s courtiers, he is called upon to interpret two very disturbing dreams that Pharaoh himself has dreamt.

Joseph is taken out of prison, given a haircut and new suit, and with the knowledge that God has given him the gift of dream interpretation/prophecy, brought to Pharaoh’s palace. Joseph tells Pharaoh that seven years of plenty–symbolized by the seven fat cows and ears or corn–will be followed by seven years of famine–hence the skinny cows and corn that eat the fat ones.

What’s significant here is that Joseph not only correctly interprets the dreams, he presents a Pharaoh with a well-thought-out plan to get through the famine. It comes with the (perhaps) unintended consequences of plunging the Israelites (and the Egyptians) into indentured servitude for the next few centuries, but it does keep the people from starving.

Eventually, the famine reaches the land of Canaan, where Joseph’s father and brothers still live. They presumably have some grain left; they’re not starving yet, but it’s getting lean. The text says, va-yar Yaakov ki yesh shever b’mitzrayim, vayomer Yaakov l’vanav, “lama titra-u?” “Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and he said to his sons, ‘Why are you looking at each other?’”

What comes to my mind is a Keystone Cops scenario where the brothers spring into action and fall over each other in an effort to get organized. And Jacob standing there, head in hands, saying, “Oy.” But the brothers, except for the youngest, Benjamin, go to Egypt to buy grain.

Once they arrive, Joseph recognizes them, and “toys” with them, which isn’t behavior I can condone. But what’s important is how this ancient story has meaning for us and our lives today, and in our jobs and businesses, there’s a catch phrase that “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Joseph becomes second in command to Pharaoh because he has a concrete solution to the upcoming famine problem, one that can easily be implemented. Although he behaves poorly towards his brothers–even if one might argue he’s justified–he ultimately realizes that with great power comes great responsibility, and he settles his family in a land where they can thrive.

There are plenty of problems in today’s world, just turn on the news or check your Facebook feed. Take action to help create a better world; any action, any plan, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is a step forward.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Sermons

Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun
Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun

Yom Kippur 5783 Like many of the quotes and poems that make their way into use, a poem attributed to an anonymous person in a concentration camp, or in hiding, became somewhat of an urban legend, and has often been taken out of context, as well as not accurately...


Kol Nidre, 5783 On Rosh Hashanah, we began our prayers in the hopes of moving God, the Holy Blessed One, from kisei din, the throne or seat of judgment, to kisei rachamim, the throne or seat of compassion. Ten days later, here we are at the eve of Yom Kippur,...

Shema: Listening, Hearing and the Shofar

Rosh Hashanah 5783, Day 2 The word, “Shema.” What do you think of when you hear it? Usually, we think of “The Shema” as the verses we chant or sing from the book of Devarim, Deuteronomy, and in that context, it’s a bold theological statement. It is an idea which goes...

Latest Midrash HaZak

Kedoshim: Coming of Age in Holiness
Kedoshim: Coming of Age in Holiness

Photo and art by Rabbi Susan Elkodsi Kedoshim: Coming of Age in Holiness Rabbi Dr. Jill Hackell As I move through my 70s I find myself increasingly aware of my “senior” status in our society. Suddenly, by virtue of my age I am in a category that labels me vulnerable–I...

Parasha Vayakhel: A Mirror of the Holy Whole
Parasha Vayakhel: A Mirror of the Holy Whole

                                  Parasha Vayakhel: A Mirror of the Holy Whole Cherie Karo Schwartz  My Mom, Dotty Karo of blessed memory, was an ultimate crafter. She had a room stuffed with kaleidoscope-colored treasures she’d collected or had been gifted by...

Ki Tavo: Entering the Land and a New Age

Ki Tavo: Entering the Land and a New Age Charles Goldman This midrash speaks to me. Just as the people of Israel were about to embark on the next mega steps of their lives in the Holy Land, and Moses was intoning to them that they have “a heart to know, eyes to see,...

Latest Personal Blogs

Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem
Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem

This past week, I participated in a Ritualwell class with Alden Solovy on "Writing From One Word of Torah." I distilled 3 stream-of-consciousness prompts on the word "Baruch/Berekh," the root of which can mean "blessing' and "knee, into this poem. Blessing my bended...

The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives
The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives An email from My Jewish Learning about “A Woman of Valor” prompted me to pivot the next evening’s planned adult learning session to looking at these 22 verses from Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs. These verses...

Live Long and Prosper?
Live Long and Prosper?

By Oklahoma Heritage Association, Gaylord-Pickens Museum - Author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25656727 Live Long and Prosper? January 5, 2022 began the third year of the seven and a half-year cycle of Daf Yomi, the practice of...

Pin It on Pinterest