Faith in Hashem Brings Abundant Blessing and Success

The Gemara tells us that when Pharaoh decided to make Joseph the ruler of Egypt after he had successfully interpreted his dreams, the Egyptian astrologers wanted to test Joseph and see if he knew the 70 languages. The angel Gabriel then came and taught them to Joseph, and thus he was able to converse with Pharaoh in any language that he spoke. On the other hand, when Joseph spoke to Pharaoh in the holy tongue, he could not answer because he did not understand it. Pharaoh then made Joseph swear not to reveal the fact that he knew the holy tongue while Pharaoh did not (Sotah 36b).

This implies that in Egypt, the custom was to appoint the wisest man among the people as a ruler, one who knew the 70 languages. Otherwise, we would be unable to understand why Pharaoh was afraid that people would find out that Joseph knew one language more than him, since he was the king and ruler of Egypt. Pharaoh knew that if the Egyptians learned that Joseph was wiser than him, they would have removed him from the throne and placed Joseph there instead. Pharaoh therefore made him swear not to reveal this secret, so that he could remain on the throne and not be stripped of power. This needs to be clarified. Pharaoh was incredibly deceitful and completely estranged from the truth. That being the case, how could he believe that Joseph, who had recently come from prison, would keep his promise and not reveal his secret? When he would bestow Joseph with greatness by making him his viceroy, a love for honor would certainly grow in him. He would eventually want to reign in Pharaoh’s stead, thus paving the way to reveal the secret to people and become king in his place. To understand this, let us examine what Pharaoh went through during that day. He had strange dreams about cows and ears of wheat, dreams that he did not understand. He awoke that morning completely bewildered, and he called upon the wise men and magicians in Egypt to interpret his dreams. Although this demonstrated his weakness to the people (insofar as his request for help was an admission that he needed the assistance of his wise men), his disturbed frame of mind did let him consider the consequences. All he wanted was to understand what his dreams meant. The wise men and magicians, however, were unable to satisfactorily interpret his dreams.

Joseph was then called up from prison, for he was experienced in interpreting dreams. Pharaoh said to him, “I have dreamed a dream, and there is no one interpret of it. Now I heard it said of you that you understand a dream to interpret it” (Genesis 41:15). In other words: You are therefore wiser than I am, and you should be seated on the throne instead of me, but this doesn’t bother me, for I prefer to liberate the throne just as long I learn the meaning of my dreams. Joseph answered Pharaoh with self-effacement and humility: “Not in me. G-d will answer” (v.16). That is: Even once I have given you the interpretation of your dreams, and once everyone sees that I am wiser than you, I will still have no desire to take the throne and reign over Egypt. This is because I am nothing, and all my wisdom comes from G-d. The world has a Creator, and He made us both. Only He exists and we are simply His creations. Even if I interpret your dreams, that does not make me wiser than you because everything comes from G-d, and therefore I have nothing for which to be proud. Thus Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams with complete submission and humility before the Holy One, blessed be He. In order for the Egyptians not to revolt against Pharaoh and place Joseph on the throne, Joseph took the initiative by stating: “G-d shall answer the welfare of Pharaoh” (v.16) and “What G-d is about to do, He has told Pharaoh” (v.25). In other words, Joseph wanted Pharaoh to remain on his throne and continue ruling over Egypt, for Joseph did not want to reign in his place after having interpreted his dreams. This is because it was not Hashem’s will that he should be king, but that Pharaoh should continue in that role.

At that point Pharaoh was amazed at Joseph’s wisdom and intelligence on the one hand, and by his humility on the other. Joseph could have easily ascended to the throne, yet he refrained from doing so simply because it was not Hashem’s will. Pharaoh immediately decided that Joseph should govern Egypt under his supervision according to Hashem’s will, and the wise men of Egypt also understood that Joseph was the best-suited man for the task. Hence they decided to appoint him as such. However since it was impossible to appoint a person to govern Egypt unless he was familiar with the 70 languages, they had to test him to see if he actually knew them. A miracle then occurred, for the angel Gabriel came and instantly taught them to Joseph.

Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find another like him, a man in whom is the spirit of G-d?” (Genesis 41:38). In other words: Despite his wisdom and intelligence, the humility that this man demonstrates, and his distaste for flattery, makes the spirit of G-d dwell in him. Far from considering himself a god, he is self-effacing before G-d and believes that everything comes from Him. He believes solely in Him and submits to Him. In fact by saying these things, Pharaoh was publicly recognizing that the world has a Creator, that everything comes from Him, and that He created everything and rules the entire world. However the wicked, even when they believe in Hashem (that is, when reality leaves them no choice but to believe), they do so only because of personal interest. Hence after the death of Joseph, Pharaoh pretended not to know or acknowledge the Creator, and he began to reduce the Children of Israel to slavery. However Jews do not act in this way, for they believe in the Creator of the world and know that everything comes from Him. It is precisely by believing in the Creator of the world that they merit abundant blessing and success, as we see with Joseph when he achieved royalty following the demonstration of his faith.


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