Mikeitz Genesis 41:1 to 44:17: Joseph successfully interprets dreams several times. He attributes his success to God. But is it the work of God or his skills of successful listening … then acting upon what he heard. —————
“At the end of two years time, Pharaoh had a dream: there he was, standing by the Nile, when seven cows came up out of the Nile, handsome and fat. They grazed among the reeds. And now seven other cows came up after them from the Nile – repulsive and gaunt. They stood beside the [other] cows at the bank of the Nile. The cows were repulsive and gaunt then ate the cows that were handsome and fat and Pharaoh woke up.” (Gen 41:1-4)
Then, Pharaoh tells a second dream of seven healthy ears of corn which swallow seven ears that were thin and scorched by the wind.
“Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I dreamt a dream and their is no one to interpret it, but I have heard this about you; you have but to hear a dream to interpret it.’ Joseph answered Pharaoh by saying, ‘No – it is God who will account for Pharaoh’s well being.” (Gen. 41:15-16)
These are not the only dreams that Joseph had. Last week we read how he correctly explained the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker.
In a commentary for ReformJudaism.org, Rabbi Joan Glazer Faber (Educational writer and consultant – currently coordinator of the Women of Reform Judaism’s Ten Minutes of Torah) noted that the dreams of Joseph tell a lot about how he understands the world around him. When Joseph was young he forced his dreams upon his brothers, specifically dreams where the brother’s sheaths of wheat bowed down to a Joseph’s sheath…. In another dream the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to Joseph. Joseph related the dreams without thinking of their effect upon his brothers.
But now, Joseph has matured. The dreams of the Pharaoh, and the cupbearer and baker, show us that with Joseph’s maturity, he has gained two very important skills.
- Joseph listens to the dreams he is being told with great compassion and understanding.
- Joseph doesn’t take credit for the interpretation of the dreams. He credits God showing that he has become humble in the presence of God.
I would like to focus on Joseph’s skill of listening to what is said… and listening with “compassion and understanding.” The parsha tells us that Pharaoh had related his dreams to others and none could interpret them. Why was Joseph successful? The art of listening may have been a large part of his success.
How often when we are in an argument or discussion with others do we think of an answer or response while the other party is still talking? Do we feel that it is more important to respond then to hear and understand all that is being said? It might seem that our response is more important. Often the response takes the form of ideas we had before the interchange even began.
Thus the interchange becomes – not a solution to a problem – but an exchange of the fixed ideas of two or more people.
But by following the example of Joseph, the “art of listening” may create a different outcome.
The process of listening can be seen as three stages:
- First, understand what the other party is saying. Listen to their comments in total without attempting to form any conclusions. By doing this one hears all that is being said, and does not use a major part of concentration trying to phrase an answer.
- Second, interpret what was said. Attempt to put yourself into the thought process of the other side and gain an understanding of what was said. Then combine it with prior knowledge.
- By combining this understanding with your ideas, your response may be different than if you hadn’t try to understand the other party.
Through this process of listening and understanding others there is a better chance of agreement or solutions. This is what Joseph did as he interpreted the dreams.
Then, as mentioned above, Joseph gave God the credit for the successful dream interpretation. This demonstrates the maturity of Jacob.
Whether God was the power behind the interpretations or not, it is clear that Joseph had practiced the fine art of listening. It’s an art that can prove valuable in any argument or discussion.
All Torah quotations appear in Blue type and are from The Torah – A Modern Commentary; Gunther Plaut, Editor; Revised Edition