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Dear Friends,

This week’s Torah Portion, Miketz, finds Joseph languishing in prison after being falsely accused of attempting to rape Potiphar’s wife. (You may recall that she had attempted to seduce young Joseph who, out of respect for Potiphar’s kindness in taking Joseph into his home and Joseph’s own integrity, rebuffed her advances. Humiliated by the rejection, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of being the aggressor.) Joseph correctly interprets the dreams of his fellow inmates and, when Pharoah is troubled by his own dreams, Joseph’s interpretive powers come to the king’s attention.

Joseph is brought out of the dungeon, given a shave and clean clothes and brought to Pharoah. The king shares his dreams with the young Israelite and Joseph subsequently offers his interpretations.

The “news” isn’t good. Joseph explains that, while it might appear that the king had had two different dreams, they were, in fact, one and the same. Both dreams were a warning that the land would prosper for seven years, but at the conclusion of those seven years, they would endure an equal number of years of famine.

Joseph had just told Pharoah that the land would soon suffer years of devastating hunger but instead of being overwhelmed with fear and anxiety as many people receiving such news might, Pharoah calmly continued to listen to the young boy, who said,

“Let Pharoah find someone who is discerning and wise, whom you can set over the land of Egypt. And let Pharoah take steps to appoint overseers over the land, and organize the land of Egypt in the seven years of plenty (predicted by your dreams). Let all the food of these good years that are coming be gathered, and let the grain be collected under Pharaoh’s authority as food to be stored in the cities. And let that food be a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will come upon the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish in the famine.”

Joseph finished and, according to the Torah, “The plan pleased Pharoah and all his courtiers.” It pleased the king so much, in fact, that Pharoah appointed Joseph to oversee the entire project. In this way, Joseph went from the prison to the palace in a matter of hours.

It might appear from the text of the Torah that Joseph was elevated by Pharoah to this high position because of his ability to interpret the king’s dreams. After all, not only was Joseph able to do something that Pharaoh’s advisors had failed to accomplish, but Joseph’s ability to interpret the dreams and then to ascribe that interpretation to God elevated Joseph in Pharaoh‘s mind even further.

There is another possibility, however. Perhaps Pharaoh elevated Joseph because he did more than simply identify the problem. Yes, Joseph explained the meaning behind Pharoah’s dreams, but he then went on to offer a thoughtful, calm, practical solution to address the problem he identified. Perhaps that was the thing that made Pharaoh realize that Joseph was someone he could and should rely upon.

Identifying problems and challenges is often easy. Many times we know what is wrong with a situation. The hard part is having the clarity of vision once the problem has been identified and coming up with a plan of action. And what often prevents us from moving from identifying the problem to solving it is our own emotions and anxiety. When we become reactive to a situation we lose some degree of perspective. That, in turn, makes it more difficult to see a path forward.

There is reason for heightened emotions and anxiety these days.

The October 7th massacre is still ever present for many of us.

The reports of Israeli soldiers being killed by Hamas terrorists and of the bodies of murdered hostages being recovered make each day a day of communal mourning.

Even for those of us who understand why Israel is pursuing this war against Hamas, the images we see coming out of Gaza on the television and on social media are heartbreaking.

And yes, the rise in antisemitism in our country and around the world is real, and many of our local schools and universities continue to fail our children.

The feelings of vulnerability are understandable. But we will not address any of the challenges facing us by raising our voices, name-calling or making threats. Instead, we can follow the example of Joseph in this week’s Torah portion. He built rapport with Pharaoh. He calmly explained the problem. And then he offered practical steps to address the issues.

It was an excellent model then. And it still is today.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen


Dvar Acher

Chris Cuomo recently viewed the 47-minute video from Hamas GoPro cameras, cellphones and dash cams taken on October 7th. In his opening monologue on his news program last night he shared some of what he saw, as well as some of his takeaways.

As he points out, he sees the Palestinians as additional victims, but shares how the painful (traumatic) images brings home how truly evil the attack was.

His commentary is powerful and pointed.

Due to the graphic nature of what he shares, I was not going to post a direct link to the video. Having just returned from viewing the same video, however, I feel compelled to do so.

Please be warned: Cuomo goes into more graphic detail than I would be comfortable sharing.

Finally, when I was in Israel two weeks after the Hamas massacre I met with the mother and younger brother of Ron Sherman. Ron was serving in the IDF and had chosen to be stationed on the Gaza border to help Gazans employed in Israel cross through the security fence. Ron was taken captive in Gaza and video footage released a few hours later showed him alive. This morning, news came out that while in captivity Ron was murdered by his captors.

My heart goes out to Ron’s family, a beautiful family who was still holding out hope until today.

As Shabbat approaches please take a moment of silence in his honor and memory.