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English Translation


After [Two Years]

Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary (CCAR Press)

Mikeitz41:1] At the end of two years’ time, Pharaoh had a dream: there he was, standing by the Nile, 2] when seven cows came up out of the Nile, handsome and fat. They grazed among the reeds. 3] 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. 4] The cows that were repulsive and gaunt then ate the cows that were handsome and fat, and Pharaoh woke up.

5] He fell asleep and dreamt a second time: this time, seven ears of grain were growing on a single stalk; they were healthy and good; 6] and then seven ears of grain—thin, scorched by the east wind—grew after them! 7] The seven ears of grain that were thin and scorched by the east wind then swallowed the seven ears of grain that were healthy and full, and Pharaoh woke up; behold—it was a dream!

8] In the morning his spirit was troubled; he put out a call for all the soothsayer-priests and sages of Egypt; Pharaoh related his dream to them, but no one could interpret them for Pharaoh.

9] The chief cupbearer then spoke to Pharaoh, saying, “This day I [must] acknowledge my sins! 10] Pharaoh had grown angry at his servants, so he put me under guard in the house of the Captain of the Guard—me and the chief baker. 11] We dreamt a dream on a single night, he and I, each dream of ours with its own meaning. 12] Now, there with us was a Hebrew lad, a slave of the Captain of the Guard; when we related our dreams to him, he interpreted for us, interpreting each one’s dream according to its own meaning.13] And as he interpreted for us, so it came to be—[Pharaoh] restored me to my position, and him [Pharaoh] hanged.” 14] So Pharaoh sent to summon Joseph; they hurried him from the pit: he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh.

15] Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I dreamt a dream and there is no one to interpret it; but I have heard this about you: you have but to hear a dream to interpret it.” 16] Joseph answered Pharaoh by saying, “Not I—it is God who will account for Pharaoh’s well-being.”

17] Pharaoh then spoke to Joseph, “In my dream I stood on the bank of the Nile, 18] and lo—seven cows went up out of the river; fat and handsome, they grazed among the reeds. 19] And lo—seven other cows—poor, truly repulsive, emaciated—came up after them. Never have I seen any so repulsive in all the land of Egypt! 20] The emaciated and repulsive cows then ate up the first cows, the fat ones. 21] Once they had digested them, one could not tell that they had digested them; they were as repulsive as before—whereupon I awoke. 22] Then in my [other] dream I saw that seven ears of grain were growing on one stalk, full and good. 23] Then sprouting after them were seven ears of grain—dried up, thin, scorched by the east wind! 24] The seven thin ears of grain swallowed up the seven goodly ears. But when I told the soothsayer-priests, none could explain [it] to me.”

25] Joseph then said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dream is one: what God is doing, [God] has revealed to Pharaoh. 26] The seven goodly cows are seven years, and the seven goodly ears of grain are seven years: it is all one dream. 27] The seven cows coming up after them that were emaciated and repulsive are seven years; and the seven ears of grain [that were] thin and scorched by an east wind—they are seven years of famine. 28] This is the very thing I told Pharaoh: what God is doing, [God] has shown to Pharaoh. 29] Look—seven years are coming, [of] great plenty in all the land of Egypt. 30] But seven years of famine are coming up after them, and all the plenty in the land of Egypt will be forgotten; the famine will consume the land. 31] The plenty will no longer be known in the land, because of the famine that will follow, so harsh will it be. 32] Pharaoh’s dream was repeated—two times—because the matter has been fixed by God, and God is making haste to accomplish it.

33] “Let Pharaoh now select a man who is discerning and wise and set him over the land of Egypt; 34] let Pharaoh act and appoint administrators over the land, and let him take one-fifth of [the produce of] the land of Egypt during the seven years of plenty. 35] Have them gather up all the [surplus] food of these good years that are coming, and let them store up grain in the cities under Pharaoh’s control, and put it under guard. 36] The food will then be a reserve for the land during the seven years of famine that will prevail in the land of Egypt; thus the land will not perish through famine.” 37] This advice seemed good to Pharaoh and his officials, 38] and Pharaoh said to his officials, “Is there anyone like this to be found, a man with the spirit of God in him?”

39] Pharaoh then said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one as discerning and wise as you! 40] You shall be in charge of my household, and all my people shall obey your word; only I, The Throne, shall be greater than you.”

41] And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Observe, I have placed you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” 42] Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; he dressed him in linen trappings and placed the gold chain [of office] around his neck. 43] He gave him his viceroy’s chariot to ride; they cried out “Royal Steward!” before him; he placed him in charge of all the land of Egypt.

44] Pharaoh now said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without you none shall lift hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45] Pharaoh called Joseph Zaphenath-paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera priest of On as a wife; thus Joseph came to be in charge of the land of Egypt. 46] When Joseph began to serve Pharaoh, king of Egypt, he was 30 years old; Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence and traversed the whole land of Egypt.

47] In the seven years of plenty the land produced to overflowing.48] He gathered all the [surplus] food there was in the land of Egypt from the seven years. He placed food in the cities; the food that came from a city’s surrounding fields he placed in its midst. 49] Thus Joseph heaped up grain as plentiful as the sands of the sea, until he left off measuring—for it was beyond measure.

50] Two sons were born to Joseph before the years of famine arrived, born to him by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51] Joseph named the first-born son Manasseh, “For God has made me forget all the troubles I endured in my father’s house.” 52] And he named the second one Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

53] The seven years of plenty that prevailed in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54] and the seven years of famine began, as Joseph had foretold. There was famine in all the lands, but all over the land of Egypt there was food; 55] yet all the land of Egypt was starving, so that the people cried out to Pharaoh for food. Pharaoh said to all Egypt, “Go to Joseph; do whatever he tells you.” 56] The famine had spread across the land, so Joseph opened up all that was in [the stores] and he provided for Egypt, for the famine had gained strength in the land of Egypt. 57] And all lands came to Egypt to buy provisions from Joseph, for the famine had taken hold in every land.

42:1] When Jacob realized that there was grain for sale in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at each other?” 2] He said, “Look—I have heard that there are provisions for sale in Egypt; go down that way and buy us provisions from there, that we may live and not die.” 3] So Joseph’s brothers went down—ten of them—to buy grain from Egypt. 4] But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s [full] brother, with his brothers, for he thought: “Lest a deadly mishap befall him.”

5] Israel’s sons came to buy provisions in the midst of those who came, for the famine prevailed over the [whole] land of Canaan. 6] Now Joseph was the one who held sway over the land; he was the one selling provisions to all the people of the land; Joseph’s brothers therefore came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7] When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them; he said to them, “Where have you come from?” They said, “From the land of Canaan to buy food.” 8] Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9] Joseph then remembered the dreams he had dreamt about them, and he said to them, “You are spies who have come to see the land’s nakedness!” 10] “No, my lord,” they said to him. “Your servants have come to buy food; 11] we are all of us sons of the same man; we are honest; your servants have never been spies.” 12] He said to them, “No, indeed: it is the land’s nakedness that you have come to see!” 13] They then said, “Your servants are twelve brothers, sons of a man in the land of Canaan; the youngest is with our father right now, and one is no more.” 14] But Joseph said to them, “It is as I have said to you—you are spies! 15] This is how you shall be put to the test: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not get out of this unless your youngest brother comes here! 16] Send forth one of you and let him fetch your brother while [the rest of] you are confined; thus your words will be put to the test [to see] whether you are being truthful; if not, as Pharaoh lives, you are indeed spies!” 17] And he placed them under guard for three days.

18] On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this, and live—I am a god-fearing man! 19] If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your place of custody, while [the rest of] you go bring provisions [to relieve the] starvation of your families; 20] then bring your youngest brother to me, and let your words be proven trustworthy, so that you do not die.” They went to do this. 21] The brothers said to one another, “Oh, we are being punished on account of our brother! We saw his soul’s distress when he pleaded with us, but we didn’t listen—on that account this distress has come upon us.” 22] Reuben now responded to them, saying, “Didn’t I say to you, ‘Do not sin against the lad’! But you wouldn’t listen, and so his blood-payment, see—it has come due.”

23] They did not know that Joseph understood, for the interpreter had been between them. 24] He left them and wept; then he came back to them, spoke to them, took Simeon from them, and bound him before their eyes. 25] Joseph gave the command: they were to fill their bags with grain and [his men were] to return each one’s silver to his sack and give them provisions for the road; thus he did to them. 26] They loaded their provisions on their asses and went away.

27] When, at the night-lodging, one of them opened his sack to give fodder to his ass, he saw his silver—it was in the mouth of his bag! 28] When he said to his brothers, “My silver has been returned; look—it’s in my bag!” their hearts gave out, and trembling they turned to each other and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”

29] They then came to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan and told him all that had befallen them, saying, 30] “The man who is lord of the land spoke roughly to us; he treated us as though we were spying out the land. 31] We said to him, ‘We are honest men, we have never been spies; 32] we are twelve brothers, sons of the same father; one is no more and the youngest is with our father right now, in the land of Canaan.’ 33] That man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘This is how I will know that you are honest—leave one of your brothers with me; take [relief for the] starvation of your families, and go 34] and bring your youngest brother to me. Then I will indeed know that you are not spies, that you are honest; I will give you back your brother and you can pass through the land.’”

35] When they emptied their sacks, each one’s money-bag was in his sack; and when they caught sight of their money-bags, they and their father, they were struck with fear. 36] Their father Jacob said to them, “You have left me bereft—Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin from me—all these things have come down on me!” 37] Reuben then said to his father, “Put my two sons to death if I do not bring him back to you; give him into my hands, and I will return him to you.” 38] But [Jacob] said, “My son shall not go down with you—his brother is dead and he alone remains; if a disaster should befall him on the way that you will be going, you would cause my gray head to go down in anguish to Sheol.”

43:1] The famine bore heavily on the land, 2] and when they had consumed the provisions they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a bit of food!” 3] But Judah said to him, “The man adjured us most definitely, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4] If you’re willing to let our brother go with us, we’ll go down and buy food for you, 5] but if you are not willing to let [him] go, we will not go down; the man said to us: ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’”

6] Israel then said, “Why did you do me this wrong, answering the man[’s question], ‘Have you yet another brother’?” 7] They answered, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have a brother?’ So we answered as required by these questions. How on earth could we have known that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?”

8] Judah then said to his father Israel, “Let the lad go with me and let us get up and be on our way, that we may live and not die—we ourselves, and you, and our little ones, as well. 9] I will be responsible for him: from my hand you may demand him; and if I do not bring him back to you and plant him in front of you, I shall stand condemned before you for all time. 10] If we hadn’t dallied, we could have returned twice by now!” 11] Their father Israel then said to them, “If that’s the way it must be, do this: take from among the land’s choice products in your bags, and bring the man an offering—a bit of balm, a bit of honey, some laudanum, mastic, pistachios, and almonds. 12] And take double the silver with you, and hand over the silver that was returned in your bags—it may have been a mistake. 13] [Yes,] take your brother, get going, and go back to the man! 14] May El Shaddai give you mercy before that man, so that he lets you and your other brother and Benjamin go! And as for me—if I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”

15] The men then took this offering, and taking in hand the double portion of silver, along with Benjamin, they got going and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph. 16] When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the one in charge of his household, “Bring the men into the house and slaughter an animal and prepare [it], for [these] men are going to eat with me at noon.” 17] The man did as Joseph said; the man brought the men into Joseph’s house. 18] The men were frightened when they were brought into Joseph’s house; they thought: “It is on account of the silver that came back in our bags the first time that we’re being brought [here]—in order to fall upon us, to pounce on us, to take us as slaves, along with our asses.” 19] They therefore approached the man in charge of Joseph’s household and spoke to him at the entrance of the house, 20] saying, “By your leave, my lord, the last time we came down to buy food, 21] when we got to the night lodging and opened our bags, each one’s silver was in the mouth of his bag—the exact amount that had been weighed out, and we have brought it back with us. 22] And we have brought other money to buy food—we don’t know who put our silver in our bags.” 23] He replied, “You’re all right; have no fear. Your god and your father’s god has given you a hidden treasure in your bags—your money reached me!” And he brought Simeon out to them.

24] The man then ushered the men into Joseph’s house; he supplied water and they washed their feet, and he gave fodder to their asses. 25] They laid out the offering for the arrival of Joseph at noon, for they had heard that they would eat food there. 26] When Joseph entered the house they presented to him the offering they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. 27] He asked them how they were, and said, “How is your aged father of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28] They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they knelt and bowed down.

29] He looked up and saw his [full] brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and he said, “Is this your youngest brother you told me about?” And he added, “God be gracious to you, my son!” 30] Joseph hurried [out], for he was so deeply stirred with tender warmth toward his brother that he wanted to weep; he went into an [inner] chamber and there he wept. 31] He washed his face, and when he came out, he held himself in check and said, “Serve food!” 32] They served him separately and them separately and the Egyptians who usually ate with him separately, for the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, since it was an abomination to the Egyptians.

33] As they were seated before him, the first-born according to his seniority and the youngest according to his youth, the men looked at each other in amazement. 34] He presented portions [of food] to them from what was in front of him—Benjamin’s portion exceeded all of theirs fivefold—and they drank and grew drunk with him. 44:1] [Afterward,] he commanded the one in charge of his household, saying, “Fill the men’s bags with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his bag. 2] And put my goblet—the silver goblet—in the mouth of the youngest one’s bag along with the silver for his grain.” He did just as Joseph instructed.

3] At morning light, the men were sent off—they and their asses. 4] They had left the city [but] had not gone far, when Joseph said to the one in charge of his household, “Get going, pursue the men; when you overtake them, say to them: ‘Why did you repay good with evil? 5] This is what my master drinks from and with which he constantly practices divination! Have you not caused harm by what you have done?’”

6] He overtook them and spoke all these words to them, 7] and they said to him, “Why is my lord speaking such words? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing! 8] Look—we brought you back the silver that we found in the mouth of our bags [all the way] from the land of Canaan; why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? 9] Let anyone caught with it among your servants die, and we for our part will become my lord’s slaves.” 10] He replied, “Yes, right away, just as you say, so shall it be—but while he who is caught with it shall be my slave, the rest of you shall be cleared.” 11] They hastened to lower their bags to the ground, and each opened his bag. 12] He began searching with the eldest and ended with the youngest, until he found the goblet in Benjamin’s bag. 13] They tore their mantles; each then reloaded his ass and they went back to the city.

14] Judah and his brothers entered Joseph’s house; he was still there. They fell to the ground before him. 15] Joseph said to them, “What is this deed that you have done? Did you not know that a man like me constantly practices divination?” 16] Judah replied, “What can we say to my lord? How speak and how justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord’s slaves—both we and the one who was caught with the goblet in his possession!”

17] But he said, “Far be it from me to do this! The man in whose possession the goblet was found, he shall be my slave, and the rest of you—go up in peace to your father.”

Translation copyright (c) 2016 by CCAR Press. All rights reserved. No part of this translation may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or be transmitted without express written permission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. For permission, please contact CCAR Press.

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