The chain of events leading to the exile from Egypt finds its expression, both at the end of the previous Parsha and the beginning of this week’s Parsha, in a series of incidents that appear to be coincidental.
First, Yosef interprets the dream of the royal cupbearer, and asks that when Pharaoh returns the cupbearer to his post, as Yosef had predicted, he should ask the king to free Yosef. The cup- bearer promises, but promptly forgets his promise. Only two years later, when Pharaoh dreams and no one can interpret the his dream, does the cup-bearer remember the young Hebrew who had interpreted his dream for him in prison. Why was there a gap of two years? And why does the Torah tell us that the cupbearer forgot his promise?
The Torah does not give us any answer about this. We are told, however, in Bereishit Rabbah (89), that Yosef had been given a specific time to spend in the darkness of the prison. But then the question arises as to why two years? Apparently, this period of time fits into the unfolding of the events in a way that is known only to Hashem who planned them. But the Midrash does add another detail: As Yosef said (two words) to the cup-bearer, Zechartani, Remember me, and Vehizkartani, mention me, two years were added to his incarceration. In other words, each extra word on the part of Yosef cost him a year of his freedom.
Tosefet Beracha explains how the figure was calculated. We know that the span of one’s memory is for one year, as the Gemara (Berachot 58) tells us: The dead one is forgotten from the heart only after twelve months. Yosef mentioned the idea of remembering twice, and since the span of every memory is a year, he was sentenced to be forgotten for two years.
The Midrash adds one other element, the meaning of which is discussed by the commentators. “Happy is the man that has made Hashem his trust” (Tehillim 40:5), that refers to Yosef. “And did not turn to the arrogant,”(ibid) because he said to the cupbearer, remember me and mention me he was given two more years of suffering.