Unsolicited Advice? by Ilan Griboff


After Yosef interprets Pharaoh’s dream, he adds, “VeAtah Yeireh Paroh Ish Navon VeChacham…,” “And now, Pharaoh should appoint an understanding and wise man…” (41:33).  Many commentaries question Yosef’s suggestion here.  How could he even consider telling Pharaoh what he should do?

The Ari z”l solves this problem by pointing to a previous Pasuk: “Vayomer Yosef El Paroh, ‘Chalom Paroh Echad Hu: Eit Asher HaElokim Oseh Higid LePharoh,” “Yosef said to Pharaoh, ‘The dream of Pharaoh is one: that which God is doing He has told to Pharaoh’” (41:25).  This Pasuk emphasizes the fact that Hashem revealed certain facts to Pharaoh, an idea that is discussed by the Gemara in Berachot 55a.  Rabi Yochanan states there that Hashem pronounces three things on his own: when there will be famine, when there will be plenty, and when to appoint a leader.  Since Hashem told Pharaoh about famine and plenty, which he does not usually do, Yosef thought it would only be fitting that Pharaoh do the third thing Hashem usually does Himself – decide to appoint a leader.

Rav Yonatan Eibeschutz takes a different approach, addressing the timing of Pharaoh’s dream rather than its content.  The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (10b) states that Yosef was released from prison (in preparation for interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams) on Rosh Hashanah.  The Gemara then states on 16a that each year’s crops are judged on Pesach.  Why then, Rav Eibeschutz wonders, do Ashkenazic Jews say in Rosh Hashanah’s Tefillah of UNtaneh Tokef, “And on this day it will be said about the countries, which will enjoy plentitude and which will suffer famine?”  Shouldn’t this be said on Pesach when the crop is judged?  He concludes that when we say “countries,” we must be referring to everywhere in Chutz LaAretz, where the crops are in fact judged on Rosh Hashanah; the Gemara’s statement about Pesach must have been referring only to Eretz Yisrael.  This explains why the Egyptian advisors could not produce an acceptable interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream: they knew that Pesach, not Rosh Hashanah, would have been the appropriate time for the crop to be judged.  Therefore, they offered explanations of the dream that did not involve judgment of the crops.  Yosef, however, was able to understand the distinction between Eretz Yisrael and Chutz LaAretz, and could therefore give Pharaoh the proper interpretation.  He also realized that since the agricultural situation was indeed communicated to Pharaoh, there was obviously something else that Hashem wanted Pharaoh to do, which was to appoint a leader to be responsible for dealing with the upcoming famine.

According to either interpretation, then, Yosef’s actions were entirely appropriate.  In advising Pharaoh, he merely extrapolated what Hashem wanted Pharaoh to do from the information He had revealed.

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