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  Parashas Vayeishev: Joseph Rises Twice from
Windows to the Soul - Bereishis and Shemos
A psychiatrist finds a wealth of ideas in the weekly parashah

By Rabbi Michael Bernstein M.D. 


Other Available Chapters
Parashas Shemos: Crushing Labor 


Parashas Vayeishev: Joseph Rises Twice

Joseph has two dreams. In the firstr, he dreams about sheaves of wheat, and he tells his brothers (37:7), “And behold, my sheaf arose and it even stood erect, and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

Two things happened with Joseph’s sheaf -- it arose and it stood erect. This seems to allude to two distinct stages, one in which the sheaf arose but was still somewhat wobbly, and the second when the sheaf found its balance and was able to stand erect. What is the significance of these two stages?

A short while later, Joseph has another dream, and he relates this one as well to his brothers (37:9), “Behold, have had another dream, and behold, the sun, the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Unlike the first dream, this time there is no uncertainty, no hesitation, no need to find balance. Why is this so?

The Beis HaLevi comments that the first dream, which related to things of the earth, suggested that Joseph would have some sort of physical dominion over his brothers. The second dream, of heavenly bodies, predicted Joseph’s eventual spiritual elevation and leadership.

This distinction between the first and second dreams may hold the answer to our questions. True to the prediction of the dream, Jacob had designated Joseph to be a leader in his family in the physical realm. But it was a leadership that teetered. His brothers did not want him, and they deposed him. Years later, however, Joseph’s leadership in the physical realm reasserted itself in a very real way when he became viceroy of Egypt.

In the spiritual realm, however, Joseph attained leadership only once -- after the reunion in Egypt. In the beginning, he never became their spiritual leader, although Jacob would have wanted him to be. Since the brothers did not acknowledge his spiritual superiority, Joseph was by definition not a leader. There can be no spiritual leader without followers. The dream mentions only one rising in the spiritual realm.

Alternatively, if we were to contend that Joseph did indeed become the spiritual leader of his brothers while still in Hebron, we can offer another explanation for there being only one rising in the spiritual realm. Shortly after he arrived in Egypt, Joseph was put in charge of the entire estate of an important royal minister (39:5). In that position, he would have had ample opportunity to send a message to his father that he was still alive. Joseph declined; he felt the divine hand directing him toward his destiny. He willingly endured twenty-two years of separation and self-imposed silence in order to fulfill God’s will for his family. Even in exile, Joseph displayed uninterrupted spiritual leadership.

 
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