By Avner Friedmann
The Talmud tells us that the outcome of dreams follows the mouth of the interpreter. In this week’s portion Yosef interprets Pharaoh’s dreams that there will be seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. Yosef’s interpretation proved to be correct. There were seven years of abundance, and once they were over the years of famine began, as our Parsha tells us: “The seven years of abundance that came to pass in the land of Egypt ended and the seven years of famine began, just as Yosef had said. There was famine in all the lands, but in the entire land of Egypt there was bread.”
In this week’s Parsha another set of dreams are also about to be fulfilled – these are what Yosef dreamt twenty two years earlier concerning his brothers and his father bowing down to him. As the Torah tells us, Yosef’s ten brothers came to Egypt to acquire food: “Now Yosef was the Viceroy over the land; he was the provider to all the people of the land. Yosef’s brothers came and they bowed to him, faces to the ground… Yosef recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. Yosef recalled the dreams that he dreamt about them…” Rashi says on the statement, “Yosef recalled the dreams that he dreamed about them…” He now realized that his dream had come true.
Ramban, however, disagrees. In his opinion Yosef thought the opposite. Yosef noticed that only ten of his brothers bowed down to him. His first dream called for all eleven to do so, but Benjamin did not come to Egypt with them. Yosef also knew that his two dreams were prophetic and had to be fulfilled in sequence; first the brothers and then his father and his wife along with his brothers would bow to him. Yosef had to find a way for the eleventh brother, Benjamin, to come first and only later could Yaakov come, thus fulfilling the second dream.
Yosef succeeded in doing just that; the brothers brought Benjamin and this time all eleven brothers bowed to him. Now the second dream needed to come true and it did when Yaakov came down to Egypt. If this was not so, Yosef would have committed a great sin. He would have made his father suffer twenty two years for no particular reason. Yosef would never have allowed his father to suffer many years without knowing that his beloved son was alive. But everything had to come about in its proper time. Yosef did all he could to bring about the fulfillment of these dreams.
The Ramban asks, “Still, why couldn’t Yosef contact his father? Couldn’t he have sent a letter notifying his father that he was still alive, thus relieving his father from much anguish? From Chevron to Egypt was only a six day journey.” The Ramban answers that Yosef knew that the fulfillment of the dreams could not happen within the land of Canaan, but had to take place in Egypt. This was especially clear to him when he realized through Pharaoh’s dream that his family would end up in Egypt due to the famine in Canaan.
Everything happened according to HaShem’s plan; the brothers and Yaakov went down to Egypt and bowed to Yosef. From here we see that HaShem’s plan had come true, in spite of the brothers’ intention to thwart it. This is because man’s free choice can not affect HaShem’s ultimate plan. At most, it can only delay it. Our only choice is either to be willing or unwilling participants in HaShem’s plan.
The actions of Yosef’s brothers could only delay the inevitable by 22 years. In the end they realized that everything they did ultimately contributed to their bowing to Yosef as the Viceroy of Egypt, except that it all happened against their will. Nonetheless, they had to come down to Egypt with Yaakov in order to fulfill HaShem’s promise to Avraham, as the Torah tells us, “And He said to Avram, know with certainty that your offspring shall be aliens in a land which is not of theirs and they will serve them and they will oppress them for four hundred years.”
According to the Holy Zohar, Yosef’s mission in the grand plan was to prepare the ground in Egypt for his family’s arrival and the exile which followed it. May HaShem help each of us find our own personal part in HaShem’s master plan, and may we be active partners in revealing HaShem’s glory in the world, with the true and complete redemption, speedily in our days. Amen