Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Mikeitz 5770 – Nature and recognising G-d’s bounty

First: An apology for not updating this timeously and keepign track- an unexpected holiday with no internet access is the excuse I give!

Parshah Mikeitz Bereishis (Genesis) 41:1-44:17

Question: What is the significance that the seven fat cows come from the river and stay there, but the seven thin cows are only described as coming from the river, but not as remaining there

Answer: The reason that the river is specificied as a location is a very mundane one: the Egyptian sustenance and agricultural is dependent and the annual flooding of the Nile- thus the seven good years were centered around that area; the farmers along the Nile had bounty crops for the seven good years, but the rest of Egypt remained unaffected. However, the seven bad years were not restricted to the banks of the Nile; after the bad crops were experienced and there was no food to be planted or harvested (the seven thin cows eating the seven fat cows), the effects spread across not just the rest of Egypt, but into all the neighboring countries. Wide spread famine means that the effects of the seven thin cows were not restricted to the banks of the Nile, but they “wandered’ across many areas.

Additional commentary:This incident represents the fact that things happen in a seemingly natural way- but they are directed to happen by G-d.  The Egyptians were used to the Nile flooding in an annual cycle.  Without the dreams of Pharoah and the interpretation of Yosef,  they would have seen the extraordinary years as simply part of the natural order of things, and the subsequent bad years as part of the natural order.  G-d was displayign his mastery of nature to them, emphasising his mastery.  None of the Egyptian magicians, sorcerors, dream interpretets etc could understand the dream but a a lone Jewish slave, being held in jail, could understand, interpret, explain and prepare the egyptians due to the power of G-d.

The incident was a warning for the Egyptians- the Jews were destined to be slaves, G-d had told Avraham Avinu as much; but G-d also said that the nation that enslaved them would be judged according to how the Jews were treated; would they be seen as a beloved servant and held in high esteem, or wpould they be oppressed and suffer?  Here G-d was givign a warning to the egyptians- right at the start as the Jews descended, G-d showed his mastery of the natural world and order- and how the Jews were above it.  The Egyptians were put on notice that the Jews were G-d’s chosen peopel and above the natural order.  Even more than this, Pharoah was rewarded for his actions in appointing Yosef- he gained all the land of egypt, the prdinary egyptians becoming tenant farmers on the land they worked on his behalf.  Pharoah had much to be grateful for, Yosef had made him far wealthier and greater than he had been before.

However, the lesson went unheeded, and instead of the egyptians and Pharoahs heeding the warning of G-d, and showing gratitude to the descendants of Yosef for saving them from the famine, they chose the wrong path and thus they were punished when the Jews left Egypt

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December 14, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Not so sure I can unravel the question at hand. The seven fat cows represent obviously the seven good years, and the this cows the seven years of famine. The seven good years are a time period to gather, the seven years of famine because there was no harvest swallowed that which was gathered.

    Answer) The seven fat cows came up from the river to remain in order for the seven thin cows to overtake.

    Comment by Lawrence Wohl | December 29, 2009 | Reply


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