Midreshet Amit


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"Do not interpretations belong to G-d?"

By: Rabbi Daniel Goldstein

He may have been the viceroy of Egypt, coordinating the distribution of food to an famine ravished world, but the second Yosef saw his brothers—the first time since he was sold many years ago—he was seventeen again. "Yosef recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. Yosef recalled the dreams that he had dreamt about them, and said to them, "You are spies. (Bereishit 42:8-9)"

Even before they could react, the brothers found themselves in the thick of a complicated plot beyond their ability to control. Yosef would send them on an emotional roller coaster that would eventually bring their remaining brother Binyamin and father Yaakov down to Egypt. The question is, what were Yosef's motives in putting his family through this ordeal? Ramban suggests that Yosef's actions were intended to bring about the fulfillment of his dreams. He writes "And since he saw Binyamin was not with them in Egypt, he conceived of a strategy of devising a charge against them so that Binyamin would come down to him, in order that the first dream would be fulfilled first."

This motive raises a serious question. Was it really Yosef's job to ensure that his dreams were fulfilled, at the expense of his father and family? R. Yitzchak Arama, in his Akeidat Yitzchak didn't think so. He writes: " Why didn't Yosef inform his father of his great honor there, since (as viceroy) he was in the position to relieve Yaakov of his distress and sadness? And how much more so in the years of famine, could he have saved him from death and sustained him! And I am amazed at what the Ramban tz"l wrote, that he did so (i.e., he did not reach out) so that his dreams would be fulfilled. For what benefit would be gained if they were fulfilled. And even if there were (some) value, he should not have sinned against his father. He should have held himself back from sinning against him, and as for the dreams—the one who created them (i.e., Hashem) would bring their resolution. It is foolish for a person to attempt to fulfill his dream, since they are things that are done without his knowledge."

The Akeidat Yitzchak makes a strong point. Hashem makes the dreams, not the dreamer, so it is Hashem who is responsible to bring about their fulfillment. A person is not bound to make Hashem's dreams come true in a manner which causes him to sin! The Netziv, however, defended the Ramban. According to the Netziv, the dreams were a form of prophecy. Therefore, he had to tend to them and attempt to see them realized. If he had not done so, it would be tantamount to a prophet squelching his prophecy (which is a capital offense.)

This question seems to surround a deeper philosophical question—THE question, perhaps: what is our role in Hashem's world. Hashem controls, directs, and moves the world; that is clear. But what is our role? Are we His partners, or are we bystanders, or something in between? An interesting question to mull over as we celebrate Chanuka—a holiday which recalls a war fought by people and a flame luminated by Hashem alone.

What do you think?