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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua
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A G-d Who Cares for Others

In Paroh’s dream, he was standing on top of the Nile (Bereishit 41:1). Chazal stressed that this is a hint at the phenomenon that the evil exist “on top of their gods” (Bereishit Rabba 69:3). The Nile is the god of Egypt because it gives them life, turning the river course, found in the midst of a scorching desert, into a flourishing pearl of growth and sustenance. An Egyptian god is a god to the extent that it “produces results,” providing needs and desires. The idol of a defeated nation stops being their idol. Egypt knew that they developed because of the Nile and knew how to value the provider of food and water. They knew, in their eyes, how to provide treats and tributes for the Nile. If one sacrifices before a god, it is based on the assumption that it will provide the one who offered it a net gain.
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In Paroh’s dream, he was standing on top of the Nile (Bereishit 41:1). Chazal stressed that this is a hint at the phenomenon that the evil exist "on top of their gods" (Bereishit Rabba 69:3). The Nile is the god of Egypt because it gives them life, turning the river course, found in the midst of a scorching desert, into a flourishing pearl of growth and sustenance. An Egyptian god is a god to the extent that it "produces results," providing needs and desires. The idol of a defeated nation stops being their idol. Egypt knew that they developed because of the Nile and knew how to value the provider of food and water. They knew, in their eyes, how to provide treats and tributes for the Nile. If one sacrifices before a god, it is based on the assumption that it will provide the one who offered it a net gain.

In contrast, for the righteous, Hashem exists on top of them (ibid.), as the Torah says, "And indeed Hashem was standing above [Yaakov]" (Bereishit 28:17). The purpose of Yaakov’s life was not to receive but to give, in the proper way. He strove to serve Hashem in the purest, cleanest way. The more he could do it without intention to receive benefit, the happier he was. Such people do not come to provide the "taste that the pallet is used to" but to "improve the taste," so that one can "enjoy the taste of giving." The idea is not to connect oneself to tangible things but to nullify oneself to the point that he can cling to Hashem.

The Baal Hatanya would sing: "I do not want the lower Gan Eden and not even the higher Gan Eden. I want only You; my spirit is thirsty for You; my flesh yearns for You." Certainly, not everyone can reach such levels, and even one who approaches this level cannot keep it up at all times of the day. However, this is the goal and aspiration. This is what Yaakov wanted, and that is the reason that he saw Hashem standing above him.

When the self-absorbed, powerful Paroh dreamed, he could only dream about his interests. People reasoned that not only is man self-absorbed but so must be Hashem, in Whose image man was created. That is why no one could interpret Paroh’s dream correctly, even though the correct one seems pretty obvious. Famine and plenty – why would Paroh dream about that? He is not going to go hungry; it affects only the people, not him! So they assumed it had to do with daughters or honor (see Bereishit Rabba 89:6).

When Yosef entered the picture, Paroh started seeing things differently and related that he was standing on the banks of the Nile (Bereishit 41:13). Paroh was shaken by the mysterious dream, and then Yosef told him: "That which Hashem is doing He has told Paroh" (ibid. 25). Hashem wanted Paroh to follow His lead and think about his subjects. Then the solution was simple: plenty and famine for the people.

Yosef, who was viewed so poorly by his brothers, came up with the solution. He had lofty intentions and saw in his predicament an opportunity to sustain his family. That is why he did not get carried away with his success. Rather he concentrated on making a worthy arrangement for his father, including a family yeshiva, even in the land of impurity.
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