Drash on Parashat Mikketz
Cantor David Bentley
Beit Or v'Shalom, Brisbane, Queensland
This week's parshah begins with Pharaoh's dream of seven lean cows devouring seven fat cows, and seven full heads of grain devouring seven weak, thin heads of grain. Joseph correctly interprets the meaning of these dreams to predict that there will be seven bountiful years of harvest followed by seven lean years. In so doing, he saves not only Egypt but also those in surrounding areas, most notably his own family, with whom he is reunited when they come to Egypt to buy food.
When they had sold him into slavery, years before, they thought they had seen the last of him. It was a long, winding road that brought Joseph from that moment in his life to a place where he became his brothers' saviour. Neither the brothers nor Joseph himself could possibly have imagined the train of events that might lead to this. It was so far off their radar as to be an impossible dream.
Dreams, in the sense of envisioning what is possible, have been important to us at other critical times in our long history.
This week, as we celebrate Channukah, we recall that the Maccabees had a dream. They dreamt of overthrowing Greek rule and restoring the purity of Israelite worship and practice to the land. The might of the Greek empire was great indeed, yet the Maccabees did not shy away from doing what they knew to be right, and they brought their dream to reality.
The Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl famously said, “If you will it, it is no dream”. His dream, of a modern Jewish state, also became a reality.
Today we still dream. We dream that our homeland, Israel, will live in peace. Recent unrest there has underlined, yet again, how far away this dream is. Like the idea that Joseph might some day arise from slavery to a position of great power, or that the Maccabees might beat the Greek empire, or that a world filled with anti-semitism would ever agree to creating the State of Israel, this dream might seem so far off that we cannot see how it might ever happen.
Yet we must never stop working towards it, never stop dreaming that a lasting peace between Israel and her neighbours can, some day, come to pass.