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Dreams of Pharaoh—A Lesson in Symmetry

In the Torah portion Miketz, Pharaoh has two dreams. He wakes up agitated and calls on all the wise men of Egypt to interpret his dreams. Nobody is able to come up with an acceptable interpretation, so they fetch Joseph from prison and he successfully interprets the dreams of Pharaoh—that there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph proceeds to instruct Pharaoh on how to prepare for the seven years of famine. In the previous posts, "Interpreting Dreams" and "Joseph—the Master of Time," we already explained how Joseph was able to interpret dreams in terms of units of time and why Pharaoh appointed Joseph as the viceroy of Egypt. This story, however, still has mysteries to unlock. Perhaps it can teach us more lessons. In Talmudic and [...]

Phinehas – the Slayer of Uncertainty

A strange episode at the end of the last Torah portion, Balak, where Phinehas (Pinchas) slain a Jewish prince caught in the act with a heathen woman, is rewarded in this week’s eponymous Torah portion with the priesthood.  This begs the question, what is the connection between the act of zealotry by Phinehas and the reward of priesthood he receives for it? By way of background, as we read in the previous Torah portion, the evil king, Balak, fails to bring a curse on the Jewish people by Balaam (Bilam).  According to Midrash, Balaam advises Balak to send most beautiful Midian women to seduce Jewish men (see Flavius Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter VI, Paragraphs 6-12). Balak heads the advice and uses Moabite and Midianite women to seduce Jewish men [...]

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