A few weeks ago when reading Miketz we learn that Pharaoh is being vexed by two strange dreams. His cup-bearer recalls his experience of Yosef who correctly interpreted dreams in prison. On the merit of Yosef ability to interpret Pharaoh will through the veil of the dreams of the cup-bearer and the baker, Pharaoh brings Yosef to interpret his dreams. After Pharaoh recounts his two dreams we read:
And Yosef said to Pharaoh: ‘The dream of Pharaoh is one; what God is about to do God has declared to Pharaoh. The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. And the seven lean and ill-favored cows that came up after them are seven years, and also the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind; they shall be seven years of famine. That is the thing which I spoke to Pharaoh: what God is about to do God has shown to Pharaoh. ( Genesis 41: 25- 28)
While it might have been completely vexing for Pharaoh to interpret these dreams any other way, maybe we just say that because of our 20/20 hindsight of Yosef’s interpretation and it coming true.
I was thinking about that when reading VaEra, this week’s Torah portion. There we read:
‘When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying: Show a wonder for you; then you shall say to Aaron: Take your rod, and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it becomes a serpent.’ And Moshe and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, as the Lord had commanded; and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers; and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did in like manner with their secret arts. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents; but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not to them; as the Lord had spoken. ( Exodus 7:9- 13)
In light of the skinny cows eating the fat cows or the skinny ears eating the good ears, what could Pharaoh have been thinking when he saw this? This clearly is foretelling the end of Egypt. But you only have 20/20 hindsight when you remember what Yosef said. But as we read at the start of our story Pharaoh did not remember. There we read, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Yosef.” ( Exodus 1:8) At its core this story pivots on this Egypt’s original sin of forgetting the interpreter .