Wake up, wake up! (Vayigash)

vincent_van_gogh_-_the_siesta_after_millet_-_google_art_projectDon’t stress, and don’t be angry with yourselves that you sold me here into slavery; actually God sent me ahead of you to save lives — says Joseph to his brothers. (Gen. 45:5)

At what point does Joseph clearly discern God’s plan for his work in Egypt?

Torah offers an answer: vayehi miketz shnatayim (Gen. 41:1)

Here is a literal, conventional translation: It happened at the end of two years.

And here is a literal, less conventional translation: It happened after waking up from two sleeps.

The two translations are connected. At the end of two years, Pharaoh wakes from two sleeps, each with a similarly disturbing dream. After each dream, Torah says: vayikatz Paroh, Pharaoh woke up.

But from what does Pharaoh wake up? Does he wake, like Jacob, from a sleep? If so, from what kind of sleep?

After Jacob dreams of the ladder, Torah says, vayikatz Ya’akov mishnato, Jacob woke up from his sleep (Gen 28:16). Jacob wakes up, and interprets his own dream, saying, “God was in this place and I, I did not know it.” Jacob seems to have woken up from two kinds of sleep: a physical sleep, and a spiritual sleep. He now sees the everyday waking world, and the presence of God within it.

Pharaoh, however, cannot interpret his own dream. He has awakened only from a physical sleep. When Joseph hears the dream, however, Joseph awakes from a spiritual sleep. Joseph sees that God has intertwined his fate with Pharaoh’s fate. He says, “What God does has been shown to Pharaoh” (Gen. 41:28).

Vayehi miketz shnatayim. It happened after two people awoke: after Pharaoh woke from his dream, and after Joseph woke to a new spiritual consciousness.

What would it take for you to see anew the presence of God in your life?  Motivated by your new vision, what would you do differently?

For more reflections on Parshat Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27), click here. For more reflections on Parshat Miketz (Gen. 44:1-44:1), click here.

Image: Siesta, by Vincent Van Gogh.

  1. this is brilliant Laura,–thank you!!! and Shabbat Shalom

  2. Laura,
    Thanks for the reflections. I appreciate them.

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