28 Heshvan 5778
17 November 2017
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London School of Jewish Studies


The JC- Portion of the week

13 December  2013

“And Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen” Genesis 41:42

Over the centuries our bookshelves have been blessed by many new Torah commentaries in every language imaginable. As a result we have tended to ignore the greatest commentary of them all, the Tanach. This week’s parashah illustrates how the Tanach often refers to and helps us understand the Torah.

Even the casual reader of the verse above will notice the parallels between the depiction of the life of Joseph and the events described in Megillat Esther. Pharaoh gave Joseph a ring, while in the Megillah, Ahaseurus gives his ring to Mordecai. Both are fitted out in fine clothing. Like Mordecai, Joseph parades triumphantly, accompanied by a horse, and in both cases, they enjoy the crowds’ acclaim.

The similarities in the two plots are inescapable. The beauty of the two central figures, for example: Joseph was handsome and Esther too was beautiful. Both stories turn on royal restless nights. Pharaoh has troubling dreams, while Ahaseurus can’t even get to sleep in the first place. Up until this point, the good deeds of Joseph and Mordecai respectively look destined to go unrewarded. Then both Joseph and Mordecai rise to the level of number two to the king, and are the true powers behind the throne.

The Megillah presenst an optimistic account of how Jews can take a prominent role in the public life in our countries of birth to the advantage of Jew and gentile alike. Joseph is the exemplar of this. Brilliant but equitable in his stewardship of Egypt’s economy, he and his family remain loyal to the faith of his fathers.