December 22, 2022 / 28 Kislev, 5783 • Parshat Mikeitz
Issue 749
Dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Miriam Friedman

Progression vs. Regression

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, but no one can interpret it, and I have heard about you that you can understand a dream and interpret it.”


Joseph’s and Pharaoh’s dreams constitute a study in contrasts. Joseph dreamed about inheriting the leadership of Jacob’s family so he could further G-d’s purpose to sanctify the world by transforming it into His true home. Pharaoh, in contrast, dreamed about the material welfare of the pagan empire of Egypt. Furthermore, Joseph dreamed first about earthly sheaves and then about the heavenly hosts, a progression from the earthly to the heavenly. Pharaoh dreamed first about cows and then about sheaves, a regression from a higher form of life to a lower one.

The ascent of holiness vs. the descent of unholiness expressed in Joseph and Pharaoh’s dreams reflected the truth that holiness possesses intrinsic existence – it exists for its own sake and therefore is permanent – whereas unholiness is a temporary phenomenon, existing only to challenge holiness.

Although it may sometimes seem to us that unholiness has the upper hand, we must realize that, on the contrary, this is only in order to pave the way for a subsequent increase of holiness in the world.

—from Daily Wisdom 3