by Patti Nacht
Parashat Mikeitz continues the story of Joseph in Egypt. We read of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams to mean that Egypt will enjoy seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. It is vital for Joseph to understand the dreams. If Egypt is consumed by famine, the neighboring peoples depending on Egypt for food will also suffer. This would include Joseph’s family in Canaan. Joseph perceived the danger and was prepared to insure his country’s, and his family’s, survival.
Joseph is put in charge of the land. Famine strikes and Jacob sends his sons, except Benjamin, to Egypt to secure food. Joseph recognizes his brothers, but does not reveal himself to them. He tests them to see if they have changed since he last saw them. Simeon is taken and bound. Joseph will not let him go until the brothers go back to Canaan and return with Benjamin. The brothers are afraid that they were now being punished for what they had done to Joseph years before. They bring the food they have bought back to Canaan. When they find that their money has been returned to them, Jacob fears that Simeon is dead and refuses to let Benjamin go to Egypt. But the famine persists and Jacob has to let Benjamin accompany his brothers when they return to Egypt for more food. Judah takes responsibility for Benjamin’s safety.