The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Mikeitz and is found in Genesis 41:1-44:17. Pharaoh dreams of seven lean cows devouring seven fat cows and seven thin ears of grain consuming seven healthy ears. The chief cupbearer who had been in prison with Joseph remembers Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams. Pharaoh sends for Joseph, who tells him that his dreams are God’s way of informing Pharaoh about the seven years of abundance to come, which will be followed by seven years of famine. In response, Pharaoh appoints Joseph to oversee the food supply, giving him many honors and a wife who bears him two sons.
After the years of plenty have passed and the famine sets in, Jacob sends ten of his sons – all but Benjamin – to Egypt to buy food. When the brothers come before the Joseph they don’t recognize him. Joseph accuses them of being spies and chooses to hold Simon hostage until they return with Benjamin to prove their innocence. Jacob is upset when the brothers return without Simon but he reluctantly allows Benjamin to accompany his brothers to Egypt to buy food once their supply diminishes. Joseph has the brothers brought to his house, where he serves them a feast. However, Joseph tells his steward to hide his silver goblet in Benjamin’s sack. After the brothers depart for home, Joseph sends his men after them to apprehend the “thief.” Joseph tells the brothers that he will keep the one who stole the goblet as his slave; the others are free to return home.
In this parasha, Joseph runs into his family and wants desperately to connect with them but he first needs reassurance that it is emotionally safe and things have changed. Therefore, he sets up a series of tests to see if his half-brothers are treating his only full brother, Benjamin, with respect and dignity, since he is likely to have become the favored son of Jacob.
Joseph’s personal struggle is to feel a sense of belonging. That sense of belonging is never entirely realized through his family or the country he has learned to live in, but instead, he experiences this from God. Joseph’s continual reference to God being with him in Egypt is critical, particularly recognizing that in the pagan world, gods did not generally travel to new locations or have power there. Like Joseph, most of us find pieces of our lives and ourselves that are incomplete, where we don’t always feel we fit in with our families, professions, or social groups we come in contact with. However, we can remember that, regardless of our circumstances, we always belong to God.