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Parsha Mikeitz: “Gridlock in the Palace”

RABBI DONIEL FRANK | Director, M.A.P. Seminars, Inc., Marriage and Family Therapist

Click here to download PDF transcript for Mikeitz

Pharaoh wakes up from a disturbing dream and he’s desperate for an explanation. His advisors try to help, but they are unsuccessful. Their words just don’t penetrate Pharaoh’s ears. It isn’t until he hears what Yosef has to say that he feels like he’s gotten the right interpretation.

Pharaoh’s interpreters actually put out two predictions, one for each dream. The first is that Pharaoh would have seven daughters, and then they’d all die. The second is that he’d conquer seven kingdoms, and then seven provinces would rebel against him.

What is it about Yosef’s interpretation that satisfies Pharaoh?

Here’s one more point to conpodcast3sider before we speculate. It seems from Rashi that Pharaoh’s advisors were actually stuck on their interpretations, that even though they saw that Pharaoh was unhappy with what they were saying and unwilling to accept it, they wouldn’t come up with any alternatives. We have to assume that it created some real serious gridlock if Pharaoh resorted to asking a lowly, Hebrew slave for what he thought.

Clearly there was an intense power struggle happening in the palace.

What was going on?

Here’s one possibility.

Pharaoh did not like the interpretations because they struck too close to home. The fate of his daughters and of his rank among monarchs was all too personal. He refused to believe that there was anything wrong with him, that he was getting some kind of message to correct his own ways. So he kept pushing back. But because his advisors were also unwilling to take responsibility, they kept saying the problem was with him and not with the people. And the buck kept getting passed back and forth.

Fortunately for Pharaoh, Yosef’s explanation went his way. A famine is a regional calamity, too global to be blamed on Pharaoh. So he liked it, and went with it.

We’re all familiar with power struggle. We’ve seen it, and we’ve been a part of it. We have all passed blame like a hot potato and have gotten caught in the kind of intense gridlock that we see in this parsha.

But the mark of real men is to accept responsibility… and even to actively look for it. When R’ Ada bar Aba died an untimely death, the gemara quotes five amora’im who bent over backwards to take responsibility for his death. Some of their arguments are so obscure that it’s hard to even make sense of them. But evidently they were not satisfied blaming others before making the ultimate effort to see what they could have done differently.

It’s been said that whenever we put the blame out there, that there lies the problem. On the other hand, taking ownership is the key to personal empowerment, self-respect… and to unlocking relationship gridlock.


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