Thursday, December 29, 2005

parshat Mikeitz: Why Whole Years?

The first pasuk in parshat Mikeitz {Bereishit 41:1}:

א וַיְהִי, מִקֵּץ שְׁנָתַיִם יָמִים; וּפַרְעֹה חֹלֵם, וְהִנֵּה עֹמֵד עַל-הַיְאֹר. 1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
Why two full years? This translation seems to follow Rashbam, who notes that this literally means two years worth of days, such that we might have thought (had it just said שְׁנָתַיִם) that it was 1 year and 1 day, or 1 year and 1/2. This tells us that two years worth of days elapsed, and thus they were full years.

What is the implication of two full years? Well, this might in part depend on how we understand מִקֵּץ. The word מִקֵּץ means "at the end of," but does not specify the beginning of the period. This could have been from the time he was initially placed in prison, or from the time that the butler promised to bring up Yosef's case with Pharaoh, and promptly forgot (see previous verse).

If we assume the latter, there have a great reason why the specification of two full years. In the previous parsha, Vayeishev, in Bereishit 40:20:
כ וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי, יוֹם הֻלֶּדֶת אֶת-פַּרְעֹה, וַיַּעַשׂ מִשְׁתֶּה, לְכָל-עֲבָדָיו; וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת-רֹאשׁ שַׂר הַמַּשְׁקִים, וְאֶת-רֹאשׁ שַׂר הָאֹפִים--בְּתוֹךְ עֲבָדָיו. 20 And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and the head of the chief baker among his servants.
כא וַיָּשֶׁב אֶת-שַׂר הַמַּשְׁקִים, עַל-מַשְׁקֵהוּ; וַיִּתֵּן הַכּוֹס, עַל-כַּף פַּרְעֹה. 21 And he restored the chief butler back unto his butlership; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand.
כב וְאֵת שַׂר הָאֹפִים, תָּלָה: כַּאֲשֶׁר פָּתַר לָהֶם, יוֹסֵף. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them.
Why specify that this happened on Pharaoh's birthday? And what are the odds? The answer would seem to be that Pharaoh's birthday was a day in which the king, in a good mood, would issue pardons (or decide not to issue them and thus execute his enemies).

If so, two full years later would once again be Pharaoh's birthday, and a most opportune day for Yosef to be mentioned by the butler.

1 comment:

barry said...

and, backtracking, it means that Yosef and the Butler understood 3 days and two years before, just prior to Pharoah's b'day that year, that the butler had a shot at being considered for re-instatement.

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