By Rabbi Shelton Donnell
In the beginning of the story of Joseph and his brothers, our hero appears to be a vain and callow youth. He is a dreamer in a fancy coat who can’t help gloat over the visions of grandeur that dance in his head. You can imagine how his brothers must have felt when Joseph told them about his dreams in which they play a supporting cast to his starring role and where even their father Jacob pays homage to the darling boy!
So, where is the spoiled youth Joseph that we met in last week’s Parashat VaYeshev? In Parashat Miketz, Joseph is transformed into an adult, filled with wisdom and understanding, a real Tzadik and a man of distinction, second only to Pharaoh in all the land of Egypt. The dreamer of dreams now stands before us — and before Pharaoh himself — as a visionary; someone who can see the possibilities that the future holds and turn them into reality.
Joseph is called from his prison cell and ordered to interpret Pharaoh’s disturbing nightmares. This “new” Joseph – chastened and matured by his experiences in Egypt – saw in Pharaoh’s dreams that there would be seven bountiful years followed by seven years of famine, and then he said to Pharaoh, “…’let Pharaoh find a man of discernment and wisdom, and set him over the land of Egypt. Then let Pharaoh take steps to appoint overseers over the land, and organize the land of Egypt in the seven years of plenty. Let all the food of these good years that are coming be gathered, and let the grain be collected under Pharaoh’s authority as food to be stored in the cities. Let the food be a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will come upon the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish in the famine.’ The plan pleased Pharaoh and all his courtiers” (Genesis 41:33-37). And, who was that man of discernment and wisdom? None other than Joseph himself!
1) In Parashat VaYeshev, we might characterize Joseph as a “dreamer” while here, in Parashat Miketz, Joseph demonstrates what it means to be a “visionary.” In light of Joseph’s character here in Parashat Miketz, how would you characterize someone as a “visionary?”
2) Theodore Herzl is described as the Visionary of the State of Israel, according to what you know about him, would you agree with this description?
3) Who in American history do you think deserves to be called a visionary?
4) Is there anyone in our day that you would describe as a visionary? Why?