Student Teaching in the New Millenium

Life Is But A Dream? (Miketz 5772)

In Genesis on December 30, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Woke up from my dream
Went downstairs for coffee then
Woke up from my dream

1 Kings 3.15 – 4.1
Genesis 41.1 – 44.17

Miketz is translated “the end.” The end of what? Shouldn’t this parsha be the last in Genesis?

Our parsha states And it came to pass at the end of two years, Pharaoh dreamed (Gen. 41.1). Then we read about the seven good and bad kine, and the seven good and bad ears, and Pharaoh sending (vayishlach) and calling (vayikra) for Joseph (shem) at the end (miketz). Joseph explains that Egypt would see seven years of extreme plenty followed by seven years of extreme want.

Let us ask: what is ending? Is ending also beginning? Two years end, and seven years begin. Seven years end, and another seven years begin. What comes after the next seven years?

What else ends? Genesis is the beginning, starting with in the beginning (Gen. 1.1). But is Genesis really the beginning? Could Genesis also be an ending? And ending of what? The logical answer to me is “whatever came before Genesis.” And what came before that? I believe we can go back like this, recursively, forever.

What does this teach? The nature of the teachings are timeless. Where can we find support for this?

Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel. (Deut. 31.19)

Hear, my son, the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the teaching of thy mother;
For they shall be a chaplet of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.
(Proverbs 1.8-9)

He will drink of the brook in the way; therefore will he lift up the head. (Ps. 110.7)

Maimonides cites Deuteronomy 31:19 as the source for the commandment to write our own Torah scrolls. The Rambam further writes that “since the lack of one Torah letter causes a Torah Scroll to be invalid, the commandment can be fulfilled by writing a single letter of a completed scroll.” (Hilchot Sefer Torah 7.1*) Whether you write an entire Torah scroll by yourself, or write one letter of one, or cooperate with others to write a complete Sefer Torah (Rav Moshe Feinstein*), if you do nothing else, you expose yourself to the teachings and their meaning in whatever age you live in.

It is important to understand that “timeless” and “unchanging” are two different things. I cite our passage from Proverbs to support this. Do parents always agree on what and how to teach their children? Of course not. Did our parents see things exactly the same way as their parents? Of course not. We can go back like this, recursively, forever. Evidence of this? Torah means Truth, yet we have thousands of years of discussion (arguement!) over what this Truth actually Is. See any Commentator’s Bible by Michael Carasik or any Gemara from the Talmud to establish this. Learn: Talmud is a compilation of teachings that came before.

By the same token, we will not see things the same way as our parents, and our children will not see things the same way as us. What we receive from our parents, which we receive verbatim or work out for ourselves, is a chaplet of grace. What sets us in our ways, because he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf doth not wither; and in whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper (Ps. 1.3) can also be chains about thy neck (Proverbs 1.9), when you don’t see eye to eye with your children.

Let’s dive further. Are fathers consistently more right than mothers? Of course not. Is everyone right all the time? Of course not. Yet we are told to listen to both consistently: the text does not say some. Why not? Again, we quote Maimonides, from his commentary on Pirkei Avot.

[There are times] when a person is not really qualified to be your teacher; nevertheless let them teach you, make it possible for him to teach you. If you do this you will acquire wisdom – for there is no comparison between studying by oneself and studying with another person. When one studies with another person, he remembers better what he has learned, the material is more clearly understood by him, even when his companion is no more than his equal in wisdom, or even when his companion is inferior to him.**

A plain application of this statement to our discussion is that both parents are teachers. Another is that both parents are not always present to teach a child, so heed whichever is present. Another interpretation is to be open to knowledge wherever it may find you, whether it is right or wrong, and regardless of the qualifications of the source. Here’s an example from my personal life: I performed a task at work today that my supervisor had asked me to do recently. When I was nearly done my supervisor asked me why I performed the work. I reminded this person that the task had been given me and never rescinded, to which this person responded that the task had been forgotten altogether but, had it been remembered, would have been rescinded. I’d actually been glad to do the work because it led to deeper knowledge of the business, and I told this person so. What does this achieve? Valuable education, a positive interaction with a supervisor, and a reputation for an attitude of success and growth. All this has been reaped from a person’s mistake.

How does this relate to our parents? Have you ever heard the phrase, “learn from our mistakes?” Or “learn from our failings?”

Lastly, David the Psalmist teaches: throughout the ages, Wisdom always flows for us to drink and see Truth, whatever that Truth may be. What we drink is for us only.

If the teachings are timeless, is time timeless? No. Time is the nature of time. Does this mean that time is without beginning and without end? We don’t know. Is it any of our business? The secret things belong unto the LORD our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut. 29.29)

Can we infer: Our parsha states And it came to pass at the end of two years, Pharaoh dreamed (Gen. 41.1). What is ending? Two years. What is beginning? Seven years. Time flows as time flows, but we experience it through the phases of our lives. Endings and Beginnings. Two years, then seven years, then seven years, are separate experiences.

The parsha states, however, Pharoah dreamed. So, did seven years begin, or Pharoah’s dreams? Pharoah’s dreams are shown to reflect realities of plenty followed by hunger. So, are Pharoah’s dreams really dreams? Or reality?

What happened before Genesis? Was the darkness in Genesis 1.2 an ending or a beginning? An ending to what? The logical answer to me is “whatever came before Genesis.” Or, if you like, a dream. Where did God’s ideas for the world come from? Some legends say that the Torah was at this beginning with God. And where did the Torah come from?

What else is ending? The childhood of the Israelites, the stories of our Matriarchs and Patriarchs, and Genesis itself. The ending begins here! Israel descends to Egypt, and then Genesis sends (vayishlach) us to what’s calling (vayikra) us by name (shemot) at the end (miketz).

The parsha states, however, at the end of two years, Pharaoh dreamed. And Pharoah’s dreams are shown to reflect reality. So what came first, I wonder? Is Genesis the dream and Exodus the reality? Or is Genesis the reality and Exodus the dream?

Where does dreaming end and reality begin?

Where does talking stop and action start?

Footnotes:

* From Torah-Letters.com

** From The Living Talmud by Judah Goldin

*** Words are Worlds

Where dreams end and reality begins

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