Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Drasha Addressed to Napoleon Bonaparte

  Yosef found himself in the dungeon together with Pharaoh's wine butler (Sar HaMashkim). He interpreted for him his dream: "The three clusters are three days. In another three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and will restore you to your post and you will place Pharaoh's cup in his hand as was the former practice when you were his cupbearer." [Bereshis 40: 12-13]
  Yosef then added the following words: "If only you would think of me (ki im zechartani) with yourself when he benefits you, and you will do me a kindness, if you please, and mention me to Pharaoh, then you would get me out of this building." [Beresis 40:14].

  The words "ki im zechartani" give the impression that Yosef is giving this dream interpretation SO THAT the Sar HaMashkim should remember Yosef to Pharaoh. This additional statement, introduced by the words "ki im zechartani," seems like a somewhat inappropriate insertion by Yosef. They are not part of the dream.
  We would unde rstand if Yosef appended a personal request for a favor to his interpretation of the dream and would have said, "By the way, I would appreciate it if..." However, this is not the way Yosef expressed it. Yosef makes it sound like the Wine Butler is getting out of jail SO THAT he will be able to intervene with Pharaoh in gaining Yosef's release from prison.
  Rav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, once told me the following incident. When Napoleon had achieved one of his major military victories, he threw a party and asked all the assembled to say a toast. Everyone got up and said a few words but they left Napoleon unsatisfied. Napoleon had a close connection with the Jews. He knew that in this town there was a Rabbi. He told his servant to go summon the Rabbi to the party to say a few words on the occasion of his victory.
  The Rabbi was awakened in the middle of the night by Napoleon's servant and was brought in the chariot of the king to the banquet. Napoleon requested that he give a speech –- on the spot -- in honor of the occasion.
  What does a Rabbi know from politics? What does a Rabbi know from military campaigns? But a Rabbi knows the Parsha of the week. It happened to be Parshas Vayeshev. The Rabbi explained to Napoleon "pshat" (the simple interpretation) of the above-cited pasuk.
  The Rabbi said that when a simple person commits a crime and is indicted, prosecuted, and convicted of the crime, he can always appeal. But when an important person commits a crime and is indicted and prosecuted then his chances of appeal are far less. Why is that? In those corrupt times, the only people prosecuted were the downtrodden in society. The legal system did not start up with the elite of society. They only started up with those who could not defend themselves.
  If they are already indicting and prosecuting and convicting an important person, they must have the goods on him so badly that it was simply impossible to look the oth er way. The person must be as guilty as sin. Appeals will be worthless. If he were not guilty, they would not have started up with him in the first place. But sometimes, even for an important person, an appeal can help.
  But what happens if a minister in the government is indicted and convicted? What are his chances that he can appeal and be successful? Slim to none. Governments are hesitant to uncover their own corruption. If they are already prosecuting and convicting him he must be so guilty that appeals will have virtually no chance of success.
  For a minister who was convicted to be returned to the same position of power that he previously held is literally impossible. This never happens.
  Yosef spelled this out to the Sar HaMashkim. "Listen, you were guilty. You were convicted and you served time. But you are going to be restored to your original position and serve wine to the king again. That is miraculous. It can only be happening for one reason – s o that you will be able to remember me to the king. The Almighty wants to use you as the instrument for my release from prison."
  In other words the "ki im zechartani" [so that you mention me...] is indeed part of the explanation of the dream. This is the only reason that such a thing can happen.
  The Rabbi then turned to Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, and said: "Napoleon you have met military success the likes of which have not been seen since Alexander the Great. Why did you merit such success? You have merited it because you have been good to the Jews. You have extended freedoms to them that they never had in Europe. That is why all these successes have come your way. Whenever you are blessed with success, now and in the future, you should remember: 'ki im zechartani' – it is only because you have been good to the Jews in the past and so that you can be good to the Jews in the future."

1 comment:

  1. "What does a Rabbi know from politics?"

    I know, right?!