“And Pharaoh awoke, he went back to sleep and dreamt a second time”(41:4). One of the most famous questions asked in this week’s Parasha is why did Joseph volunteer unsolicited advice. Since he was only asked for an interpretation, wasn’t his advise “to appoint a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt“ just naked self promotion?
Although Joseph interpreted the re-occurrence of the dream as indicating that the anticipated events would soon begin, he needed to explain why Pharaoh did not have the exact same dream twice.
Therefore Joseph interpreted the significance of the differences in the two dreams.
The first dream about the lean cows foretold a shortage of meat, without which one could survive. The second dream of the lean stalks of wheat, foretold a shortage of bread, which would be life-threatening. In other words, unless action were taken, things would go from bad to worse.
But how did Joseph know that the terrible consequences of the second dream could be mitigated through taking action?
Pharaoh’s second more ominous dream occurred only after he ignored the danger signs of the first dream “and went back to sleep”. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s awakening after the first dream as an opportunity to forestall the devastation predicted in the second dream. As long as Pharaoh would ‘stay awake’ and heed the warning signs of the lean cows, by taking the necessary steps, he could prevent the occurrence of the second dream and avert the famine. Therefore Joseph’s recommendation of appointing someone to avert the coming catastrophe was not self promotion but an integral part of Pharaoh’s dreams.
Joseph lived his life with the belief that opportunities for constructive change occur quite often. He was always alert to taking advantage of them and to help others do the same.