Saturday, December 16, 2023

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Millie Avnir on Mikketz (text, Zoom recording and screen shots)


Shabbat shalom!

At the beginning of my Torah portion of Mikketz, Joseph is called upon to interpret Pharaoh’s two very strange dreams. The first was about 7 fat cows being eaten by 7 skinny cows. The second one was about 7 healthy stalks of wheat being devoured by 7 wilting sheaves of wheat.

Joseph states that the seven fat cows and 7 healthy sheaves of wheat stand for seven years of plenty, and the skinny cows and drying wheat stand for seven years of famine, which will follow the good years.  He tells them that the key is to plan ahead and store as much food as possible during the seven good years so that there will be enough food to last through the lean years.

 Part of becoming a bat mitzvah is learning to look at the world in new ways, and from time to time to think out of the box.  And part of being Jewish is coming up with new ways to interpret the Torah.  So I would like to share three new interpretations of those dreams, which reflect some of my interests.

 First interpretation: Since one of my favorite singers is SZA, I’d interpret those dreams using the lyrics of her song “Good Days.” Except in her song, instead of going from plenty to famine, things go from sadness to happiness.  She sings:

 All the while, I'll await my armored fate with a smile
Still wanna try, still believe in (good days, good days on my mind)

Always sunny inside (always in my mind)
Good day living in my mind.

In some ways the song and the dream are similar.  Just as happy memories can help us to get through the sad times, so can the food saved up during the good times get us through the years of famine.

 Here’s my second interpretation of the dreams. The skinny cows ate the fat cows because the fat cows were not nice to the skinny cows.  I’ve always felt in life that you should try to be nice to everyone.  Back last summer at camp, I was so surprised to be named “camper of the year.”  They told me I won it because I always showed good sportsmanship and am always nice to people.  That’s something I always try to be, but I had no idea people would notice it. 

Maybe Joseph should have tried that out with his brothers.  They were all very mean to one another, and only when they stopped playing those games could they come back together as a family.  That didn’t happen in my portion.  But stay tuned for next week!

The third interpretation is that we need to be aware of those who don’t have enough to eat, like those skinny cows.  That’s what I’m trying to do with my mitzvah project. I have been collecting shoes and donating them to an organization called “Soles for Souls,” which distributes them to less affluent places in the world where people can sell them to make enough money to feed their families.  I know that cows don’t wear shoes, but people do – and I want to help them. 

So as you can see, Joseph may not have been the only one to come up with good interpretations for Pharaoh’s dreams.

I’m sure that if I had more time I could come up with more.  But as I become bat mitzvah today, the most important thing I’ve learned from the story of Joseph is  to never stop dreaming.

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