When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. — 1 Kings 3:28
The Torah portion for this week is Mikeitz, which means “at the end,” from Genesis 41:1–44:17, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 3:15–4:1.
This week’s Torah portion starts with a dream and so does this week’s Haftorah. In the Torah portion, Pharaoh had a dream, and in the Haftorah, King Solomon had just awoken from a dream. But that’s where the similarities end. Pharaoh’s dream left him feeling confused. But Solomon’s dream, in which God offered to grant him one wish, left Solomon wiser. Because when given the choice, Solomon had asked for “a discerning heart” (1 Kings 3:9), and God had granted his request.
The rest of the Haftorah recounts one of the Bible’s most famous stories. Two women came before Solomon, both claiming to be the mother of the same infant. Solomon demonstrated his divine wisdom by suggesting that they cut the child in half, so each woman could have a portion of the baby. As he expected, the true mother pleaded for the life of the baby and offered to give the child to the other woman, while the lying woman was content to have the baby split in half. The real mother is revealed. Solomon’s keen understanding of human nature allowed him to uncover the truth and to govern with justice.
So what is the connection to the Torah portion? Just this. After Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he made a suggestion. Given that there would be seven years of abundance and then seven years of famine, Joseph advised Pharaoh to stockpile the surplus grain during the good years so there would be a supply of grain during the lean ones. Joseph also suggested that Pharaoh find “a discerning and wise man” (Genesis 41:33) to oversee the project. Like Solomon, Joseph understood that it takes wisdom and understanding in order to be a leader. It was a lesson that he had learned the hard way.
Joseph’s problems began because he didn’t understand human nature. If he had, he wouldn’t have been so insensitive and blunt with his brothers when it came to sharing his vision of being a ruler over them. Even though Joseph’s vision was true and his brothers would eventually bow down to him, he didn’t deal with it in a wise way. If he had, their jealousy would not have been aroused and he would never have been sold.
The Torah and the Haftorah both underscore the importance of what has now been dubbed “emotional intelligence.” It’s one thing to know math and science, but it’s another to understand human emotions and human nature. Just as we sharpen our minds, we also need to hone our people skills. We can do that by practicing sensitivity, understanding, and empathy in every relationship that we have, every day of our lives.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President