For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"Joseph replied to Pharaoh, saying, "Not I; G‑d will give an answer [that will bring] peace to Pharaoh." (Gen. 41:16)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi: "Not I"
The wisdom is not mine, but G‑d will answer. He will put an answer into my mouth that will bring peace to Pharaoh.

Remez (hinted meaning):

(There is no Baal HaTurim on this verse.)

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Joseph was only G‑d's mouthpiece.

Ohr HaChayim: "Not I" is how Joseph corrects Pharaoh's impression that Pharaoh entertained about him. He explains humbly that G‑d knows the interpretation of dreams and informs certain human beings about them....Joseph never claimed exclusive knowledge, which is why he added "G‑d will give an answer." Too, he added the word 'Shalom' to warn Pharaoh not to take offense if he did not like the interpretation. He should not accuse Joseph on the basis that "dreams follow the interpretation chosen by the mouth": Joseph was only G‑d's mouthpiece.

Lubavitcher Rebbe: Joseph was doing G‑d's work:

Egypt was a place where G‑dliness was drastically concealed. It was therefore unlikely that the Jewish people could survive the Egyptian exile spiritually intact. They would find it nearly impossible to fulfill the purpose of their exile, which was to elevate the sparks of holiness that were embedded within Egypt. And in fact, they were nearly at the point of no return when G‑d saved them from Egypt.

G‑d therefore arranged for Joseph to descend to Egypt first and weaken the evil of Egypt through his rise to greatness there. Because of Joseph's accomplishments, even later generations of Egyptians who lived after his time did not have the strength to overpower and contaminate the Jewish people. On the contrary, the Jewish people flourished there and remained separate from the Egyptian culture.

Through his holy work, Joseph elevated many of the holy sparks embedded in Egypt. He thereby enabled the Jewish people to complete their task relatively quickly. They remained in Egypt for only 210 years, 190 years less than the full 400 years stipulated in G‑d's covenant with Abraham. Furthermore, through his holy work, Joseph was able to limit the bitterest form of enslavement to only 86 years. (Kehot Chumash)

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

A man should never open his mouth to speak evil...

Zohar Miketz 195:
Come and see: A man should never open his mouth to speak evil, for he knows not who receives his word, and when a man does not know, he may stumble. When the righteous open their mouths, they do so peacefully. When Joseph addressed Pharaoh, he first said, "Elokim shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace." Rabbi Yehuda said: We have learned that the Holy One, blessed be He, cares for the peace of the kingdom, as it is written: "and He gave them a charge to the children of Yisrael, and to Pharaoh the king of Egypt

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
We are told that when the Sages prayed fluently, they knew that their prayer was received. Makes sense. When we are connected, the flow goes through effortlessly, like water through a pipe. When we are distracted, we are therefore in a state of disconnect, and there may be interrupted and intermittent flow.

Perhaps it is G‑d, though, who puts the words in our mouth—sort of like the Book of Deuteronomy in which the Shechinah spoke through Moses, and it is up to the individual's own level to be able to transmit them. One of my checklists for a potential tzaddik is what comes out of his or her mouth. It must all be sweet, without any harshness or bitterness, and there must be a shining resplendence on his or her face when they speak. They truly See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil. And not like a Monkey, who is the reverse of the tzaddik, and merely mirrors and mimics behaviors. Those righteous folk in the tradition of Joseph HaTzaddik have G‑d-talk as a second nature, never preachy, never exclusive, never divisive, always warm-hearted.

May it be that we use our G‑d-given faculty of speech only for the good, and only for G‑d's glory.


There are good rules which ought to be written on every heart:

1) never to believe anything bad about anybody unless you positively know it to be true
2) never to tell it unless you feel that it is absolutely necessary
3) and that G‑d is listening while you tell it. (Chofetz Chayim)

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