"Pharaoh dreamed…seven cows…seven ears of grain…." (Gen. 41:1-6)

Although, as we have seen, Pharaoh's dreaming stemmed from Joseph, the content of his dreams differed profoundly from that of Joseph's. Pharaoh dreamed only of produce and animals but not of work. Joseph's dreams, in contrast, began from the start with the image of work—the brothers gathering sheaves in the field….

We should bear the above in mind when the thought falls into our minds that we can get by without hard work. Such notions stem from our unholy side, where work and effort is not critical. Furthermore, we should remember that anything we receive for "free" will not endure.

The themes of Pharaoh's dreams occurred as a regression...

The dreams of Pharaoh differed from Joseph's in another significant way: The themes of Pharaoh's dreams occurred as a regression — first the higher life form of animal, followed by the lower life form of vegetation — even though temporally, the poor condition of the cows resulted from the poor condition of the grain. Furthermore, each individual dream was about a regression—from healthy cows and grain to unhealthy—predicting an actual regression from years of plenty to years of famine.

Joseph's dreams, in contrast, occurred as a progression: he first dreamed about earthly sheaves and then about the heavenly hosts. Likewise, in his first dream, individual stalks were turned into more valuable sheaves.

This difference reflected the truth that holiness possesses intrinsic existence — it exists for its own sake and therefore is permanent — while unholiness is only a temporary phenomenon, existing only to challenge holiness. Therefore, any change that occurs in holiness must be an addition, a progression, whereas the nature of the unholy is to progressively diminish. Any regression that does occur in holiness is only apparent, paving the way for a subsequent ascent.

Joseph dreamed of both the earthly and the heavenly.

Another difference between the dreams is that Pharaoh dreamed only of the earthly — animals and food, whereas Joseph dreamed of both the earthly and the heavenly. This difference reflected their different perspectives: Pharaoh perceived nothing higher than material reality (the deities he worshipped being nothing more than abstractions of physical forces), whereas Joseph was acutely aware of spiritual reality, as well.

Furthermore, the fact that both Joseph's earthly and heavenly dreams conveyed the same basic idea implies that for Joseph, the earthly and heavenly were one. Even while immersed in the earthly, Joseph was aware of the heavenly. Not only did the earthly not distract him from the heavenly, it itself was transformed and became heavenly. For Pharaoh, in contrast, there was only one world — the world of cows and grain.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 3, 805-810, 820,822
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org