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    Jacob blessed Pharaoh – Vayyiggash

    Jacob blesses Pharaoh, by Owen Jones, 1869

    When Jacob and the family migrate to Egypt, the patriarch is taken to the king by Joseph to be presented and introduced to the ruler (Gen. 47).

    Jacob and Pharaoh have a conversation but then a strange thing happens. Instead of the king blessing Jacob, Jacob blesses the king.

    Presumably etiquette would demand that the man of higher status blesses and welcomes the man of lower status, but here the opposite takes place.

    Maybe the answer lies in the word vayevarech, “and he blessed” (Gen. 47:7). It might be improper and disrespectful for us to compare the Egyptian ruler to God, even though ancient kings did have divine pretensions.

    But when we Jews say a b’rachah to God and use the words, “Blessed are You”, it is possible that we are acknowledging that God is not the recipient but the source of blessing. All the good things we enjoy come from a generous, beneficent God.

    In that sense it could be that what Jacob is doing in the royal court is to formally acknowledge that all boons in Egypt come (sometimes indirectly) from Pharaoh.

    The Hebrew father is saying, “Thank you, Your Majesty, for the way you have received me and my family. We are grateful and intend to be worthy of your welcome.”

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