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    Butler & baker – Vayyeshev

    The dreams of the butler and baker were evidence that Egyptian royalty needed trustworthy servants who could be relied upon to handle a Pharaoh’s food without suspicion of trying to poison him.

    A great deal of commentary explains what each servant’s dream was about, but that is not the aspect we will focus on. Instead let us look at Butler and Baker as Jewish surnames.

    The history of some surnames is easy and obvious. If a person has a “Jewish” surname like “Chazan” or “Shochet” we have few problems. Sometimes a name is geographical like “Berlin” (which in Israel is “Bar-Ilan”).

    Sometimes a name is made up of initials such as bet-resh-dalet, leading to “Bard”.

    Occupational names tell us a great deal about Jewish social history, e.g. names that indicate involvement in the textile trade.

    “Baker” is a straight translation of “Becker”.

    “Butler” is more difficult and might even be an anglicisation of “batlan”, a layabout!

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