Abstract: Ancient Egypt’s staple food, which is constantly featured on the main stage in this weekly Torah portion, Miketz, was essentially plant-based, or vegetarian. It is no wonder, therefore, why the Pharaoh went right to sleep after he first woke up following his first dream...
Rabbi Dr. Yossi Feintuch was born in Afula and holds a Ph.D. in American history from Emory University in Atlanta. He taught American history at Ben-Gurion University.
Author of the book US Policy on Jerusalem.
He is the rabbi of Congregation Shalom Bayit in Bend, Oregon.
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Ancient Egypt’s staple food, which is constantly featured on the main stage in this weekly Torah portion, Miketz, was essentially plant-based, or vegetarian. It is no wonder, therefore, why the Pharaoh went right to sleep after he first woke up following his first dream. That dream essentially envisaged the demise of Egypt’s supply of beef, if not dairy, even as the seven scrawny cows devoured the seven robust or well-favored cows. Curiously, that scenario does not seem to upset the Pharaoh, so he goes right on to sleep. Or in other words, the loss of meat was not a reason for him to lose sleep following his first dream.
And indeed, Egypt’s poor often ate fish, some fowl, but not cows; only the rich commonly ate beef along with mutton (and in some regions pork) derived from domesticated livestock, and game meat such as venison or duck, and even hippo. Egypt’s laborers, however, could not afford meat and the working classes ate it only as a rare treat.
Even the loss of cow milk did not bother the Pharaoh because that milk might have been included as an ingredient in cooking or baking but not necessarily for daily consumption as a beverage. Hence, the monarch goes to sleep after his first dream as the loss of either beef or milk was not a cause for concern.
By contrast, the Pharaoh does not return to sleep after his second dream; rather, the swallowing up of the ‘’fat and good’’ seven ears-of-grain by the ‘’lean and scorched’’ seven ears all on a single stalk kept him awake, and ‘’his spirit was agitated’’. To be sure, losing the supply of wheat was of real consternation to him; why, bread was a very important part of the ancient Egyptian diet. And in general that diet was primarily plant-based and almost fully vegetarian for working-class people. It included like today fava and garbanzo beans as well as dates, grapes, pomegranates, peaches, and watermelons.
When the emancipated-from-slavery Israelites lament nostalgically during their journey through the Sinai desert about the food they ate in Egypt they recall the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic, even the bread that they ate ‘’to the full’’ but not beef. Beef was not critical for the Egyptian diet, but wheat and beans alongside vegetables, fruit and fish were.
That can explain the Pharaoh’s different reactions when dreaming about the loss of cows and grains.
מצאת טעות בכתבה? הבחנת בהפרה של זכויות יוצרים? נתקלת בדבר מה שאיננו ראוי? אנא, דווח לנו!