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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Beresheet: Parashat Mikes: Safenat-Paaneah

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Safenat-Paaneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:45)

In this week's parasha, Mikes, we learn of Yosef's rise to power in Egypt. He ingeniously deciphers the dreams of Pharaoh, and earns an instant promotion to being Pharaoh's second in command of the country. Only Pharaoh had more power than him.

We read that Pharaoh changed Yosef's name to "Safenat-Paaneah". What is unclear from the text is why does Pharaoh change his name?

The Hizqouni provides a wonderful answer that yields an important message to us all. Later in the parasha, Yosef's brothers came to visit Egypt to purchase food due to famine. The Torah tells us: "Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him" (Genesis 42:8). The Hizqouni explains that the brothers did not recognize Yosef because he had changed his appearance with a beard, spoke Egyptian, and everyone called him "Safenat-Paaneah".

This means that Pharaoh changed Yosef's name, though such a maneuver seemed pointless and unimportant at the time we later learn that the name change was vital for the brothers not recognizing Yosef and the continuation of the story. Thus Yosef's change of title gave him the ability to later test his brothers and conceal his true identity.

We learn from this an important lesson: though we may not understand the significance of all that happens to us, we must have the utmost emounah (faith) that Hashem is guiding us, and even the insignificant experiences that we seemingly go through, could have the most meaning in the future.
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