Nelly Shulman
Nelly Shulman

The Immigrant’s Choice

In Genesis 41:38, Pharaoh lays the path for every law demanding that, before hiring a foreign employee, the company should prove there is no one locally able to perform this job. “וַיֹּ֥אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֖ה אֶל־עֲבָדָ֑יו הֲנִמְצָ֣א כָזֶ֔ה אִ֕ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֛ר ר֥וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֖ים בּֽוֹ” Could we find another one like him?

Ramban comments as follows, “Therefore the Pharaoh said to courtiers that they would find no Egyptian comparable to Joseph, as the Spirit of G-d is in him. After they admitted it, he said to Joseph, Since G-d has made all this known unto thee.”

However, Radak is more cautious, “Pharaoh said to the assembled advisers: “Joseph has made certain suggestions. Can we possibly find someone better qualified to put these suggestions into practice?”.

The rabbis here are divided in the interpretation of the verse. Some read in it a genuine admiration of Pharaoh, intertwined with fear. Imagine a recent immigrant who cleans the office building while casually advising fellow workers on the stock market tips. After listening to his predictions, the impressed CEO hires him lest the immigrant will turn his talents into something sinister or will be discovered by somebody else. He explains to the board of directors none is comparable to this immigrant.

Alternatively, the CEO wants to find the local talent first but, quickly realizing this to be impossible, turns to the immigrant anyway.

The trouble with impressional and emotional people, aka the Pharaoh, is their tendency to change their likes and dislikes. Accepting the offer, Joseph risks a possible fall from grace but, trusting God, takes it nevertheless.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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