ויהי מקץ שנתים ימים
And it came to pass after two full years
These two years were counted from the day that the chief butler left prison, Pharaoh’s birthday. From that moment, two additional years were added to Joseph’s captivity, for having placed his trust in the chief butler, believing that the butler would mention him favorably to the king. Pharaoh’s birthday was a day designated for recognition of his servants, either for pardon (as with the chief butler) or punishment (as with the chief baker). Joseph therefore said to the butler “כי אם זכרתני” (but remember me) “והזכרתי אל פרעה” (and make mention of me to Pharaoh), meaning that if the chief butler would remember him during the course of the next year, the butler would be able to mention Joseph favorably to Pharaoh before Pharaoh’s next birthday.
However, “ולא זכר שר המשקים את יוסף” (the chief butler did not remember Joseph). Why? Because “וישכחהו” (he forgot him) within the following year. Joseph had hoped fervently that by the Pharaoh’s next birthday, the chief butler would speak well of him to the king. But, having placed his trust in a mortal, Joseph was forgotten like a dead person by the chief butler who did not mention him. Joseph therefore stayed an additional year in jail, so that only after his hope that the chief butler would help him were completely disappointed, did the Almighty arrange for him to be mentioned on Pharaoh’s birthday, after one more year had passed. But the chief butler mentioned Joseph not for Joseph’s sake, but for the king’s, whose spirit had been disturbed by his dream. The extension of Joseph’s captivity was, therefore, a lesson for Joseph to place his trust only in God, and not to seek deliverance elsewhere, which is why the Scripture writes “שנתים ימים” (two years of days).
But it is astonishing that God would consider it sinful for Joseph to try to free himself from captivity. Is that not called wisdom and does God not promise “וברכתיך בכל אשר תעשה” (and I will bless you in all that you shall do)? And even if, nevertheless, salvation belongs to God, we human beings are required to do whatever we can. However, Joseph the righteous was different, being schooled in miracles and entirely under Divine Providence beyond the bounds of nature, as was the case when thrown into the pit, and when in the house of his Egyptian master, and God was with him in all that he did. Thus, while Joseph was imprisoned, whichever way he turned, God made him successful. One such as this should have cast his burden only to God. To rely on human agency was, therefore, a sin only for one such as Joseph.
This is also the meaning of the Midrash on the verse “ויהי מקץ שנתים ימים” correspond to the verse (Psalms 40:5): “אשרי הגבר אשר שם ה’ מבטחו ולא פנה אל רהבים השטי כזב” (Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust who does not turn to the proud to those who go astray after false gods) refers to Joseph. But because he did turn to the proud, when he said “כי אם זכרתני” (remember me) and “והזכרתני” (make mention of me), two years were added to his captivity. This is astonishing. But the intent of the Midrash is that every person must trust in God, but may also seek aid wherever it is found, provided he attributes the aid to Divine Providence. But blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust without any intermediary. Joseph was one like this, and therefore should not have turned for aid to the proud. (שביבי אש)
וטבוח טבח והכן
and slaughter an animal and make ready
This is the same as “לטבוח טבח ולהכן” (and to slaughter and to prepare). The word “טבוח” is not an imperative, for the imperative would be “וטבח.”
It can be seen that the Tosafot (Hulin 91a, ד.ה. כמאן דאמר גיד הנשה) and the Maharshah say that while “וטבוח” is not an imperative, “והכן” is an imperative. And it appears to our master that since the brothers fulfilled the commandment of shehitah, they would not eat meat slaughtered by a Noahide, an animal slaughtered by a gentile being considered neveilah. Joseph therefore did not tell his gentile servant to “slaughter” (וטבח), he told him “וטבוח,” i.e., to prepare the animal’s throat for one of the brothers to perform the shehitah himself. But Joseph did command the servant to prepare animal to be eaten after shehitah, using the imperative form “והכן” which meant that the servant himself should remove the sciatic nerve (גיד הנשה).
This is an appropriate place to mention that our master was astounded that the Rambam in his commentary on the Mishnah (Hulin 7:6) explains that the reply of the Sages to R. Judah (who disagree whether the commandment not to eat the sciatic nerve was introduced at Mount Sinai or had been a commandment since the time of Jacob) was that although the commandment was given at Sinai, the commandment was written in its proper place (i.e., in the narrative concerning Jacob at Genesis 32:33). The Rambam explains that what the Sages meant is that we fulfill this commandment only because we were commanded at Sinai to do so, not because there had been a prior commandment to do so. But if this is what the Sages meant, then even the Sages agree that the children of Jacob had been prohibited to eat the sciatic nerve. This opinion is problematic, because the Gemara (Hulin 91a) cites the opinion that when it is written that Joseph said “והכן” (and prepare) it means that he ordered the servant to remove the sciatic nerve within the sight of Joseph’s brothers. The Gemara states that this interpretation of the verse accords with the opinion that the prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve applied to the children of Jacob when they were just Noahides, which is the opinion of R. Judah. But, according to the Rambam’s interpretation of the opinion of the Sages, it is undisputed that the children of Jacob did not eat the sciatic nerve. So why did the Gemara say that the interpretation of the verse accords with the opinion that the brothers did not eat the sciatic nerve, as if there were a contrary opinion? (שביבי אש)