Towards the end of the Torah portion of Vayeishev, we read the unforgettable story of the sar ha’mashkim, the royal vintner, and the sar ha’ofim, the royal baker. The story is well known. Pharaoh incarcerates both these officials, the vintner because there was a fly in Pharaoh’s goblet of wine, and the baker because there was a stone in Pharaoh’s bread.
While in prison, both these officials have dreams that “dream weaver” Yosef interprets correctly – dreams of three clusters of grapes and three baskets of bread. Pharaoh rules that a fly flying into the goblet is not preventable, and three days later the vintner is restored to his former post. However, a stone in the bread is a gross negligence – not sifting the flour – so three days later the chief baker is executed.
I would like to introduce a deeper, symbolic way of understanding this, from sefer Meir Panim.
The Gemara (Brachot 40a) discusses what type of tree the Eitz Hada’at, the Tree of Knowledge, was. According to Rebi Meir it was a grapevine, and according to Rebi Yehuda it was a wheat tree (back in Gan Eden, wheat was a large fruit that grew on trees). A third opinion, that of Rebi Nechemia, is that it was a fig tree.
Meir Panim notes the principle that the sin of Adam and Chava was comprised of multiple stages, corresponding to the three opinions in the Gemara.
Adam, who was commanded by Hashem with the mitzvah of pru u’revu, procreation, was tardy in obeying this commandment. We know this because, only after Adam and Chava were expelled from Gan Eden does it say that Adam “knew” his wife – in the biblical sense (Breishit 4:1). Chava, in an attempt to “move things along,” squeezed grapes and gave Adam wine to drink (Zohar, part 1, 36a) to instill joy, simcha, in Adam, as it says (Tehillim 104:15) “Wine gladdens the heart of man.” Adam thus became intoxicated and fell asleep.
In the interim, Chava was duped by the serpent to take from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, wheat, grind it up into powder/dust, mix it with water into a kind of dough, and thus “create life on her own.” This is how Hashem had created Adam, by taking dust from the earth, dust which was mixed with water, a kind of dough, into which Hashem breathed a “living soul.” The serpent inserted a different kind of “life” into Chava’s dough, a foreign element – chametz. Chava then baked this dough into chametz bread.
Knowing that she had sinned, and jealous that she would now perish (as Hashem had warned) and that Adam would marry another woman, Chava devised a scheme to get Adam to eat from this chametz bread, making him mortal, like Chava. This involved fig leaves (beyond the scope of this shiur).
The wine that Chava gave to Adam was well-intentioned; it was with the intention of obeying Hashem’s commandment and was thus forgiven. The chametz bread that Chava baked was premeditated, or at the very least, constituted gross negligence and was therefore unforgivable. Adam and Chava were punished with the ultimate penalty.
The story of the vintner and the baker is an allegory for the sin of Adam and Chava. There was a fly in the wine. Fly, “zevuv” in Hebrew, is another name for the serpent – the evil inclination. There was a stone, a foreign element (chametz) in the bread. Chametz is also likened to the evil inclination. The number three (clusters of grapes, baskets of bread) indicates the three parties involved – Adam, Chava and the serpent.
An integral part of atonement for Adam and Chava’s sin was the Exodus from Egypt. The Pesach Seder is structured around this. We have four cups of wine, corresponding to the four times the word kos, goblet, is mentioned in the story above. We have three matzos corresponding to the three baskets of bread, and 49 days later on Atzeret, Shavuot, we offer two (chametz) loaves of bread. The third opinion of the fig leaf in the Gemara also features in the Seder – karpas.
The parsha ends by telling us that the royal vintner forgot Yosef, which also ties into Adam “forgetting” to observe the mitzvah of procreation, which resulted in his intoxication.
We thus see that this is not a simple children’s tale; it has deep symbolic meaning and practical halachic application.
Parshat Hashavua Trivia Question: How can the brothers calmly sit and eat bread immediately after selling their brother Yosef into slavery?
Answer to Last Week’s Trivia Question: Yaakov builds temporary, roofed enclosures for his sheep in Sukkot, the first person in history to do so. Why? The verse (Breishit 33:17) says that Yaakov built a house for himself and for the sheep he made sukkot, temporary dwellings, to teach us that the house of Torah is permanent, while material possessions are temporary and fleeting.