A short teaching from R. Uziel Meizlish, Tiferes Uziel, Parshat Miketz
ויהי מקץ שנתים ימים ופרעה חולם והנה עומד על היאור וגו’. פרעה אמר בסיפור חלומו שעומד על שפת היאור. וקשה הא בחלום עצמו כתיב שעומד על היאור ולא על שפת. ואפשר שזה הרשע שינה במכוון כי היאור היה אלהיו כידוע מאמרם ז”ל שהרשעים על אלהיהם ולכן בוש עצמו לומר שעומד על היאור ולכך שינה שעומד על שפת היאור
At the end of two years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing over the Nile… Gen. 41:1
When Pharaoh told Joseph about his dream, he said that he was ‘standing over the bank of the Nile,’ while in the dream he is standing over the Nile itself. It may be that the wicked Pharaoh made this change on purpose, for it is known from the teachings of the rabbis that ‘the wicked stand over their Gods,’ and he was ashamed to say it.
Sources: the wicked stand over their Gods… Rabbi Yohanan said, ‘The wicked place themselves over their gods, as in “Pharaoh stood over the Nile,” while the righteous place the blessed Holy One over them, as in “Behold, the LORD stood over him.” Pharaoh places himself over the Nile and uses his god for his own needs, while Jacob, despite his own difficulties, stands before God, ready to serve. (Yalkut Shimoni on Vayetzei)
To me this short teaching seems to be about religious integrity. It’s easy to believe that our religious deeds are always for God, but sometimes we have an experience or an encounter which shows us our less-than-selfless motives. What seems to separate the ‘wicked’ Pharaoh from the ‘righteous’ Joseph is the honesty to admit what we see.
For other teachings from Tiferes Uziel on integrity in service, see this.