What is the explanation of the double descriptions of the two sets of cows?
(41,2) “And behold, from the Nile were coming up seven cows, of good appearance and robust flesh…and behold, seven other cows were coming up after them from the Nile, of bad appearance and lean of flesh.”
The reason why each set of cows are described with two descriptions is because there are two different types of famine - רעב and כפן, as we see from the two posukim in Iyov: “In famine (ברעב) He will redeem you from death” (5:20), and “At destruction and famine (לכפן) you shall laugh” (5:22). The former word refers to a time when the fields are not producing good produce, whereas the latter is when the fields are producing good produce but Hashem does not place in the produce the ability to satiate the appetite, like the posuk in Vayikra 26:26 says, “and you shall eat and not be satisfied”.
This is what our posuk means: “handsome appearance”, that is, the appearance of the produce is good, and “robust flesh”, that it satisfies because the ability to satiate has not been taken from it. But with regard to the bad cows, both these qualities are reversed - “bad appearance” and also “lean of flesh”. Thus the famine which was being shown to Pharaoh was to contain both types of famine.
Why did Yosef give to Pharaoh unasked for advice?
(41,25) “And Yosef said to Pharaoh: Pharaoh’s dream is one; what G-d is doing He has told to Pharaoh. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears of grain are seven years.”
Behold, initially Yosef did not tell Pharaoh to what these things allude. Only afterwards did he say to him “and the seven empty ears of grain, beaten by the east wind, will be seven years of famine”. Why did he not tell him the allusions straight away with his first words? Also, why did he repeat his first words “what G-d is doing He has told to Pharaoh”, saying in posuk 28 “It is the matter that I have spoken to Pharaoh; what G-d is about to do He has shown to Pharaoh.”? Also problematic is Yosef’s statement “so now, let Pharaoh seek out an understanding and wise man and appoint him over the land of Egypt” - did Pharaoh call him in order to ask his advice? He only called him to interpret his dream!
However, know that the reason why his necromancers interpreted the dreams as "seven daughters you will beget and seven daughters you will bury, seven countries you will conquer and seven provinces will rebel against you", as is brought in the Midrash, is because it is normal for a person to dream only about things which are relevant to him. And therefore they did not interpret his dreams to be referring to famine, because how could famine be relevant to the king?
Therefore, when Yosef came to interpret the dream he preceeded his remarks by saying “what G-d is doing He has told to Pharaoh”. That is, that which Hashem wishes to do in the world even if the matter is not relevant to the king. But because he was worried that Pharaoh would not listen to him, saying to himself: "Is it likely that I would be shown in a dream something that is completely irrelevant to me?", Yosef told him that the seven good cows allude to seven years, and so too the seven good ears of grain are seven years, and these indeed are relevant to you. However, you should know that the seven empty ears of grain allude that there will be seven years of famine. Therefore, from Heaven they revealed this to you, in order that you can take steps to prevent the country from being destroyed by famine.
And he explained to him the method how to rectify the situation. Thus he advised him and said: “It is the matter which I have spoken to Pharaoh; what G-d is about to do He has shown to Pharaoh”. And why did He show and tell it to Pharaoh? Because “behold, seven years of great plenty are coming throughout all the land of Egypt”. But “seven years of famine will arise after them, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will destroy the land”. And now, since Pharaoh knows about this, he will certainly see to it that the situation is rectified because it is the way of the king to be concerned with the welfare of the country, and he will quickly “seek an understanding and wise man” to gather grain.
And the reason why Hashem showed him two dreams, about cows and ears of grain, is because cows symbolise plowing and ears of grain symbolise reaping. In other words, that for seven years there would be no plowing and reaping.
What was Ya’akov bemoaning to his sons?
(42,37) “And their father said to them: You have bereaved me - Yosef is gone, Shimon is gone, and you want to take Binyamin! Upon me have come all these things.”
All this that Ya’akov is saying to his sons is seemingly superfluous, because who does not know that the distress caused by the disappearance of one of the children is felt most by the father? However, we can explain the matter as follows:
When Rivkah wanted to send Ya’akov to receive the blessings from Yitzchok, his father, Ya’akov was concerned that his father would curse him for deceiving him. So Rivkah said to him: “Upon me (עלי) will be your curses, my son”. Now, to explain these words simply, that she meant that Yitzchok will not curse him, is difficult, because if so, she should have said more clearly: He will not curse you. Rather, the meaning is that Rivkah informed Ya’akov that only three troubles would come upon him, which are alluded to by the word עלי - the trouble with Eisav, with Lavan, and with Yosef - because the word עלי is a mnemonic for these three men, עשו לבן יוסף.
This is what Ya’akov was saying: How can you take Binyamin? Upon me have come all these things! That is, surely my mother informed me with the Divine Spirit that only these three troubles which are alluded to in the word עלי will come upon me, and not more!
Only afterwards, when Shimon and Binyamin were restored to him and he had only suffered distress because of them a short time did he see clearly that his mother had spoken the truth. But until this happened he bemoaned the fact that his mother appeared to have been wrong.