The Sins of the Butler and the Baker

Sponsored by Josh, Dov, Moshe and Yehuda Halickman in Honor of Sharona’s Birthday


Chaper 40 in Parshat Vayeshev begins with the words (Breisheet 40:1-3): “After these events, a sin was committed by the Egypian King’s butler (mashkeh) and baker (haofeh) against their master, the King of Egypt. Pharaoh was enraged at the two officials, the chief butler (sar hamashkim) and the chief baker (sar haofim). He placed them under guard in the house of the chief executioner, in the prison, where Yosef was imprisoned.”


What terrible sins did the baker and butler commit?


According to Rashi, the butler brought Pharaoh a drink that had a fly in it. The baker brought Pharaoh bread that had a pebble in it.


When Yosef interprets their dreams he says that in three days, Pharaoh will invite the chief butler to come back to work but the chief baker will be killed.


Chizkuni explains that Pharaoh invited the chief butler back because a fly in the drink could have been an accident. Obviously at the time Pharaoh wasn’t happy but in retrospect it wasn’t such a big deal. On the other hand, the idea that there were pebbles in the flour which led to a pebble in Pharaoh’s bread shows total incompetence on the part of the chief baker. It could have even been placed there on purpose in order to harm the king and therefore not only was the chief baker not invited back, he was executed.


Sforno says that the butler and baker that sinned were servants who worked for the chief butler and chief baker. If you notice, the ones who committed the crimes are called the mashkeh and haofeh in sentence 1 and the ones who were punished were called sar hamashkim and sar haofim in sentence 2. Although the sarim (chiefs) didn’t directly commit the crime they were still held responsible.


We learn from here that supervisors are responsible for the work of their employees. If an employee makes a mistake, their supervisor may be ultimately held responsible.