Beginning of Breishit 40:16:

וירא שר האופים כי טוב פתר

Does it mean:

A - The head baker saw that he (Joseph) interpreted (the dream) well (i.e. correctly) or....

B- The head baker saw that he interpreted (the dream) for good (things to occur to the wine steward)

Or could it mean either of the above, or, perhaps, another interpretation?

The placement of the verb at the end causes me some confusion. The word טוב could be either a noun or an adverb.

  • 2
    By "proper" translation, I'm assuming you mean, which mefarshim adopt which of those two positions? You're right: טוב can be both a noun here or an adverb. I think both of those are proper translations and you could justify either of them.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 22:28
  • avantgeously.....?
    – kouty
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 22:44
  • The very idea of asking a question of "a proper translation of X" is not clear to me, there are tens of translations and hundreds of interpretations, so how do we pick "the proper" one?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 20:39
  • @AlBerko " how do we pick "the proper" one?" - OK, OK. You are very picky about my language ;-)
    – DanF
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 3:47

4 Answers 4


Rashi (according to the Medrash he brings on posuk hey (Gen. 40:5) says "tov" here means "correctly". This is because each one dreamt his own dream (without its interpretation) and the correct interpretation of his friend's dream as well.

The Ramban says both pshatim. He brings Targum Unkelos who translates "tov" as "nicely". That means to say that the baker would never have told Yosef his own dream unless he witnessed how Yosef knew his stuff well. :) OR it can mean he interpreted it favorably (tov).

The Seforno says it means that the baker saw Yosef give a favorable interpretation and thought he would get one too so he also told him his dream.

The Rashbam holds it means the baker saw the words were true. (Tov means he interpreted correctly.)

I believe the Ohr HaChaim says like Rashi about the Medrash (he saw it was correct because he had knowledge of the correct interpretation), and also brings the pshat like the second answer in the Ramban and the Seforno (tov=good and not bad.)

Apparently it lends itself to both.

  • Nice collection!
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 13:52

See Targum Yehonatan:

וַחֲמָא רַב נַחְתּוֹמֵי אֲרוּם יָאוּת פָּשָׁר דְהוּא חָמָא פּוּשְׁרַן חֵילְמָא דְחַבְרֵיהּ וְשָׁרֵי לְמַלָלָא בִּלְשׁוֹן רוּגְזָא וַאֲמַר לְיוֹסֵף אוּף אֲנָא הַוִית חָמֵי בְּחֶלְמִי וְהָא תְּלָתָא סַלִין דְפִיתָּא נַקְיָא עַל רֵישִׁי

... had seen that he properly interpreted because he had seen the deciphering of the dream of his neighbor; he began to speak with angrily "I too have seen in a dream... as the first possibility you wrote

Ramban said that טוב, ,translated in Aramaic by Onkelos, יאות is "nicely" . {We can notify that in Targum Yehonatan yaut is not necessarily nicely. But Ramban quoted it from Onkelos translation.} In a first pshat Ramban said that Sar Haofim was surprised to see that Yosef is able to give a nice i. e. convincing interpretation. Previously, he did not think Yosef could (this pshat is not considered in the question) .

In a second pshat, nicely here is favorably, with clemency, as the second possibility you wrote.


Rashi on 40:5 and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplen on 40:16 learn it as A - The head baker saw that he (Joseph) interpreted (the dream) well (i.e. correctly)


The Talmud takes both interpretations.

That is, the baker saw that Joseph had provided the literal outline of his own dream to him (the baker), and since the interpretation of the dream for the cup bearer was favorable, he (the baker) assumed that the interpretation of his particular dream by Joseph would also be favorable for him.

b. Berachoth (Folio 55B)
Raba said: This is only if the interpretation corresponds to the content of the dream: for it says, to each man according to his dream he did interpret.
When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good.
How did he know this?
R`Eleazar says: This tells us that each of them was shown his own dream and the interpretation of the other one's dream.

The nuance of the oral tradition here is that Joseph provided to both the cup bearer and to the baker the literal outlines of their respective dreams (independent one from the another), which was "good" (accurate), but had only provided the interpretation of those dreams to the other person. In other words, Joseph provided to the cup bearer the interpretation of the dream of the baker, and vice-versa. Thus the baker inferred (incorrectly) that the interpretation of own dream was "good."

  • I think you're misreading R' Eleazar's statement. He's saying that each of them had been shown, in his sleep, his own dream and the interpretation of the other's and was thus able to authenticate Joseph's interpretation of the other's dream. It sounds a great deal like "good" = "authentic" here. I don't see the basis for "good" = "favorable."
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:17
  • @IsaacMoses - the oral tradition complements the text, and so the only interpreter of dreams in the context of Scripture here was Joseph. In other words, the Talmud does not replace, but complements our understanding of the Torah.
    – Joseph
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:32
  • See Rashi on 40:5, cited in other answers, which, apparently citing this passage in the Talmud as well as Midrash Rabbah (although I haven't been able yet to find the primary source of the latter), explicitly states this cross-understanding in terms of what they each had dreamed.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:51

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