Strategy to emerge from a crisis in a global natural disaster

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

The Parasha in our everyday life - Miketz – 5781

Yosef's interpretation of the second part of Pharaoh's dreams placed a warning sign against a global natural disaster.

הַפָּר֗וֹת רָע֤וֹת הַמַּרְאֶה֙ וְדַקֹּ֣ת הַבָּשָׂ֔ר  The ugly gaunt cows that came up from the Nile and the seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind שֶׁ֣בַע שִׁבֳּלִ֔ים דַּקּ֖וֹת וּשְׁדוּפֹ֣ת קָדִ֑ים indicate a severe damage to the level of the Nile river, the only source of water in Egypt, which lies in an arid desert. The Egyptian agriculture depends on it: "For the land of Egypt shall drink from the river, and out of it comes satiety and hunger, he saw them rising from the river. And the cows a sign of plowing, and the ears a sign of harvest… See that the river did not rise just a little and there is no plowing, and whoever sows a little in the damp places will bring forth the east wind and scorch them, as he saw them." (Ramban Bereshit 41:2).

A seven-year severe drought is expected throughout Africa and the Middle East - the drainage basin of the Nile waters (which originates in Ethiopia and crosses Africa).

Before the natural disaster there will be a blessed period of much harvest that will last seven years. But the dream solver is led to add an organizational recommendation. How to prepare state-wise in the years of satiety, towards the years of famine.

A projector was required to be entrusted on behalf of the king, who was not the king himself, and under him an entire mechanism:

אמר לו שיצטרך לאיש נבון וחכם שיהיה ממונה על כל הארץ, ויפקד עוד פקידים תחתיו שילכו בארץ ויקבצו את כל אוכל, כי לא יוכל השליט ללכת בכל הארץ

"He told him that he would need a wise and prudent man to oversee the whole land, and he would command more officials under him to go into the land and gather all the food, because the ruler could not go all over the land". (Ramban 41:33)

But the mechanism is not enough, it also needs an informed state assessment program that will provide a correct solution to the crisis. In a crisis, the deployment and response should be stately and not privatized. The state apparatus, prepared storage infrastructure to stock up and warehouses to store the food that would be collected in the satiety years, in safekeeping, and knew how to conduct itself wisely economically:

"A man of understanding... He would have to reckon how much the Egyptians themselves required so that the rest could be sold to other countries for Pharaoh’s enrichment. And wisdom. He would have to know how to store the grain in such a way that it would not spoil". (Ibid)

Yosef understood that he was the best suited man to manage the crisis, and this was his opportunity to gain senior status within the Egyptian government:

…ואמר יוסף כל זה בעבור שיבחרו אותו…

"And Yosef said all these things to be elected…" (ibid.).

The projector is required to have the ability to identify the problem correctly, and give the right, just, and most effective solution. Create a fair distribution of resources. He needs to have managerial ability to design and implement the solution and get the whole system to collaborate. Be strong enough to withstand the pressure of self-interested groups seeking to improve their own situation and well-being, at the expense of others.

Yosef is required to manage the seven years of crisis, in an informed manner, in front of a population that has gradually lost its purchasing power. He is required not to distribute the grain for free so that they do not consume beyond their need. And especially, he is required to formulate a strategy to get out of the crisis:

שהרי התבואה שנשארה מן השובע והכסף שבידם הספיק להם שלש שנים וברביעית נתנו מקניהם ובחמישית אדמתם ובששית גופם ובשביעית נתן להם זרע וזרעו ולקטו בשמינית תבואה מן השדה ופסק הרעב

“The food which had been stored up during the seven years of plenty plus the financial savings of the population had sufficed to see them through the first three years. In the fourth year the people tendered their livestock for food, and in the fifth year they tendered their land holdings. In the sixth year they agreed to become slaves of Pharaoh in return for receiving rations from Yosef’s stores. In the seventh year, Yosef gave them seed to plant and they planted it, collecting a harvest in the eight’s year, and the famine was over”. (Chizkuni Bereshit 47:18)

During the crisis, Yosef moved them out of their places and created a new, improved state order, that would incentivize the Egyptian economy as it emerged from the crisis to increase productivity for a better future for Egypt. Yosef distributed to them rights of the land, in a way that made them partners in the crop:

וְהָיָה֙ בַּתְּבוּאֹ֔ת וּנְתַתֶּ֥ם חֲמִישִׁ֖ית לְפַרְעֹ֑ה וְאַרְבַּ֣ע הַיָּדֹ֡ת יִהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶם֩ לְזֶ֨רַע הַשָּׂדֶ֧ה וּֽלְאָכְלְכֶ֛ם וְלַאֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּבָתֵּיכֶ֖ם וְלֶאֱכֹ֥ל לְטַפְּכֶֽם׃

“And when harvest comes, you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be yours as seed for the fields and as food for you and those in your households, and as nourishment for your children.” (Bereshit 47:23)

הֵא לָכֶם זֶרַע וּזְרַעְתֶּם אֶת הָאֲדָמָה”  Here are seed for you, work.

וְהָיָה בַּתְּבוּאֹת וּנְתַתֶּם חֲמִישִׁית לְפַרְעֹה you will hand over one fifth of the crop to Pharaoh,

וְאַרְבַּע הַיָּדֹת the remaining four- fifths, you keep for yourself

יִהְיֶה לָכֶם לְזֶרַע הַשָּׂדֶה year after year

וּלְאָכְלְכֶם וְלַאֲשֶׁר בְּבָתֵּיכֶם for food and sustenance for your families”. (Abarbanel Ibid).

We are in a global crisis. The whole world has mobilized to deal with the crisis, some more and some less. The world economy has seen better times. The news about the vaccine is like the light at the end of the tunnel that heralds the beginning of the end. The strategy of getting out of the crisis should not return the situation to its former state, but improve and make it more efficient, towards a better future.

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