Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Kislev 5759, December 8, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
Who Is a Wise Man?
by L. Jungerman

The program which Yosef envisioned as a preparation for the years of famine was considered by Pharaoh and his advisors as extraordinarily brilliant. "There is none as intelligent and wise as you." Yosef himself presented his plan with the requisite that whoever was appointed to execute it be a wise and intelligent person.

The question that was raised in the beis midrash of Novardok was: wherefore the need of someone of exceptional intelligence?

The forecast was clear and simple: seven years of bounty followed by seven years of famine. Whoever made no provisions for the famine, no savings plan, would necessarily suffer the consequences. But this was common sense and apparently required no brilliance to plan and execute.

Today anyone opening a bank account is immediately advised to open a savings account as well, whether for their children's education, to marry them off, to buy a home, a car, for a trip abroad and so on. The logic behind stashing money away for a rainy or sunny day is clear to all. It is a question of thinking ahead for the future at the expense of some discomfort in the present.

In Novardok, things were not taken at face value. Instead of accepting this obvious answer, they delved into the question more deeply, and asked it again.

What? Really? Is it then so simple and obvious? Is it self evident that everyone must put aside supplies during the plenty to tide him over in the lean years? Is this normal? Must man make long range provisions in life?

No one really believed that the years of prosperity would last forever. Who lives forever, anyway? One does not need any profound philosophical understanding to know that years are numbered. Life expectancy is limited. Everyone has experienced the death of grandparents or others -- enough to know that generations go and generations come, and no one lives eternally.

What happens after? Where has everyone gone? Was living worth it for all the show lasted? People are not that foolish to believe that this is all there is to life: one is born, lives and dies. Finis. Without a why or wherefore. No! Nothing came into being of itself, not even the wing of a fly and surely not the most priceless thing in this temporal world: life.

If this fact is clear, that life was granted to mankind by a Creator, it is also clear that it has a purpose, a mission, an end for the means. "Not one in a thousand will admit that the world is here for pleasure," writes the Mesillas Yeshorim. "Perhaps not everyone knows that there is an afterlife, but surely everyone can see that this world is not the end-all.

"And you will surely realize that no intelligent person can believe that the purpose of man's creation was only for his condition in this world. What, after all, is the sum of man's life in this world? A life expectancy of seventy, and if he is fortunate eighty, with no more to boast of than travail and nothingness. How much suffering, pain, sickness and troubles there are in this world, all to end up only in the grave," concludes Mesillas Yeshorim.

But in this area, people remain fools. They fail to consider, to see. For some strange reason, no one is concerned about opening a bank account, a savings plan for the hereafter. In this aspect people blindly feel that everything is fine and will continue to be fine. There is no tension or concern for the future, for contingencies. The years of plenty are not seven, they are seventy. But are they truly plenty? Where is the inner voice that nudges a person to think ahead, to remember that not all that is well now ends well.

The difference is simple. One has the option of opening a savings plan, and is urged to do so. But he is not forced to do it. Making provisions for a future day can hamper a person's present and cramp his lifestyle. It forces him to think, to scrimp, to take stock.

It takes an intelligent, thinking person to look ahead, to plan ahead, to think of the future, to make necessary allowances. An average person may wonder about what lies ahead, but will not necessarily take the right measures to accommodate it. The thought itself is insufficient to make him take action because he doesn't feel threatened by something that is obscure and indefinite.

"There is a vast difference," writes R' Avrohom Yitzchok Bloch Hy'd, "between one who understands future consequences and one who sees them. One who understands, lives in the present and his outlook cannot be changed even by his foresight of what will happen. He realizes that his situation will not remain static, but if things are fine right now he is blinded and bribed by his feeling of well- being. He feels the present in the fiber of his being and cannot take measures for a different eventuality.

"One who `sees' the future however, with his wisdom and understanding, lives the present on a different plane. His senses are attuned to a different status; he can project himself into it and relate to it as a fact, a condition."

Therefore, it was necessary to enforce upon an entire country a law that would legislate frugality and thrift during years of plenty, without compromise or excuses or ploys, through a program that would obligate the entire population to avoid lapsing into a complacent way of life but to be abstemious for the sake of a more secure future when lean years came.

In order to execute this program, it was necessary to find a man with foresight, intelligence, wisdom. A man who had the strength and conviction to carry out the program to the letter and who will not become lax due to prosperity that seemed to say: have no care; living is easy.

Such a person who lived in the future in the same measure as he lived in the present, with a strong sense of responsibility, with all of his wits and senses. He foresaw future developments and felt them now.

He is truly a wise and intelligent person.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.