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
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
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
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.