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Parashat Miketz – Being part of the solution, not part of the problem


One of the most common questions asked about Yosef’s interpretation of Paroah’s dreams is why Yosef inserted at the end of his explanation unsolicited advice to appoint a food czar to prepare for and blunt the impending world famine.

Was it just naked self-promotion or perhaps did it serve a deeper purpose? 

Yosef felt that it was his responsibility as the conveyer of imminent doom to, not only identify the problem but also to propose a solution that would eliminate any feelings of despair that Paroah would certainly feel after hearing his dire interpretation.

It is not uncommon for people who have no solution to a problem to then deny the very existence of the problem. When Yosef proposed a viable solution for the problem that his interpretation predicted, Paroah would be more willing to accept the dire future.

Yosef advising Paroah on what to do to survive the famine was, therefore, an integral part of the dream interpretation, because without a proposed solution the interpretation would not be accepted. While it is not always possible to recommend solutions to people’s problems, an empathetic listener should encourage people and strengthen their resolve to find solutions. Otherwise, the only alternative will be in despair.

All the more so when a person is voluntarily pointing out a problem, he should only do so if he has a viable solution. We see this from Yitro, the father In-law of Moshe, when he saw long lines of people waiting all day to speak with Moshe, an untenable situation, Yitro along with his criticism advanced a solution to appoint others to help him cope.

Yosef did not want to be identified as part of the problem, he wanted to be perceived as part of the solution.

Rabbi Shaul