And now let Paroh seek out a discerning and wise man and appoint him over the land of Egypt. (Bereisheet 41:33)
After Yosef interpreted Paroh’s cryptic dream to the king’s satisfaction, the young prisoner offered his strategy for dealing with the impending famine. “And now let Paroh seek out a discerning and wise man and appoint him over the land of Egypt,” Yosef advised. That individual, he suggested, should set up a way to preserve the wealth of the good years to compensate for the dearth of the bad years. Yosef’s salvation from prison was the wine steward’s suggestion that this Jew could interpret the dreams of the monarch, not offer advice. Why did Yosef brazenly suggest to Paroh how he should run his country?
Chacham Ezra Attieh, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivat Porat Yosef Yerushalayim for over 50 years, suggested that Paroh, in fact, did ask this wise young slave what to do about the upcoming financial crisis. He said we should read the passuk as follows:
“And now?” [Paroh asked].
“Let Paroh seek out a discerning and wise man…” [Yosef replied].
This is a novel approach that can answer our question. However, we can use an incident with the Chofetz Chaim to answer in a different way.
Once, a Jewish man approached the Gadol Hador and complained that he was once wealthy and provided his family with all that one could desire and in a generous way. Unfortunately, his ability to earn money turned sour and he no longer could even provide necessities.
The Chofetz Chaim explained, “Sometimes Hashem gives a person a great deal in one package to provide for many years of sustenance for even his entire lifetime. You, unfortunately, foolishly consumed it all so quickly that you already have eaten what Hashem provided for today.”
Yosef understood that the dreams of a monarch are instructions on how to live and provide for his subjects. His advice was not an independent opinion; it was, in fact, the interpretation of Hashem’s message to Paroh. The king was to preserve the wealth to survive the approaching famine.
This message applies to all people in all generations. One must live sensibly and not waste the gifts Hashem sends. One must expend his money to provide necessities and hold on to the excess above his current needs to have the necessities in times that are economically difficult. More so, one should appreciate one’s strengths when young and preserve one’s energies to maximize the benefits when the body and mind begin to wear with age. A wise use of youth will provide for the difficult times of old age. Use what you need and save the rest. The suggestion of Yosef was considered wisdom by Paroh. We, too, should appreciate its value to us and the timeless nature of the advice.