TORAH FOR THE NATIONS
The weekly Torah portion and its lessons for all people
HOW TO AVERT CATASTROPHE
"And it was at the end of two years, when Pharaoh was dreaming, and there he was standing over the river."
"At the end of two years": Joseph's rise to power was not immediate. It was destined to occur only at the end of a specific period, during which he continued to suffer in the pit. Thus from the very beginning of our portion, we are directed to keep our eyes focused on the end, the future goal. Joseph's winning interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams of seven good cows and seven good ears of corn consumed in each case by seven bad ones is also focused on the end, the future, the time when we will have to face the consequences of our deeds today: Seven years of plenty are coming but they will be followed by seven years of famine. Don't squander the years of plenty, thinking only of present enjoyment. Look ahead, plan and act now so as to prepare for the years of dire hardship that are to come!
"And Pharaoh said to his servants: Could there be found such a man that has the spirit of God in him? And Pharaoh said to Joseph: After God has made known to you all this, no-one is as understanding and wise as you" (Genesis 41:38-9). Pharaoh immediately appointed Joseph over his own household and over the whole of Egypt, then leader of the world in religion, wisdom, agriculture, engineering, architecture art and much else. Pharaoh's dream was not that of a mere private citizen but that of the king, having implications for the whole country and the whole world. This is what gives this story and Joseph's brilliant counsel, delivered in the presence of all Egypt's sages and counselors, universal importance in our times: Consume sparingly in good times in order to conserve for an unknown future. Joseph's plan, stated with such exquisite simplicity, clarity and beauty in our portion, is a lesson that all humanity, particularly our leaders, must truly and honestly take to heart.
I write these words towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century on December 18 2009, just as leaders of 192 nations are gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark for a global summit on "Global Warming".
It takes little intelligence to understand that the global environment is rapidly changing with the most alarming present and likely future consequences in response to the huge amounts of emissions and other pollutants from all of the busy activities of earth's burgeoning human population as they go about the pursuit of ever higher standards of living with more cars, more jets, more gadgets and more of everything else for more and more people. This very pursuit is causing irreparable damage to the environment through wanton abuse of resources, horrifying pollution, deforestation and other evils often perpetrated by giant consortiums and vested financial interests with the complicity of top government officials. This is a global insanity that will lead inescapably to the decline and fall of human civilization as we know it.
Ironically the delegates in Copenhagen include prominent celebrities who have been most outspoken about the dangers of global warming and other threats while simultaneously maintaining their own fleets of private jets, flashy cars and energy-guzzling luxury estates. In fact the entire summit is a hugely expensive and wasteful affair involving tens of thousands of personnel for what can only be described a crushingly disappointing result:
As reported by the world news media, the global "deal" addressing climate change includes pledges by developed countries to cut damaging emissions that fall short of the minimum target set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In other words, the leaders of the developed countries ignore their own advisors. It is reported that United States is willing to contribute $100 billion to a climate protection fund to make up for not improving on the recently announced emissions target. In other words, the United States is willing to pay a huge sum of money to avoid having to lose what they fear will be even more money if damaging emissions are reduced to recommended levels! It is reported that rich countries are ready to accept the principle that poor countries should not be legally bound to deliver on their commitments to reduce the rate of growth of their emissions - again, because this allows the rich countries not to deliver on their commitments either.
Who will bring these world leaders to their senses and persuade them to take the required steps to tackle the dire threats facing us instead of wheeler-dealing with each other to avoid doing what is necessary to save us from catastrophe?
It took God's intervention in Egypt by sending Pharaoh his dreams in order to bring Joseph to greatness as the wise counselor who saved Egypt and the then known world from disaster. Likewise we today are looking to "the end", awaiting the shoot from the stock of Jesse upon whom the spirit of God shall rest, "the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of God. With righteousness shall he judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the land, and he shall smite the land with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." (Isaiah 11:2-5).
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