Finding Solutions in a Problematic WorldNovember 26, 2013 - 5:00 am
“And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.”—Genesis 41:33
This Torah portion for this week is Mikeitz, which means “at the end,” from Genesis 41:1–44:17, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 3:15–4:1.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”
In our world, there are more problems than solutions and everyone’s a critic. We have a tendency to focus on the negative, dwelling on all the problems with our lives, but just as fast as we find the holes, we shy away from plugging them.
In Hebrew, there is a term for a solution-oriented individual, “rosh gadol,” which literally means “big head.” A “big-headed” person looks at the big picture. She sees problems and creates solutions. He doesn’t need to be told to fix things because when he sees that something isn’t working, he works to find a solution. When employers look for employees, they almost always seek out this trait in prospective workers. In a world focused on problems, the solution-oriented person is invaluable.
In this week’s reading, Joseph exhibited this all-important trait, and it landed him the position of the prime minister of Egypt. Joseph became the second-in-command of the most powerful country on earth. Why? Because he could interpret dreams? Hardly. It was because Joseph was a rosh gadol and that was what Egypt needed most.
When Pharaoh asked Joseph to interpret his dreams, the Egyptian ruler got more than he asked for. First, Joseph correctly interpreted the dreams by explaining that Egypt was headed for seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. But Joseph didn’t stop there. Joseph offered a solution to this coming famine by suggesting that the country store a fifth of all grain during the years of plenty in order to survive the lean years. To facilitate this solution, Joseph suggested that Pharaoh appoint a “discerning and wise man” to oversee the entire operation, and after listening carefully to Joseph, Pharaoh decided that Joseph was the perfect man for the job.
Friends, there is no shortage of people who can point out everything that is wrong with everyone and everything. However, it’s time to shift from that mode of thinking and train our minds to seek solutions — at least as much as we naturally find problems. When you see the naked, clothe them; when you see someone who is hungry, feed them; when you see someone who is homeless, find them shelter (Isaiah 58:7). Don’t wait to be asked and don’t shirk your responsibility.
When we make solutions our focus instead of our problems, then just as Joseph solved Egypt’s greatest problems, we will be able to solve our own. Mahatma Gandhi put it this way: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”