Genesis: 41:33 "Now let Pharoh seek out a discerning and wise man and appoint him over the land of Egypt."
The Pharoh in Egypt asked Yosef to interpret the two baffling dreams that he had. The first was of seven thin cows eating seven fat cows and the second was of seven withered ears of grain swallowing seven robust ears of grain.
Yosef said that both dreams were revealing one message; that there would be seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine and the famine would be so severe that the prior seven years of plenty would be forgotten.
We then find that Yosef continues to present Pharoh with a strategic plan. He suggests that Pharoh appoint a "wise and discerning man" over Egypt to oversee the gathering of the produce during the seven years of abundance and store it away for the seven years of famine. This person would have to understand the science of agriculture to know how to properly store each type of grain.
A question that can be asked is why did Yosef offer his advice so freely when not asked for it? Wasn't it a bit presumptuous of Yosef, a prisoner for the past twelve years, to offer unsolicited advice when Pharoh didn't ask for it and anyway had his own cabinet of advisors?
Rav Avrohom Pam, of blessed memory, writes that Yosef did this to avert a future catastrophe. He realized that the people wouldn't value the worth of a few stalks of wheat during the seven abundant years. For with so much abundance, what value would a few stalks of wheat have? Aware of the terrible famine ahead, Yosef realized that unless people valued every single stalk of grain during the years of plenty and made focused and organized ways to store and preserve it, there would be a terrible loss of life later on.
Yosef's insight has a practical message for us. Often people look ahead at the long road of life ahead of them and think that it will go on forever. What value does a day have, an hour have, when time seems to be endless? There is no sense of urgency to utilize every moment for growth.
Our years of living in this world can be compared to the seven years of plenty in Egypt. There is an abundance of time, an abundance of Torah to be learned, there are so many mitzvos to do, and so many opportunities to grow and actualize our potential for good.
When we leave this world however, we will enter the "seven years of famine," a period where we will no longer have opportunities to grow and exercise our free will. Only a wise person, aware of the future reality, will realize this and not be lulled into a sense of complacency during his or her lifetime; he will savor every moment to grow and accomplish.
Rav Pam writes that it is no coincidence that in most years, this Parsha coincides with Chanukah, because Chanukah expresses this idea. Israel is a land that is blessed with an abundance of olive oil. Yet during the time when the Chashmonaim rose up against the Syrian Greeks, they could not find any olive oil to light the holy menorah. Miraculously, one sealed jug of oil was found that lasted for eight days instead of one. In regular times, what value did one small jug of oil have? Yet, when the darkness of the Syrian-Greek occupation swept over the Jewish people; when the "days of famine" came, that one jug of oil was of infinite value.
As we enjoy our years of "plenty," let us have the wisdom and foresight to realize that years of "famine" will inevitably come. Any good that we can do can only be done here.
Have a Good Shabbos and an illuminated Chanukah!