The Ant and the Grasshopper

In this week’s Torah portion we read that Pharaoh had two dreams which no one except Joseph is able to interpret. Joseph explains that the two dreams are really one dream and that Egypt will experience seven years of plenty and then seven lean years. In light of this interpretation it makes sense that Joseph councils Pharaoh to capitalize on this opportunity and to “go long” on the wheat market. It is shocking that even without the knowledge that there would be seven years of famine no one else stored up the surplus during the seven years of plenty. Not that anyone would have lasted for a whole seven years, but it seems that overnight the famine comes and the people are starving. Did no one store up at all during those years?

I am reminded of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. During the summer the ant toiled storing up food for the winter. The grasshopper spent his time hanging out and living in the moment. In the end the grasshopper was left cramming. Procrastination is human nature. Why else do we punish ourselves with Maztah on Passover? We were told that we would be leaving; we just never bothered to pack a nice lunch for the road. So for ever we are told to eat the burnt toast we made as we were running out the door.

We learn in the Gemara, “The one who took trouble to prepare on the eve of Shabbat can eat on Shabbat, but the one who has not troubled on the eve of Shabbat, what shall he eat Shabbat?”(Avodah Zarah 3a) The gift of Shabbat is not only that we need to relax one day a week and not do work, but that we need to work extra hard on the other six days to make Shabbat possible. If it is natural to procrastinate, it is surely supernatural to plan for the future.

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