It seemed like a good idea at the time. The money had run out. (I wonder if it even occurred to them to just mint more of it-nah, too modern an idea.) OK, we'll buy your animals in exchange for food from the granaries. Then, a year later, when there were no more animals to be sold, the people asked to sell their land in exchange for food from the granaries. So the Egyptians willingly became farmers in serfdom to Pharaoh. Better to live as a serf than to die a free man, eh? Offends our modern sensibilities, doesn't it? Yet what would we have done in their situation?
Oh wait, we may all about to be in that situation. Not a famine, per se, but surely its modern equivalent - an economic depression. What will we have to sell to the government, or to the robber barons, to keep ourselves alive? Will the price be worth it?
Well, what one sows, one reaps. It's doubtful the Egyptian people, as grateful as the were, forgot the price Joseph forced them to pay to stay alive. Surely the resentment that gradually built up against the Hebrews resulted in their eventual slavery to Pharaoh. Turnabout is fair play, no?
We're not likely to forget either. Those scheming a way out of our present economic woes had better think carefully about what they will ask us to sacrifice, for it will surely come back to haunt them as well. Sure, at the time, the people of Egypt were grateful. In 47:25 they say:
"You have saved our lives. We are grateful to my lord, and we shall be serfs to Pharaoh."
Looked good at the time. Probably not so once the famine had passed.
And here's the kicker. Look at the end of our parasha.
47:27 Thus Israel settled in the country of Egypt, in the region of Goshen, they acquired holdings in it, and were fertile and increased gently.
Whoa up there. Hold on just a darn minute. If the famine was so severe that all the Egyptians had to forfeit their animals, their land, and their freedom, how is it that Israel and his descendants fared so well? Did they have golden parachutes? Hidden Swiss accounts? Something doesn't smell quite right here. The Hebrews profited while the Egyptians became serfs to stay alive?
Is this the plan the G"d devised? To let mister brown-nosing shyster Joseph be Pharaoh's agent to enable Pharaoh become a feudal king - thus, in the end, angering the Egyptian people against the Israelites? G"d couldn't have come up with something better?
Of course, look on the bright side. Maybe Bernie Madoff is HaSatan sent to stir up a little trouble once again for the Jews. We'll get enslaved again, and wait another 400 years until G"d hears our cries and decides to free us - after another set of fun and games with whoever is the Pharaoh figure this time up.
Could Bernie Madoff be the Joseph of our time? Boy, there's a scary thought.
OK G"d, what's the plan this time. How You gonna extract good outcomes from evil beginnings this time. I can't wait to see what you've cooked up for your people this time.
©2009 by Adrian A. Durlester