Biblically dealing with climate change thousands of years ago
When Jews attend synagogue today, they will hear the Torah (Jewish bible) portion on...dealing with climate change. Yes!
Well, okay – it is not exactly on the level of the U.N.'s Dealing with Climate Change Conference taking place in Katowice, Poland this week, where delegates who arrived on poisonous fumes-emitting planes spewed hot air into the atmosphere, babbling about global warming. Or global cooling. Or climate change, depending on one's point of view. Or whichever attitude pays the most.
No, this week's portion deals with a highly legitimate potential problem dealt with seriously, efficiently, thriftily, and effectively. The Egyptian ruler, Potiphar has two highly disturbing dreams.
1. It came to pass at the end of two full years, that Potiphar was dreaming, and behold, he was standing by the Nile.
2. And behold, from the Nile were coming up seven cows, of handsome appearance and robust flesh, and they pastured in the marshland.
3. And behold, seven other cows were coming up after them from the Nile, of ugly appearance and lean of flesh, and they stood beside the cows [which were] on the Nile bank.
4. And the cows of ugly appearance and lean of flesh devoured the seven cows that were of handsome appearance and healthy; then Pharaoh awoke.
5. And he fell asleep and dreamed again, and behold, seven ears of grain were growing on one stalk, healthy and good.
6. And behold, seven ears of grain, thin and beaten by the east wind, were growing up after them.
7. And the thin ears of grain swallowed up the seven healthy and full ears of grain; then Potiphar awoke, and behold, a dream.
Greatly upset, Potiphar called in his top dream-interpreters and all-around magicians to explain the dreams, but none could. But then another servant remembered a Hebrew, Joseph, who had been in prison with him a while ago who had accurately interpreted his dreams. All Joseph prophesied based on the servant's dreams came true.
(Incidentally, Joseph was in prison because Potiphar's wife, angry that the extraordinarily handsome young Hebrew had rejected her sexual advances, accused him of sexual inappropriate behavior – rape. Because she was, after all, the Potiphar's wife, and the alleged incident took place in her palace, so she had no problem arriving there or getting home, she was believed. But that's another story.)
So Joseph was brought before Potiphar, who repeated what he had dreamt. Joseph listened. Quickly understanding what was about to happen, he clearly analyzed the meaning for Potiphar. The seven handsome and robust cows, the seven healthy and good ears of grain indicated that God was planning to bring about seven years of extraordinary abundance.
But...what about those seven ugly cows who devoured the seven healthy ones, the seven thin ears of grain that devoured the healthy ones?
Ah, Joseph continued. Immediately following the seven good years will be seven terrible years of drought, bringing famine and want – so awful that the good will be forgotten.
What to do? What to do? Joseph had a wise solution for this impending problem – a practical plan that did not require talking heads at lavish conferences.
Plan ahead, he advised. During the good years, store the excess grain. Prepare the land so it will retain moisture and not be destroyed during the drought, so the cows – and people – will survive.]
As foretold, the good years quickly arrived, which most people thought would continue forever. But Joseph, knowing better and with the Potiphar's backing, supervised the construction of granaries and instituted new land use guidelines. And so, in the eighth year, when the rain just stopped and the searing winds dried up the crops, thanks to Joseph, Egypt was prepared.
As King Solomon observed thousands of years ago, "there is nothing new under the sun."
Correction: "the pharaoh" corrected to Potiphar throughout. The author blames a bad cold.