I don’t like problems. That’s not to say I don’t see their purpose and the growth that can come from them. What I mean is that I don’t like having lingering issues to deal with; I’d much rather solve them as soon as possible. In fact, solving them is the part I enjoy, and I realize this is a quality of mine that is both frustrating and endearing. You want me on your team because of my solution-focused attitude. You also want me far away from you because you don’t necessarily want to hear the three different holes I can poke in your well-thought-out plan.
Our parshah this week, Miketz, brings us back into the story of Joseph. We pick up in part two of the life and trying times of Joseph. Our hero has had a few setbacks, among them being sold into slavery by his brothers and thrown into jail. However, Joseph gets his big break when Pharaoh has a startling set of dreams.
When none of Pharaoh’s resident magicians can interpret his visions, Pharaoh calls on Joseph, and with God’s help, Joseph translates the dreams as a sign of an approaching period of fertility followed by a period of famine. Joseph presents Pharaoh with a game plan and becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man in preparation for these times that will certainly be difficult not only for Egypt, but also for neighboring lands.
In Joseph’s past his dream interpretation got him in trouble. His brothers did not take kindly to his insights. This week, Joseph is again facing the opportunity to explore a problem and find answers. However, in this case, when Pharoah goes to Joseph and seeks his interpretation, Joseph doesn’t stop after simply sharing the dire prediction. He continues with a suggested solution for the famine. Pharaoh sees Joseph’s interpretation as valid because it’s followed by a well-thought-out solution.
I am by no means blaming Joseph, the victim of his brothers’ wicked ways. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if his brothers would have treated him differently, had his initial approach to dream interpretation been different. As the problem solver I strive to be, I’ve had to learn not to critique the plan or point out flaws until I have a viable solution to offer up. Perhaps our Torah portion can remind us that the first “solution” is to find common ground and work together. That’s how the hardest problems get solved.