Mikeitz and Unsolicited Advice

This post is dedicated in memory of Shlomo ben Aryeh Zalman. May it be an aliyah for his neshama

By: Samantha Hulkower

In this week's Torah portion, Pharoh, the King of Egypt, has two disturbing dreams - one of 7 fat cows enjoying themselves by the Nile River, then a second dream where 7 emaciated cows devour the 7 fat, healthy cows. Most of us would just go back to sleep and vow not to eat hamburgers so close to bedtime, but in those days it was common to look for a deeper meaning in disturbing dreams. 

Joseph, who has been in the Egyptian jail, is known to be an excellent interpreter of dreams, and is summoned to Pharoh. After interpreting the dreams, Joseph goes one step further and offers his unsolicited advice (that is the 7 cows represent years of plenty, so put that food in storage, so when the impending 7 years of famine [i.e. the skinny cows] occur they'll have food). This is quite the chutzpadik move - 20 mins ago he was rotting in jail and now he's giving the supreme ruler of the land advice on how to run his country!

Most people standing before a king would only do what he or she was told, and nothing more. It is a unique person who identifies a problem and who also has the courage to actually come up with a solution and verbalize it.
There's so much to do, fix, and change in the world and there certainly isn't a shortage of people who can point out all of the problems that exist. How many times have you sat in a problem-solving meeting at work to watch as most people raise their hands to complain about an issue, but not offer solutions?
The tendency to be problem-oriented and not solution-oriented usually parallels our own lives. It's not that we proactively choose to focus on negative things (although a lot of people do just that), but negativity and problems are just the default thoughts for our brain.
Our minds can be likened to a garden - whatever seed you plant in a garden, that seed will grow. But if you don't plant anything in the garden, then weeds grow in abundance. Our minds work the same way. Absent of our thinking of productive thoughts, our minds will naturally drift toward something negative and unproductive.
We live in a world where people love to point out all the things that are wrong. Be that rare person who offers up concrete answers and will even commit to being a part of the solution. This can easily be achieved once you plant productive seeds in your mind which are then certain to yield a large and full crop of productive and happy thoughts. And this will make you want to go out there and change the world.

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