Foresight is the ability to look past our immediate wants and needs and make decisions that will bring us the most long-term happiness. In this week's portion, our ancestor, Joseph, had this long-term vision when he advised the Egyptians not to eat up all the food that was coming to them during the years of plenty, but to save some for the famine years to come. Joseph's foresight saved Egypt and the world from starving and teaches us an important lesson about life.
In our story, some kids learn about the value of planning ahead.
"ROUND TRIP "
Really, it was just a class trip, but from the amount of treats and snacks everyone had brought along, you would have thought that they were planning a month-long safari in deepest Africa. Bags, bottles, cans, and powders were brought on the van by the armful. How school trips had turned into such big junk-food parties, nobody knew, but the fact remained - trips demanded junk, and lots of it.
Julie climbed in the van in a fine, happy mood, raring to go and excited about the trip ahead. In her hand was a neatly-packed bag, filled with the things she enjoyed eating that would last her the whole day. She had mapped out in advance when she would eat what, and felt that what she had brought along was more than sufficient for her needs.
She and the other kids had just eaten breakfast together at school and so she couldn't understand at first why everyone was tearing into their snack bags right away like they hadn't seen food in weeks. The trip had barely even started!
As they got underway, Julie was amazed by the sheer quantity of food that was going around. It was obvious to her that her classmates didn't care so much about what they were eating, as long as they were stuffing something into their mouths every single second.
As she was both thinking about all of this and trying to ignore it at the same time, she felt someone rustling around next to her. Her seatmate, Cindy, had taken Julie's food bag, rummaging around in it and tossing her food out onto the seat between them.
"Excuse me!!!" Julie shouted. "WHAT do you think you're doing?"
"Looking at your stuff," her friend replied innocently, "to see if there's anything in there I wanna trade for."
"You know, everyone's like bored with their own stuff already so we started trading. Hey, almost all I see in here is boring stuff like sandwiches and fruit - where's all your junk food? Ooohh, there you go, a Chocozilla bar. My favorite! I'll take this and how about if I give you..."
Julie was able to grab it out of her hand just in time, before she took a huge bite out of it, wrapper and all.
"Hey, cut it out! Didn't we all just eat breakfast? And what's with all this snack snorting? What are we, animals?"
"Hey, don't knock animals, Julie." Cindy grinned, "I learned in 'science' that they only eat what they need and not one bit more. But then again, they don't get to eat stuff like this!!"
"Look, Cindy," Julie tried to her best to smile, "I brought just what I needed to last the whole trip - if I save it for when I need it. So if you don't mind, I'm not really interested in trading, or even taking out my snacks until I need them, okay?"
The girl looked at her like she was from Mars.
"Come on Julie - live for the moment! Besides, there will be plenty of places to stop and get stuff once we're there. We'll be able to eat all day! C'mon, don't be such a party-pooper." Cindy suddenly stood up and yelled out, "Hey, guys! Julie's not trading her snacks! She's saving them for later!"
"Boooooo!" everyone shouted as if on cue. A veritable storm of chips bags, candy wrappers and chewed up gum came flying at her, landing all over her and making a huge mess.
Julie was fuming. She stared out the window with her jaw set tight until she could feel herself calming down again. Part of her felt foolish for planning things out and not just diving in like the rest of them. Don't worry, she told herself. You are doing the right thing. Just relax and enjoy the trip.
Once they arrived, a few interesting things began to happen. The effects of the snacks had worn off, and after they had barely started down the trail everyone was beginning to get hungry, really hungry this time, because they hadn't eaten anything nourishing for hours. They started asking their teacher when they were going to stop off and get something to eat. The teacher responded with great surprise.
"We're in the woods. Where did you think we can go - a five-star restaurant? It said specifically on the information sheet I handed out before the trip to bring along food for two complete meals on the trail. Didn't you guys bring food with you?"
The kids hemmed and hawed, and finally admitted that they had polished off all of their rations in the van, and anyway, there hadn't been much real food among them in any case. It had been mostly junk food.
"But you all knew we'd be out all day. Didn't anyone here plan ahead?" asked the teacher.
Everyone turned to stare at Julie.
"I...I just read the handout sheet, Mrs. Greenberg. You said to bring enough to last the whole day, so that's what I did. I separated everything into bags and marked on them what time I would eat them. I mean I'm okay sharing stuff, but it's really not enough for everyone."
"Well, if the rest of you had had Julie's good sense we could go on, but as it is, with a long day ahead, and after that, a long drive home, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but I do not feel that it is safe to continue this trip. I'm afraid we are going to have to turn around and go home right now."
"But we just got here! Isn't there a store or anything where we can stock up again?" asked Cindy, frantically.
"We'll go back to the beginning of the trail," the teacher said, "and see if there is an open store or snack stand, but I highly doubt it - it's not tourist season yet and everything's probably closed."
And sure enough, the snack bar was locked tight as a drum.
"Perhaps next time, you will be able to follow instructions more carefully and plan ahead more prudently," the teacher said. "Back in the van everyone!"
Julie felt bad as she looked around and saw all the long, disappointed faces all around her, as the van slowly made its way back to their school. She felt a tap on the shoulder.
"Boy, were you ever right," said Cindy. "If we'd just been smart like you and planned a little ahead, we'd be having a blast now and not going back to dumb old school! And, um, by the way, do you have anything left to eat? I'm all out and really starving."
Fighting off the temptation of saying 'I told you so,' Julie handed the girl half her Chocozilla bar to try to cheer her up. She felt bad about missing the trip, but part of her also felt good, knowing it hadn't been her fault and also knowing that she had been able to plan ahead and be prepared for whatever she might, or might not, find along the way.
Q. How did the kids feel about Julie's decision to save her food, at first?
A. They made fun of her for planning ahead instead of just digging in.
Q. How did they feel in the end?
A. They saw she was right and wished they had planned ahead too.
Q. What life lesson do you think the kids learned that day?
A. The kids learned, that by planning ahead - in this case, by taking real food with them and not just junk, and by saving what they had for later instead of having it right away - they would have had a much better day.
Q. Why do you think it is often hard to plan ahead?
A. There is a big temptation toward instant gratification, that is, to 'want it all and want it now.' However, a wise and spiritually oriented person will realize that by giving up a little instant gratification, we'll get much greater gratification in the end.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that a wise person, is defined as someone who can 'see what's coming.' What do you think that means?
A. Wisdom requires a broad perspective - that is, an ability to look past the immediate situation and see what the future is likely to bring. More often than not it's pretty easy to 'see what's coming' if we're only willing to look.
Q. Do you think that planning ahead shows a lack of faith that God can give us whatever we need, in any situation? Why or why not?
A. While it's true that God is unlimited, He wants us to live in a practical and responsible way. We shouldn't rely on miracles happening and do our best to plan for what seem to be reasonable eventualities. Of course, throughout all this, we should remember that without God's help, even the most perfect planning will get us nowhere.