Joseph’s Egyptian Management

Joseph’s Egyptian Management

Joseph has successfully interpreted Pharaoh’s dream regarding the upcoming years of plenty and years of famine, to the amazement and delight of all those present (Genesis 41). Joseph then recommends that Pharaoh appoints and empowers an overseer for the entire operation of organizing and saving the produce from the feast for the famine (verse 33).

Pharaoh and all his ministers are so impressed with Joseph that they realize there is no better candidate for the position than Joseph himself. Joseph’s subsequent and immediate rise from slave and prisoner to regent of the Egyptian empire is spectacular.

However, before Joseph finished giving his advice, there is a verse where Joseph goes beyond detailing the job of the overseer. In verse 34 Joseph adds that Pharaoh should also hire the second level of management.

Rabbi Ovadia Sforno wonders at this level of detail that Joseph provides and asks why Pharaoh has to hire the second level of management. Why can’t Pharaoh leave that task to whoever the overseer will be?

Sforno answers that perhaps contrary to modern corporate practice, where managers prefer to bring in “their own people”, it is more advantageous for the organization if the hires are made from the “top”. Sforno explains that by Pharaoh appointing the people to work under Joseph, they will take both the job and Joseph more seriously, and will better function as a cohesive unit. They are beholden to Pharaoh, but answerable to Joseph on the day-to-day business implementation.

This probably goes against many modern day organizations. However in the Egyptian culture and business environment at least it seemed to have been highly successful. Joseph, together with his Egyptian management, was able to save more produce than they were able to count with their numbering system at the time. This successful management team lead to the survival and prosperity of Egypt during a regional famine and made the Egyptian empire the dominant power of the ancient world.

May we learn from Joseph’s success; may we not be afraid to go against conventional wisdom; may we form strong teams and partnerships, and not only survive, but flourish in all our efforts.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach,

Bentzi

Dedication

To the memory of Yaakov ben Yosef Matityahu Tocker, my wife’s grandfather, who passed away this week at the age of 93 in his home in Washington Heights, NY.

He was a humble and hardworking man, a carpenter by trade, who built not only beautiful wooden masterpieces, but built a home, a family, a community, and merited to see his third generation growing and thriving, like his namesake, Yaakov Avinu.

It is symbolic that his father’s name (and his son’s), Yosef Matityahu is connected with both the current parasha, and Chanuka. May God comfort Safta Raba, my father-in-law, Sammy, and the entire family amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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