Seeds of Sustenance

December 15, 2023/ 3 Tevet 5784

As we delve into the treasures of this week’s Torah portion, Miketz, we find not only the fascinating tale of Joseph’s rise to power but also the profound insight into the concept of planned giving and long-term philanthropy.

The text highlights Pharaoh’s prophetic dreams, foretelling seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine (Genesis 41:17-24). Joseph, in interpreting these dreams, proposes a visionary plan to store a portion of the surplus during the years of plenty in anticipation of the years of shortage to follow. This plan not only saves Egypt but also the surrounding nations, including Joseph’s own family.

The wisdom embedded in Joseph’s strategy echoes through the ages, transcending the biblical narrative. In the realm of philanthropy, these verses serve as a guiding light, illuminating the importance of planned giving and long-term investment in our communities. This is the first example of saving for the proverbial “rainy day” that we know of.

The Torah teaches us that foresight and planning are invaluable virtues. This wisdom is echoed by contemporary scholars and professionals in the field of philanthropy. Renowned businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffett once said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone else planted a tree a long time ago.” Buffett emphasizes the long-term impact of strategic decisions made in the present while echoing a story from the Talmud (Ta’anit 23a):

While walking along a road, Honi, the wise man, saw an old man planting a carob tree. Honi asked the man, “How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?” “Seventy years,” replied the old man. Surprised by the answer, Honi then asked: “Are you so healthy that you expect to live another seventy years to see this tree bear fruit?” The old man answered: “I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted them for me. Likewise, I am planting for my children.”

As we contemplate these insights, it becomes clear that the lessons of Miketz call upon us to embrace a philosophy of planned giving, irrespective of the size of our resources. Rabbi Moses Maimonides, a medieval philosopher, argued that one should give according to their means, stating, “Even a poor person who survives on charity is obligated to give charity.” Maimonides’ words remind us that it is the act of giving itself that holds intrinsic value.

By setting aside funds during our years of plenty, we emulate Joseph’s foresight, ensuring the sustenance of our communities in times of need. Planned giving is not solely about financial wealth; it is about investing in the prosperity of future generations, embodying the Jewish value of l’dor v’dor – from generation to generation.

The Jewish Federation of San Antonio was founded on three principal responsibilities: to convene the Jewish community; to plan for the Jewish community; and to secure the resources for the Jewish community. Parshat Miketz teaches us that planned giving, through Federation programs like LIFE & LEGACY®, and long-term philanthropy, through our San Antonio Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies, are not only praiseworthy but essential for the resilience of our Jewish community. As we engage in the sacred and common to the end-of-year mitzvah of giving, let us remember that our tzedakkah, regardless of size, serves as seeds planted for the sustenance of a flourishing and resilient future.

May our commitment to planned giving be a testament to the enduring strength of our communities, echoing Joseph’s legacy in ensuring that no member of our family is left hungry, vulnerable, or without support. Because we are…


Shabbat shalom.