Vayigash-A Fact of Life in Child Rearing

This dvar Torah is based on a shmuz I heard from Rabbi Daniel Meister, Director of MAJOR, campus kiruv organization in the Milwaukee area.

Now for some food for thought:

After Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, he brought his father and entire family down to the land of Egypt, and they settled in the city of Goshen. “Yosef settled his father and his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the area of Ramses, as Pharaoh ordered. Yosef provided for his father, his brothers, and his father’s entire household with bread according to the needs of the children. There was no bread in all the land, for the famine was very severe. The land of Egypt and Canaan were worn out because of famine” (Breishis/Genesis 47:11-13).
Rashi (verse 12) is bothered by why the Torah says Yosef gave “bread according to the children.” Were the adult members of the household not provided for? Rashi explains that Yosef gave according to the needs of all the members of the household. The implication here is that bread was providedeven for the children, who tend to crumble and waste bread (See Sifsei Chachamim note 30).
The Mizrachi, a commentary on Rashi, elaborates and says that Yosef gave out loaves of bread even according to the needs of the child, and that is normal of them to crumble and throw around their bread; which means he gave them more than what they actually needed in order to survive. Yosef therefore, must definitely have given exactly what the adults needed to sustain themselves. (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)
Imagine the scene; there was a severe famine for over two years, not only in the land of Egypt but elsewhere as well, including but not limited to the land of Canaan. People are starving, food must be rationed. A plan was hatched by Yosef to be sure no one would go hungry; everyone had to come to him to get food. He gained the respect and trust of Pharaoh and his people by taking care of their needs, at whatever cost. He must have stipend every piece of grain, every loaf of bread to its exactitude; if not, imagine the uproar.

Assuming this was true, how could more bread be stipend for the children then what was needed just to eat? Either teach the children to not waste food or the parents should be extra careful to be sure no food was wasted. Why should Yosef have had to take into account the fact that children waste food at the possible expense of a future food shortage?

Everyone can picture how a baby or infant eats his or her food. I clean up my baby’s high chair and floor around it daily. The floor is full of crumbs and globs of goop from food he spreads around. Even my older children wreak a certain degree of chaos when they eat, and many times can’t finish what is on their plates.

We see from here that even in extreme situations, like severe famine, we must take into account the nature of children to waste food. One should not overreact but plan accordingly and act with patience, because that is just the way children are. Granted, as they get older, they will learn to use their manners and to have more self-control, but in the meantime we, as parents, should strive to not overreact, even when food is being wasted. If Yosef, took into account the nature of how children eat even during a time of severe famine, giving them extra food to offset their wastefulness, certainly we must have this in mind with our children.
Enjoy your next meal!

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