know that Jews have won a disproportionate number of Nobel Prizes.


But the mostWe  striking disproportion is in the field of economics. 


The first Nobel Prize in economics was awarded in 1969.  


The most recent winner, in 2017, was Richard Thaler. 


In total there have been 79 laureates, of whom 29 were Jews; 


that is, over 36 per cent.



After reading the parasha of this week, parashat MIKETZ


I believe that a reasonable case could be made that, 


Joseph was the first economist.


It began with Joseph who, in this week’s parsha, became the world’s first economist. 


Interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, 


he develops a theory of trade cycles, 


seven fat years followed by seven 


lean years,


a cycle that still seems approximately to hold. 


Joseph also intuited that when a head 


of state dreams about cows and ears 


of corn, he is probably unconsciously 


thinking about macro-economics. 


The disturbing nature of the dreams 


suggested that G-d was sending an 


advance warning of a “black swan,” a 


rare phenomenon for which 


conventional economics is 




So, having diagnosed the problem, 


he immediately proceeds to a solution: 


use the good years to build up 


resources for the lean times, 


a sound instance of long-term 


economic planning.


To my mind, 


the most decisive single factor, 


the great break of Judaism from the 


ancient world of 


magic, mystery and myth,  


was the de-consecration of nature 


that followed from the fact that 


G-d created nature by an act of will, 


and by making us in His image, 


gave us too 


the creative power of will. 


That meant that for Jews, 


holiness lies not in the way the world is but in the way it ought to be. 


Poverty, disease, famine, injustice, 


and the exploitation of the powerless 


by the powerful,


are not the will of G-d.



They may be part of human nature, 


but we have the power to rise above 




G-d wants us not to accept but to 


heal, to cure, to prevent. 


So Jews have tended to become, out 


of all proportion to their numbers, 


• Lawyers fighting injustice, 


• doctors fighting disease, 


• teachers fighting ignorance, 


• economists fighting poverty and 


• agricultural technologists finding

new ways to grow food in environments where it has never grown before.

(especially in modern Israel) 



All of this is brilliantly portrayed in this week’s parsha. 


First Joseph diagnoses the problem. 


There will be a famine lasting seven years. 


It is what he does next that is world



He sees this not as a fate to be endured but as a problem to be solved. 


Then, without fuss, he solves it, saving a whole region from death by starvation.


What can be changed need not be endured. 


Human suffering is not a fate to be borne, but a challenge to be overcome. 


This is Joseph’s life-changing idea. 


What can be healed is not holy. G-d does not want us to accept poverty and pain but to cure them.


Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420