Divrei Torah

PARSHAS VAYIGASH 5779

Today’s parsha picks up from where last week’s left off. Yosef’s brothers were brought back to the palace for suspicion of robbery – in particular Binyomin – for taking Yosef’s special cup.  Yehuda defended Binyomin and pleaded for his life – to the point that he said that he – Yehuda – would take Binyomin’s place. He was older, wiser and more capable than Binyomin. Underneath all of the pleading was a threat to Yosef and the Pharoah that the brothers would kill both of them if Binyomin was not freed.

Finally, Yosef could not hold himself back any longer. The situation became too emotional. Yosef dismissed all of the Egyptians from the room and revealed his identity to his brothers. Their initial reaction to Yosef’s revelation was shock. The brothers did not know what to say. After all, their brother had been missing for 22 years and now he stood before them found as the viceroy of Egypt – the 2nd most powerful person in the most powerful nation on earth – a shocking fulfillment of Yosef’s dreams. Then, Yosef told his brothers, “Don’t be sad and don’t be angry that you sold me to here because G-d sent me here ahead of you to sustain our family.” 

Then Yosef repeated himself, “And G-d sent me before you to give you a remnant in the land and to give you life as a great escape.” Yosef kept going, “And now you did not send me here, rather it was G-d, and he has place me as a friend to the Pharaoh and a master for his entire household and a ruler in all the land of Egypt.” 

Immediately upon revealing his identity, Yosef told his brothers that G-d had arranged all of this. Then he said it twice more. Why did he keep repeating himself? 

Yosef was telling his brothers an important rule in life – the rule that Rabbi Akiva would later state, “Whatever G-d does is for the best,” or in the words of another holy man of the Talmud - Nachum Ish Gamzu – “Gam Zu L’Tova – this is also for good.” And Yosef had to emphasize that idea because – depending upon circumstances - it is a difficult idea to digest. It can be extremely difficult to burn it into one’s mind that G-d has a master plan for the world and He runs it the way that He sees fit and not the way that we would write the story.

This idea of “All that G-d does is good” or “This is also for the best” can be a difficult idea because many times events happen, and we don’t know what to do with them. (I am not talking about matters of death or serious illness.) They seem terrible. How can something so bad turn out for the best? That is an idea with which we must struggle – especially since we often do not see a positive for many years. But, ultimately, that event is for the best. Even for Yosef, it took him 22 years to see the positive in his sale.

This idea that “it is all for the best” is challenging for the person who is the “victim” of the misfortune but it is the one who suffered the misfortune that must come to that realization.

Several years ago, somebody mentioned to me that he suffered a personal misfortune. People told him, “Gam Zu L’Tovah” and he got extremely upset with those who said it to him and he was correct. It is easy to be a tzaddik at another’s expense. It is easy for me to say about another’s misfortune that it is for the best. It is the person who suffered the misfortune that must come to that realization.  

Human beings frequently run into difficulties and frustrations. “I am in a hurry and I get every light! Why must that freight train come now?” “What a time to break a wrist!” However, when one realizes that all those traffic delays perhaps saved him from the scene of an accident . . . or on account of the broken wrist he did not have to take that major test in school so the teacher just gave him an “A”, the individual will be relieved – he will realize that “it is all for the best.”

The light at the end of the tunnel is not necessarily a train coming towards you. Sometimes a candle might be blown out, yet, our lives are much brighter afterwards.