Divine Orchestration

parashas Vayigash 5782

“And he fell upon his brethren, and wept upon them; and after his brethren talked with him.” – Genesis 45:15

One can only imagine the conversations that ensued, after Joseph had revealed himself to his brothers. Twenty-to years had passed, since Joseph had been thrown into a pit, and sold to traders passing by Shechem, where his brothers conspired against him. Yet, he explained, after revealing his true identity, “be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that you sold me here; for G-d did send me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5). Therefore, upon reconciling himself to his brothers, Joseph acknowledged the divine guidance of the L-RD, Who arranged Joseph’s descent into Egypt, and subsequent ascent to the viceroy of Egypt for a higher purpose.

All things work for the good, according to the divine guidance of G-d’s master blueprint. It is only that for the most part, the suffering that may occur along the way obscures our understanding of the plan. For Joseph and his brothers, only after a little more than two decades, were the events that were set in motion so many years ago, reach fruition as the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams, according to G-d’s wisdom. Therefore, we would do best to reserve our own critique of the events in our lives, when they do not seem to be going according to our plan; and hope that if we subjugate our will to His will, it will all work out for the best.

Whatever conversation that may have ensued, after Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, was not the typical “catching up,” so to speak, of brethren who have not seen each other for years. I would like to imagine that the conversation was focused on what the L-RD did through his own hasgacha peratis (divine guidance), to bring about the desired end, for the sake of Joseph’s entire family, that they would be preserved through the worst years of the famine and provided for in the land of Goshen. Joseph further explains to his brothers, “it was not you who sent me here, but G-d” (Genesis 45:8). Thus, Joseph acknowledges the divine footprint of G-d, who was the One Who orchestrated these events. Whatever role his brothers played in that divine orchestra, were negligible, when compared to the role of the Divine Composer.

Guilty Conscience

B”H

parashas Mikeitz 5781

“And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew him not.”

– Genesis 42:8, JPS 1917 Tanach

About twenty years after Joseph was rejected by his brothers, thrown into a pit, and sold as a slave to a caravan that passed by Dothan, Joseph ascended to second in charge of Egypt, next to Pharaoh, who placed his entire kingdom at his disposal. Joseph preserved grain during the seven years of plenty that were prophesied in Pharaoh’s dreams. Then, he began to carefully distribute food, at the beginning of the seven years of famine. Jacob’s family needed provisions, for like everyone else on the known earth, they were affected by the famine. So, Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to purchase food, excluding the youngest, Benjamin, “Lest peradventure harm befall him” (Genesis 42:4, JPS).

When the brothers arrived in Egypt, Joseph was in charge of selling grain to all the peoples who looked to Egypt for food. “And Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down to him with their faces to the earth” (Genesis 42:6, JPS). Thus the dream he had as a youth was only partially fulfilled, so far; yet, in the dream all of his brothers bowed down to him. Although the brothers did not recognize Joseph, he recognized them. They saw an Egyptian prince standing in front of them; Joseph saw his long lost brothers. Yet, he spoke to them harshly, insinuating that they were spies. They said that they were part of a family with twelve sons, “and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not” (Genesis 42:13, JPS). So, Joseph declared that if they brought the youngest down to Egypt, that would prove that they were not spies. He put them all in prison for three days; then, he kept Simeon in prison as a surety for their return.

The brothers response to this turn of events was such that they realised that the guilt they incurred because of their prior treatment of Joseph twenty years ago was being requited by a divine judgment against themselves. “And they said one to another: ‘We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us'” (Genesis 42:21, JPS). This is a classic example of “the sins of the heels,” overtaking the transgressor, in the day of retribution. According to the Zohar, the sins that people neglect to acknowledge, will accrue over time, until some evil overtakes the person. The brothers carried a guilty conscience all of those years; yet, not until the tides were turned did they begin to openly admit this to themselves.

We would be wise to learn from this example. The Zohar explains that subconsciously the sins that go disregarded by a person, i.e., sins that are not repented of, remain buried in the self, eliciting an unexplained fear. According to the Zohar, the source of the fear is the prescient sense of judgment that exists, unrealized, below the surface of consciousness. Perhaps, this is the underlying cause for so many people turning away from reflection upon oneself. Instead, we distract ourselves with endless preoccupations, trying to avoid the inevitable.

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