14 Tevet 5779 – Vayechi

Hey! He took my parking spot!

My emotions were put to the test this week. I had found the perfect parking spot right in front of the hospital. As I was reversing in, another car pulled into it directly behind me. I was first in line for that spot and had indicated that I was taking it. I needed to right this wrong! I got out of my car to have a word with the driver. I asked him why he took my spot, yet he refused to talk to me, merely mumbling something under his breath. I paused to examine my emotions. Would I become angry with this man and let this incident spoil my afternoon? I let it slide. I eventually found another spot (had to pay for underground parking!) and went to cheer a friend in hospital.

Allow me to tell you about another young man who’s emotions were put to the test. Firstly, as a young orphan mourning the loss of his young mother, then as a boy facing the jealousy and abuse of his brothers. He is abducted by his brothers and sold as a slave into a foreign land. He is then thrown into prison by his Egyptian master on false charges of rape. After languishing twelve years in prison he is then accepted into Pharaoh’s court as viceroy yet it is an environment completely alien to the spiritual comforts of his upbringing. It appears that Joseph is the ultimate victim.

Then, after twenty two years of separation from his family, Joseph’s brothers come down to Egypt to collect food. In a dramatic meeting Joseph reveals his identity. He has every right to admonish or rebuke them yet he says: “I am Joseph, whom you sold to Egypt, but don’t be upset, because it is G-d who sent me before you to bring life..” In other words, it wasn’t your doing but G-d’s. Incredible!

Then in this week’s Parasha, Vayechi, their father Jacob passes away. Again the brother’s fear that perhaps now that their father is gone, Joseph will carry out his revenge. Yet again Joseph reassures them: “Fear not.. although you intended for me bad, G-d intended it as good in order for me to accomplish..”

What an incredible emotional response. I mean, these brothers deserve at least a little rebuke! Joseph’s life was robbed from him, his youth and innocence snatched away from him.

Yet incredibly, throughout the entire story, we see a Joseph who is never bitter, begrudging, helpless or pitiful. We witness a graceful, charming and charismatic Joseph. Unlike other victims of abuse, he didn’t learn to close off his emotions and seal his heart as a result of his suffering. He embraces life and opens his heart to others at every turn. He sees himself as an emissary of G-d and truly believes that it is G-d who has orchestrated every turn of his life.

Perhaps with the same positive attitude and perspective, we, too, can learn to rejoice in every moment and see the opportunity in the midst of every challenge.

Wishing you and your families Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman