Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Vayigash - 5779
TO ELEVATE A JOURNEY
Two weeks ago, we read about the sale of Yosef. The Torah describes the caravan that transported Yosef down to Egypt as one that was carrying "spices and balsam and myrrh.” According to the Midrash, the reason the Torah lists the goods with such detail is to tell us that Hashem watched over Yosef. Usually, caravans in that area would be hauling foul-smelling cargo like tar and naphtha. Yet, for the sake of Yosef, the Al-mighty arranged a transport of fragrant spices.
Despite the beautiful message of this rabbinic source, one can still wonder: can a young man being sold by his brothers, traveling to an unknown destination, be affected in any way by the aromas that surround him? Can a journey of despair be elevated by a few pleasant spices? Perhaps the particles that entered Yosef's nostrils were not to change his predicament, but rather to teach and guide him for the future.
As a nation, we have travelled through many difficult lands. The bitter exile has indeed taken a toll on our people. Yet, in every generation, we have leaders who see the unseen and, with love and optimism, elevate the nation and guide Israel to continue with faith. With a scene and a vision of the destiny of the People of Israel, they take care of the needs of the people and generate optimism by teaching that better things are waiting for us down the road.
In this week’s Paresha, Yosef takes care of his family during the years of famine. In addition, he enacted several laws to ease the difficult years the Children of Israel will be spending in Egypt. His guidance was spiritual as well. At the end of his life, he reminded his family that one day they will return to Eretz Yisrael and requested that his remains be transferred to Eretz Yisrael.
Yosef's inspiration and ability to elevate a 'journey of despair' came from his own trip down to Egypt, where Hashem placed a few pleasant spices to ease a difficult predicament.