Thursday, December 5, 2013

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

This week’s Torah portion of Vaigash (Berieshis [Genesis] 44:18-47:27) relates the story of Joseph's dramatic reunion with his brothers and his subsequent reunion with his father.

"But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that G-d sent me before you... You did not send me here, but G-d, and He made me a father to Pharaoh, a lord over all his household, and a ruler over the entire land of Egypt... (Joseph to his brothers, Genesis 45:5, 8).
Needless to say, most people in a similar situation would have reacted very differently. In hindsight, G-d's hand in the events which led to Joseph being elevated to royalty is unmistakable. It is easy for us, however, to view the entire story objectively. But Joseph had suffered the agony of being sold into slavery and being alone in an alien country for over two decades because of his brothers' actions. His ability to see beyond his personal pain, and appreciate the Divine strategy which brought him to Pharaoh's palace, is a testament to Joseph's self-control and maturity of wisdom.

You can spend thousands on therapy, but a simple belief in G-d and Divine Providence may be all you really need. Tthrough the course of life, every person experiences, at some moment, the pain of being treated unjustly by others. Although sentiments of anger and vengeance are counter-productive and often destructive, they are natural reactions to such occurrences. And, unlike Joseph, we often don't get to see the positive results of the mistreatment. While many people spend much time, energy and money on various therapies, in many instances a simple belief in G-d and Divine Providence is the antidote to this problem.

G-d is good. Period. And He controls everything which happens to us throughout our lives. Many people mistakenly believe that only natural catastrophes, such as non-contagious illnesses or freak accidents, are controlled by G-d (see the section in your homeowner's insurance policy which defines "Acts of G-d"), whereas wicked acts initiated by other people – people with free choice – are not Heavenly ordained, and are simply bad. The story of Joseph demonstrates the fallacy of this idea. Yes, what the brothers did was wrong, but what happened to Joseph was all part of the Divine master plan.

At those times when we are maltreated and cannot see the benefit or purpose of the suffering, Chassidic teachings recommend a two-part therapeutic medication.

Firstly, forget about instant gratification. It can be many years before the reason for the suffering becomes apparent. Joseph was incarcerated for twelve years before Pharaoh summoned him to decipher his dream. He had twelve long years in prison to dwell on the injustice perpetrated by his brothers!

Secondly, strength of character is achieved through hardship and suffering. In order for the Jewish people to receive the Torah, they first had to endure many decades of excruciating slavery in Egypt. Only through difficulty does a person acquire sensitivity and empathy for others, and the person who is hurt by another, and chooses to forgive rather than avenge, becomes a kinder and greater person. Indeed, the suffering itself, and the ability to rise above it all, is in itself a Divine gift.

(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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