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In this week’s Parsha, the shevatim decide to kill Yosef, but at the last minute, Re’uvain intervenes and pleads with them not to do so. Instead, they throw him into a deep pit and leave him to die. A caravan of Ismaelites passes by, and the brothers once again have a change of heart. They drag Yosef out of the pit, and sell him to the Ismaelites for twenty silver pieces.

The passak describes what the camels of the Ismaelites were carrying:

"U’gmaleihem nos’im nichos, u’tzri, va’lot"

And their camels were carrying spices, balsam, and lotus.

Rashi asks, why does the Torah describe what the camels were bearing? We know that the Torah does not write one extra letter, and that each and every word is written to teach us a lesson.

Rashi answers, to teach us of the reward of the righteous. Usually, the Ismaelites carried petroleum, which has a foul odor, but for Yosef, they chanced to carry spices, so that he should not sniff an unpleasant smell.

If we trace the journey of Yosef, we will uncover a tale of suffering. He was sold a few times before he reached the ownership of Potifar, there he was harassed by Potifar’s wife, and afterwards he was thrown into prison for many long years. Taking this chain of events into account, we can wonder, why is this small act of kindness highlighted? Is this to make a mockery of his plight?

Rabbi Rubman, in his sefer "Zichron Meir", reaches a tremendous conclusion from this commentary, in regard to reward and punishment. Everything is weighed and measured from Heaven, until the very last minute detail. For Yosef it was decided: suffering, affliction and degradation - yes, an unpleasant smell - no. And when the limits of suffering that was decreed upon were reached - it was not passed even by a hair’s breadth.

There is an exact and definite preciseness in the world. Everything is measured for a person: from wealth and power, to aggravation and grief. Every drop of suffering and pleasure is divinely decreed.

The sages define one unit of suffering as this: if a person places his hand into his pocket to take out three coins and only takes out two, thus requiring him to reach down into his pocket a second time, this is a unit of suffering. Each unit of suffering in this world serves to erase an immeasurable amount of suffering in the next.

At times, things happen that break our tranquillity and shatter our peace of mind. For some it may be a life threatening illness, for some, a hurling car, for some, leaping flames. And for some, it is "just" little aggravations: a missed bus, a lost wallet, an unpleasant encounter. We may not know the reason for these occurrences, but it is nonetheless comforting to know that there is a guiding force in this world and that nothing happens by chance. Every drop of discomfort and suffering is decreed.

Let me share with you a story which happened a few years ago, of a man who was terminally ill. His pain and suffering were so great that he was ready to commit suicide. A Rabbi came to visit him and told him, "I want you to know that every day in Heaven, the Heavenly Tribunal convenes and decrees exactly how much suffering is destined for each person. They weigh out each drop of suffering, and their commands are not breached even by a hairsbreadth." His words brought tremendous comfort to the man, for now he knew that it wasn’t haphazard chance wreaking pain on him, but the guiding hand of G-d.

When the Rebbe of Klosenberg was imprisoned for the "sin" of teaching Torah, he was beaten and humiliated. His glasses, without which he was unable to see, were smashed, and his yarmulka snatched away from him. He was then cast into a dank cell. In such a condition, what was he to do? He couldn’t daven, for his yarmulka was gone. But, he pulled a corner of his shirt over his head, and began to recite the morning blessings from memory. When he got to the blessing, "Baruch gozer u’mekayeim" – he was struck by the meaning of the words: Blessed is he who decrees and carries out. Can it be that G-d is to be blessed for carrying out the beatings and humiliation that he had suffered? And then he remembered the second meaning of the word "mekayeim" – sustains. Hashem is gozer, He decrees, and at the same time He is mekayeim, he sustains. Along with the g’zairah, Hashem gives kiyum, the strength and fortitude to pull through. Don’t we all know people who display this, who when faces with adversity, discover within themselves hidden reservoirs of strength.

Daily, we are faced with trials and aggravations. Let us keep in mind the plight of Yosef, and the fact that he was transported in a wagon of sweet smelling spices since it was not divinely decreed that he suffer from a foul smell. Remembering this may serve to make the burden a little bit lighter.

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In Loving Memory Of Our Father, Mr. Joseph Black (Yosef Ben Zelig) O"H
In Loving Memory Of Our Mother, Mrs. Norma Black (Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh) O"H
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