In this weeks Parsha, the shevatim decide to kill Yosef, but at the last minute,
Reuvain 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:
"Ugmaleihem nosim nichos, utzri, valot"
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
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
Potifars 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 hairs
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 wasnt 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 couldnt 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
umekayeim" 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 gzairah, Hashem gives kiyum, the
strength and fortitude to pull through. Dont 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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