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We left the last parashah with Benjamin being taken into slavery by Joseph for having stolen his cup. Now Judah, who had told Jacob he would guarantee Benjamin’s safety, comes before Joseph and explains how if Benjamin doesn’t return to Jacob, it will kill the old man. Judah offers himself up to be Joseph’s bondsman in exchange for Benjamin’s freedom.
With this act of self-sacrifice, as well as previously having heard the brothers blaming their rough treatment by Joseph as their rightful punishment for what they did to their brother (they didn’t know he could understand them), he is no longer able to contain himself and reveals his true identity to them. Once they get over the shock of who Joseph is, he orders them to go back to Canaan and bring the entire family down to Egypt to stay in Goshen. Pharaoh hears of this and confirms Joseph’s orders, giving them wagons to carry everything and giving them the land of Goshen to live in.
The famine continues and the Egyptian people have no more money left to buy food, so over the remaining years of the famine they end up selling their cattle, their land and even themselves, so that at the end of the famine Pharaoh is not only the ruler over all of Egypt, but he also owns all the land, the people and receives 20% of all they produce.
I have found the reference in Genesis 46:3 to be of interest for today’s message. Jacob has stopped at Beer-sheba to offer sacrifice to God, and apparently to see if this trip is OK, since God had told his father, Isaac, not to go to Egypt. God tells Jacob that it is permitted for him to go; and, not just that, but God will go there with him, and also will bring him back to the land of his fathers. God promises that while in Egypt he will make a great nation out of Jacob.
An interesting note in the Chumash is that Rashi and Kimchi commented that when God promised to bring Jacob up again, he was referring to Jacob, alone, meaning that he would be brought back to Hebron to be to be buried. This event happens in Genesis 50:13. However, I believe (with all due respect to these learned men) that God was looking more down the road, and meant that he would return the entire nation of Israel to their land, not just Jacob. In either case, both of these things did happen, so perhaps God was speaking of both the man Jacob and the nation of Israel?
Back to the main discussion…Joseph tells his brothers, when he reveals himself to them, not to be upset with themselves because it was really God who sent him to Egypt. This indicates Joseph’s faith and spiritual maturity to understand that God is behind everything, but often uses people to intervene for him. Joseph is saying that although the brothers thought they were acting on their own, God was behind it. We see this throughout the Bible: God is behind Pharaoh refusing to let the people go in order that God’s glory be made manifest throughout the world; God is working behind the scenes with Shimshon (Samson) inciting him to marry a Philistine woman, which leads to a cause for his revenge, which leads to the beginning of freeing Israel from the Philistine rule; God worked through Nebuchadnezzar to show Daniel the future; God was working through the Assyrians to punish Israel (the Northern Tribes); God was working through Babylonian rule to punish Judea; and God’s influence was behind Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin to help Yeshua in his plan to provide salvation for the world.
God is in charge and able to make happen whatever he wants to make happen. And, even though we all have Free Will to choose what we will do, he can still make things happen as he wants them to. It may mean waiting for another person to come along, it may mean intervening miraculously, and it may mean using a backup plan.
I like the imagery I once was told (supposedly a Jewish mindset) of how free will and predestination can exist together: God is the captain of a ship that is going from one port to another. As it stops along the way, people can get on or get off, according to their own desire. The ship may sail straight, it may take a detour, or it may not move at all for a while. No matter how the captain guides the ship, and no matter how many people get on or off, the ship will eventually arrive at its destination with whatever crew it has. The idea is that God’s plans will always reach fruition, but at his pace, at his command, and under his guidance.
We all find ourselves suffering Tsouris (problems) throughout our lifetime. It may be loss of job, money, property, people we care about, or our health. Everything that is important to us in this plane of existence will be taken away, sooner or later, to one extent or another. Too often we blame God for this, or at least, we ask why he allows it to happen. It is OK to wonder why things that are unpleasant happen to us, especially if we think we are doing what is correct in God’s eyes. We can look to satanic intervention, and that could be because we know that Satan will come against those doing God’s work. We could also look in the mirror because maybe we think we are doing what is right in God’s eyes, but really, it is only right in our own eyes. We could also just give it up as to what happens when you live in a cursed and fallen world.
Drek happens sometimes; it is like the ship has come up to a reef, and while the captain is thinking of the best way around it, we have to deal with our life seemingly going nowhere. Sometimes while waiting, we are ordered to clean the bilges or paint the deck. One way or the other, we need to suffer through this, trusting that the captain knows what he is doing, our suffering will be for a good purpose and he will get us on our way, again.
Joseph suffered 12 years or so and went from being a beloved favorite son to being a slave to being a prisoner. It must have seemed to him that his life was going down the toilet, things getting worse and worse. Yet, he never lost faith in God and did the best he could in each situation, always giving glory to God and trusting in him.
This is our lesson for today, something we all have been told more than once, and something most of us will forget the moment we most need to remember it: trust in God! Trust that God knows what is happening, trust that God can save you no matter how terrible things seem to you, and trust in God that he knows what he is doing. Look to yourself, stare into the mirror to make sure there isn’t something you may be doing wrong, and if you feel certain that you are living in a way that God would want you to live, then hang on for dear life and wait out the storm.
The most stable figure that exists is a triangle, and the triangle of our life should be built upon these three legs: Faith, Trust, and Patience. Faith in God and Messiah, trust that God knows what is happening and can always save you, and patience to wait on the Lord, who in his good time will deliver you.
Remember that it is your patience which will demonstrate to everyone the strength of your faithfully trusting in God.
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Tonight is Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!