This Shabbos we read Parshas Vayaishev. In the Parsha we read of the story of Joseph and his brothers. The Torah tells us that the brothers were jealous of Joseph, and when he came to visit them in a deserted area, they plotted against him. Originally they planned to kill him, but in the end they sold him into slavery to a caravan of Arabs that was passing by. Understanding the struggle between the brothers and Joseph, non of whom were simple people, is beyond the scope of this small Dvar Torah. However there are many important ideas that emerge from the story. We would like to focus on one of them here.
When the Torah tells us that the brothers actually sold Joseph, the Torah describes the people of the Caravan as ďArabs carrying spices, balsam, and lotus to bring to Egypt.Ē (Genesis 37:25) The Sages ask, of what significance is it that this caravan was carrying these spices? Does it make a difference to us? The Sages answer that the Torah is trying to show how special the treatment that was given to Joseph was; normally these types of caravans would be carrying items with a foul odor such as tar. Because Hashem didnít want Joseph to have to experience traveling with these odors, this caravan was carrying the unusual cargo of spices.
The commentaries raise an obvious question: Here was a Seventeen year old boy being sold into slavery by his own brothers. He faced the likelihood of never being able to see or speak to his father again; of living a life of misery and subjugation just doing the will of others; and of losing all his childhood dreams and aspirations. At this time, is the smell of the items being taken in the caravan to Egypt really something that was on his mind?
They answer that this is exactly what the Torah is teaching us here. Everything that happens to us, every detail, is Divinely ordained. Even in the worst of times, every detail that occurs to a person is Divinely ordained. When Joseph traveled to Egypt, Divine providence had ordained that he be sold as a slave, and that he suffer the pain of being turned on by his own brothers. That same Divine providence did not ordain that he should suffer traveling with a foul odor; therefore he had the unusual experience of traveling with pleasant smelling spices. The obvious lesson, that every iota of what we go through in life is Divinely ordained, is what we learn to appreciate from this episode.
Rav Mordechai Pergeminsky points out one more idea. There was once a young boy that had to go for surgery. When he came to the hospital, he stayed with his parents in the waiting room. All of a sudden, it came time for him to be taken in to the operating room. He was separated from his parents, and surrounded by men and women dressed in hospital gowns. He began screaming and shouting, feeling all alone. All of a sudden, in the window of the door of the room, his mother appeared. She didnít say anything; she certainly couldnít do anything. But the reality of his mother smiling at him calmed him down, and he went into the surgery in peace.
The spices that smelled so pleasant were Hashem smiling at Joseph. As Joseph was being led afar, away from all familiar and friendly surroundings, Hashem gave him a strong dose of encouragement. He showed him that whatever the future may hold for him, there was always Someone looking at him and watching over him. This sign was a beautiful and uplifting message that gave Joseph immeasurable strength and inspiration.
This idea is meant to be a source of strength for each of us. When ever we go through what may be a rough day, a rough situation, or meet a rough person, we must remember; Hashem has no shortage of good smelling spices. Heís there, smiling at us, and watching over us. Whatever is going on, itís meant to be, and the best that could be!