Parshas Vayeshev tells us that the Arab caravan that carried Yosef down to Mitzrayim was filled with spice merchants. Rashi says that usually they carry kerosene and other foul-smelling goods, but because Yosef was a Tzadik, he merited to have them carrying perfume products. But what kind of consolation is perfume when he is kidnapped from his family? To compare: Would anyone appreciate being transported to life behind bars in a stretch limousine?
The answer to the question, said in the name of Rav Elchonon Wasserman and others, is that Yaakov had to end up in Mitzrayim anyhow, even if it meant going in chains and captivity.
It was Yaakov Avinu’s great zechus however, that Hashem manipulated history to bring him down to Mitzrayim in great honour. It was necessary to bring Yosef to Mitzrayim, but any additional iota of discomfort was to be eliminated. Therefore, a special unique type of caravan carrying unusual merchandise was organised.
There are many plausible reasons for this arrangement. One of them could be that had the family of Yisroel remained in eretz Canaan, they would be open to war – or even worse, the bad influence – of the children of Lot, Yishmael and Eisav. By being stuck in Mitzrayim, they were safe from far worse elements.
There is another eye-opening Midrash this week that runs along these lines. The Midrash tells us that while Yaakov was mourning his son Yosef, Reuvain was doing Teshuvah and Yehudah was busy getting married. What was Hashem doing? He was busy preparing Moshiach. This is a sublime perspective of how to view the conducting of the world from Upon High. What we might think is the midst of difficulty, could actually be a rescue in the making. In other words – הרפואה קודם למכה.
The Train to Siberia on the 23rd of Sivan
Here is a great example of a remedy preceding a disaster. When the Germans and the Russians split Poland at the beginning of WWII, the Russians expected the population under their dominion to voluntarily accept Soviet citizenship. They considered it an honour, but not everyone shared that sentiment. The Russians considered this a disparagement and chutzpah and decided to send these cheeky Jews to Siberia. They filled an entire train of horrified individuals.
Rav Itzikel of Pshevorsk and his son-in-law, Rav Yankele, were on this train as well. People cried to Rav Itzikel, “What will be with us?” Rav Itzikel responded, “Today is the 23rd of Sivan. It is a day of good omen. Mordechai sent out the letters of good tidings. Only good can come from this episode.”
Little did they know that only a short time later, Germany reneged on their deal with the onset of Operation Barbarossa. Entire towns were mercilessly obliterated Hy”d. Although Siberia was no picnic, these “unfortunates” were often the sole survivors of their entire families.
Mayday in December 1941 – Pearl Harbour
Another outstanding phenomenon of the ways of the world is that in the bleakest of situations, precisely then is when salvation is formulated. As an example, we will roll back only just over 80 years. The year 1941 was not the best of years – for the Jewish Nation and for the people of Europe in general. Nazi Germany was in control of most of western Europe, and coming alarmingly close to conquering Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union. It was looking very like the “Thousand Year Reich” was becoming more and more a reality – G-d forbid – as the world looked on with bated breath. On the 7th of December 1941, something happened which would change the course of the entire war. Japan attacked the army port of Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.
Much has been said, studied and argued amongst the best military minds, to find a plausible reason and motive for this unprovoked attack. Nothing entirely satisfactory has been concluded, as of yet. Because what the Japanese really accomplished, was to get America to rebuild their naval fleet far better than it was before, with much more modern ships and armour, and to enter a war they swore not to.
“In the Mount of Zion, there will be refuge.”
But there is something else that occurred only a few months later that was even more important. It was in the darkest hour, when a game-changer military campaign in El Alamein in Egypt took place at the other end of the world, which would eventually help protect the Yishuv in Eretz Yisroel and in fact change the course of WWII to end much sooner.
Just like in the story of Yosef and his brothers, when things looked the darkest, it is then and there when the salvation was – and frankly is- being formed.
Parshas Vayeshev | Submitted by Rabbi Gavriel Lamm