In this week’s parshah, the Prime Minister of Egypt, Pharaoh’s right-hand man, reveals his true identity to the sons of Israel who had come seeking food in this time of famine. He is in fact Joseph, the brother they had betrayed, cast down in a pit and sold into slavery. “Then Joseph said to his brothers,…’I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you…and [in] another five years, there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you…’” (Genesis 45:4-6)
Essentially, Joseph is saying that all his trials and tribulations, including the bad behavior of his brothers, have been according to divine providence, rather than the doing of the individual people. If God needed Joseph in Egypt, couldn’t God have orchestrated a way for that to happen without Joseph being sold as a slave and then being thrown in prison? Did God have to manipulate the brothers into acting against their sibling, and does that expunge them of all responsibility for their horrendous acts? For a period, life must have been close to unbearable to Joseph. Yet after being thrown in prison, Joseph somehow had hope for better days. He remained steadfast in this path that his journey was not over.
I cannot see suffering and believe that “it is part of God’s plan.” Yet our suffering can bring us meaning if we are able to let our anger subside and allow love to show us different path in life forming. Joseph transformed from a spoiled and obnoxious adolescent into a partner with God, a person who organized a way for people to have food during a famine. Just like Joseph, when faced with tragedy and setback we can emerge to do good in this world, particularly when we are able to allow love to break through our pain. When we are able to recognize that our journey is not over, we are able to see a different path for our life and we are then able to help others when they face tragedy.
On this Shabbat, I pray for God to continue to give us strength and the ability for love to break open our pain.