Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Vayeishev

Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann

Thank Goodness for Small Miracles

Parshas Vayeishev, of course, centers around mechiras Yosef, the sale of Yosef to the Egyptians. The original plan to kill Yosef was averted when Yehuda suggested that instead of killing him, they could simply sell Yosef as a slave. In the spirit of the dictum of Chazal, our Sages, that, "Hashem creates the solution to the problem before he creates the problem (Megillah 13b)," even before the Torah introduces Yehuda's suggestion, it describes the caravan of Ishmaelites that were ultimately to become Yosef's purchasers/saviours (37:25):

They sat to eat food; they raised their eyes and saw: Behold - a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, their camels bearing spices, balsam, and lotus, on their way to bring [the spices] down to Egypt.

Rashi (ibid.) questions the need for the Torah to apprise us of what the Ishmaelites were carrying:

Why did the Torah publicize their load?... Normally, Arabs [in those times] transported foul smelling cargo, such as naphthalene and tar. But in order to spare Yosef from their offensive odor, Hashem arranged that this caravan be an exception [and carry fragrant spices].

It kind of makes you wonder: If, on a scale of life-harrowing experiences from one to one hundred, being sold into slavery by your own brothers to a tar-bearing caravan ranks say a 95, then what does being sold into slavery by your brothers to a spice-bearing caravan rank? - Perhaps a 94.99? After such a distressing and life-changing occurrence, was the cargo of his abductors really cause for celebration?

Everyone knows the story of Chanukah: The occupying Greek forces overtook the Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple) and defiled all its vessels. A three-year war ensued, and ultimately a small, untrained Jewish army comprised mainly of Torah scholars emerged victorious. A small jar of pure, undefiled, olive oil was found which should have only been capable of burning for one day. To produce new oil would take a full eight days. The Jews lit the Menorah for one night, and a miracle occurred and the one-day oil lasted for a full eight days. In gratitude for this miracle, our Sages decreed that every year we should light Chanukah candles for eight days.

The part of the Chanukah story that usually eludes us, however, is this: How many days until that point had the Beis HaMikdash stood barren, and the Holy Menorah bereft of her lights? On a grand scale, is the difference between three years of destitution, or three years and seven days of destitution, so great that it is a cause for celebration and Yom Tov?

A woman calls her husband to chat while he's at work. "I'm sorry," he says, "but I'm up to my neck in work here. Maybe we can talk later."

"But I've got something important to tell you. Actually, I've got good news and bad news - which would you like first?"

"Okay, but I've really got no time now - just give me the good news."

"Well - the air bag works."

Perhaps the above questions, puzzling as they may at first seem, are in fact erroneously rooted in the perfectionist, excessively-indulgent attitude of self-centeredness that permeates modern society. When everything works out just the way we expected, when things go just as planned, then there is cause for thanks and celebration. But if, Heaven forbid, there was a hitch in our daily routine; the doctor kept us waiting, someone broke our favorite coffee mug, or - and this is certainly the most distressing of all - someone messed up our carpool arrangements, then, as they say in Yiddish, we have every reason to be ois mentsch! How dare someone (or G-d for that matter) have the audacity to completely ruin our otherwise picture-perfect day! Let's face it: The conveniences of the "civilized world" have produced a generation of shamelessly spoiled brats.

How different and refreshing, then, is the attitude of the Torah and Chazal. Not only is a bad-sheitel day not due cause for mourning and lamentation - to the contrary: A small measure of grace, hidden within a mountain of hardship and adversity, is still reason for joy and gratefulness. The Torah, in its description of Yosef's abductors, and Chazal, in their formation of the mitzvah of Neiros Chanukah, are impressing upon us the need to seek the good within bad, and not to focus on the negative. Instead of declaring a national day of sadness over the bitter war and destruction, we focus on the small measure of goodness granted us by G-d: The candles were able to burn for seven more days!

As we gaze intently at our Chanukah candles this Sunday night, perhaps it is an appropriate time to ponder over the small (or large) sparks of light and joy within our lives, and remember that small miracles are cause for celebration too.

Have a good Shabbos, and a freilichen Chanukah.

This week's publication was sponsored by
Chaim Zvi Lebovitz


Text Copyright © 2001 Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann and Project Genesis, Inc.


 






ARTICLES ON MASEI AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

Who Makes Up The Rules?
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

Faithful Contentment
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff - 5774

Seeing Punishment as Blessing
Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky - 5765

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Certified Kosher
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

A New Chapter
Shlomo Katz - 5771

Body Language
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

> Wish You Had More Time at the Office?
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760

A Fresh Look – at Life
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

Motivational Techinque
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762

ArtScroll

To My Very Last Breath
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

In a Month We Call -“Av”
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

The Eye Generation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5763

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Harnessing Powers
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5761

Redemption
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

Our Consolation
Rabbi Label Lam - 5761

One Heart
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information