‘And they sat down to eat a meal, and they lifted their eyesand saw, and behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, and theircamels were carrying spices, balm, and lotus, going to take [it] down toEgypt.’ (37; 25)
After thebrothers threw Yosef into the pit, they sat down to eat a meal withbread. The reason they chose to eat bread was to symbolize that they wereconfident with what they had just done. Continues the pasuk, ‘theysaw Ishmaelites coming from Gilead and thattheir camels were carrying spices, balm and lotus.’ Rashi tells usthat the reason the Torah felt it necessary to go out of its way to listthe loads on the camel was to ‘let you know thereward of the righteous, for it is customary for Arabs to carry only tar andpitch, whose odor is foul, but for this one (Yosef) it was arranged [that theyshould be carrying] spices, so that he should not be afflicted by a foulodor.’(37; 25)
If youthink about it, it’s mind boggling. This was of the most difficult moments inthe life of Yosef. He went from learning with his father, what Yaakovhad learnt in Yeshivas Shem V’ever, to being sold as aslave to the country which houses the lowest in society. It was a country notoriousfor never having a slave escape, in the history of its existence and Yosefhad every right to assume that he would spend the rest of his life there. Hewent from being on the top of the mountain to the nadir in the valley. Whatbenefit would he gain from a caravan smelling good? Imagine a person convictedof an awful crime and sentenced to life in prison in a maximum securityfacility. Would they care that their van ride to prison was in a van which hada pleasant odor?
Additionally,if the point was that Yosef should not be traveling with foul smellingfragrances, why have the Arabs go against their normal behavior? Let thecaravan be a caravan driven by those who sell perfume!
RavChaim Shmuelovitz, Zt’l, offers a powerful answer and says that it was at thatprecise moment that Yosef could have thought about throwing in thetowel. It was the perfect time for someone in that situation to give up andthink that he’s lost and forgotten. Hashem wanted to send Yosef asign to show him that he’s not alone; He was still there with him. Hashemwanted to do that in a way that was out of the ordinary-for had it beenordinary Yosef could have thought it was just by chance that he wasbeing transported by perfume merchants! Hashem was telling him yes, yourimmediate future is not so glorious but you are not forgotten; do not give uphope. The point was not for Yosef to benefit from the smell on the waythere. Yosef was able to look beyond what was staring him in the faceand recognize that Hashem did not forget about him. A person must neverget to the point where they think that they are forgotten about. There arealways these glimmers of hope and spurts of brightness that while it may notilluminate the night it shows that there is still someone watching over us.
Similarly,we can understand this idea that anyone suffering through a rough situationcannot think his entire world is collapsing. One must know that everything ismeticulously planned accordingly and orchestrated in a specific way. Hashemwas telling Yosef that don’t think your situation is spinning out ofcontrol. It was all planned out and your suffering has a cheshbon. Toprove it, I’m going to demonstrate it to you with the ride going down to Mitzrayim.The occasional silver lining educates us that it is not spinning out ofcontrol; whatever fell on our plate is on purpose. Hashem knows what wecan handle and what we deserve.
Harav MeirHershokowitz, Rosh HaYeshiva of Stamford, CThad lost a daughter. This occurred a few months after the untimely passing of ason and now a few months later he was undergoing a very serious surgery. After surgery, he was lying in his hospital bed when one of the people by hisside remarked ‘wow, what ayear you had; too many tzares.’ Usually a soft spoken man, Reb Meir got very annoyed andrebuked the person by saying ‘youthink it’s without a cheshbon? Hashem wanted it specifically to be this way!’
We all must work onourselves and strive to have the attitude of Reb Meir Shlit”a, where we see beyond our comfort zone, placing our completetrust in the Ribono Shel Olam.