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Next time you have a bad day, remember that our challenges are sent from Above, in precisely the manner God intends them to appear.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Vayeishev” (Genesis 37:1–40:23), and in it we read about the sale of Yosef (Joseph). Instead of killing Yosef as originally planned, his brothers decided to sell him and at least make a few bucks while getting rid of him.

We are told that the first caravan to whom they could sell Yosef was a “caravan of Ishmaelites who were bringing spices to Egypt.” The commentators tell us that the reason the Torah felt it was necessary to specify what the Ishmaelites were carrying was to convey a hidden message.

You see, in those days, Ishmaelites were known for trading in foul-smelling substances. In this case, however, they were carrying something different: pleasant-smelling and aromatic spices. Our sages teach us that God ensured that the caravan that would purchase Yosef and bring him down to Egypt would be carrying pleasant-smelling substances in order to lessen Yosef’s suffering during the ride.

But the simple question is asked: Yosef was going through a very hard time, to say the least. He was almost killed and was unable to return home. He was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and eventually worse. Yosef really wasn’t having a good day! Therefore, does it really matter what the Ishmaelites were carrying? Would his journey to Egypt in captivity really have been worse due to any foul-smelling cargo?

It is explained that when God decides, for whatever reason, to send suffering to a person, the suffering is exact. God does not simply send suffering (or reward, for that matter), but rather, he sends a custom-made individualized portion of suffering.

That is Divine providence. We’re all under his microscope as individuals.

In the case of Yosef, yes, it was decreed that he be kidnapped, beaten up, thrown into jail and all the rest. But it wasn’t decreed that he would have to suffer with foul-smelling cargo! The journey wasn’t on the list of his suffering, and hence, the journey was as comfortable as it could be.

We all have our bad days. But the next time we encounter one of those days, let’s remember the story of Yosef. Let’s remember that whatever happens to us in life, whether good or bad, is directly from God. By remembering this, facing our challenges could become less painful.

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.






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