The Bright Side of Things by Arie Schwartz


This week’s Parashah tells the story of the sale of Yosef by his brothers.  While Yosef was in a pit his brothers threw him into, they sat around and ate, trying to decide what to do with him.  Yehudah did not want to kill him, so when the caravan of Yishme’eili traders came, Yehudah told his brothers that it would be a better idea to sell him as a slave.  The Pesukim that describe the caravan go into some detail about what the Yishme’eilim were carrying, stating, “VeHineh Orechat Yishme’eilim Baah MiGilad UGemaleihem Nose’im Nechot UTezri VaLot Holechim LeHorid Mitzraymah,” “A caravan of Yishme’eilim came from Gilad with their camels carrying spices, balsam, and birthwort, going to carry it down to Egypt” (BeReishit 37:25).  Rashi (s.v. UGemaleihem Nose’im) famously explains why it is necessary for the Pasuk to list the goods that the Yishme’eilim were carrying.  Normally, caravans of Yishme’eilim like this one carried kerosene and resin, which have disgusting smells.  This particular caravan happened to have pleasant-smelling spices because of Yosef’s righteousness; Hashem wanted to make the journey as pleasant as possible. How does this answer of Rashi make sense?  Yosef is being sent to Egypt as a slave; will some sweet-smelling merchandise ameliorate his situation?

The answer is that the spices were a small message from Hashem.  Of course they could not fix everything, but Hashem wanted to show Yosef that even when things seem bad, there is always the Hand of Hashem guiding everything in the background.  This message can be valued by anyone going through tough times; one should always appreciate the small positive moments of life and allow them to change one’s entire attitude for the better.

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