Divine Providence

         How often in life have we questioned where we are at only later to realize “I’m exactly where I need to be at this given moment?” Hindsight is always 20/20 and while some are critical of the Monday Morning Quarterback, it is human nature to look back at what was and try to connect the dots-whether one can do so or not.

         In this week’s Torah portion, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers. Afterwards he says ועתה אל-תעצבנו ואל-יחר בעיניכם כי-מכרתם אותי הנה כי למחיה שלחני אלהים לפניהם. “Do not distress and do not be angry with yourselves, that you sold me here. For God sent me before you to preserve life.”[1] Rashbam, an 11th century French commentator, says “The Holy One arranged this for your own good.”[2] How could this be 3030for their own good? After all, the brothers went down to Egypt famished, they were accused of being spies, brother Shimon was taken into slavery and brother Benjamin was accused of thievery.

In Hasidic writings, there is a concept of Yeridah L’Tzorech Aliyah, descent for the sake of ascent. Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, in his book Meor Eynaim, writes, “Why does a person have to fall? The meaning of this contains secrets of Torah. One of these is the possibility of attaining a yet higher rung than one had previously reached. Every act of being is preceded by an absence of being. When you want to proceed to a higher rung, you need to lack for something first. Therefore, you have to fall from your prior rung.”[3] We cannot stay constantly in one place. The prophet Ezekiel teaches us “the life-force ebbs and flows.”[4]  We are either in a state of rising (Aliyah) or falling (Yeridah). If the latter, it is up to us to reflect on what we can do to rise again. The life force does not go in a straight line but takes a zigzag or circuitous route. Yet somehow, as Joseph intuits, we end up where we need to be in that given moment.            It is our challenge and our opportunity, when things aren’t going the way, we would like or had originally planned, to find the Holy One in those moments. In those states of descent, when we feel frustrated or depressed, may we find a way to learn from our situation and chart a course of ascent. This is not to ignore tragedies that happen, situations for which there is no rationalization or explanation. It entails, in the ebb and flow of the roller-coaster we call life, finding ways to connect to God during difficulty and challenges. Ken Yhi Ratzon, may each of us have the willpower to engage in this holy work


[1] Genesis 45:5

[2] Rashbam on Genesis 45:5 ד”ה כי למחיה שלחני

[3] Meor Eynaim Yitro

[4] Ezekiel 1:14

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