Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.
Friday, 20 Kislev 5775 – December 12, 2014
We read in Parashat Vayeshev the story of mekhirat Yosef, how Yosef was sold as a slave to a group of Yishmaelite
merchants who were traveling from Trans-Jordan to Egypt. The Torah, curiously, specifies the
goods that these merchants were transporting, identifying three different kinds
of spices (nekhot,
tzari and lot).
Rashi, citing the Midrash (Bereishit
Rabba, 84:17), offers a reason for
why the Torah found this information worthy of mention: “This teaches the reward
given to the righteous, for it was customary among the Arabians to transport
only naphtha and resin, which have a foul odor, but it was arranged in the
heavens that this person [Yosef] would not be harmed by a foul odor.” According to the Midrash, the Torah
makes a point of noting the fragrant spices that the Yishmaelite merchants
transported because God specifically saw to it that Yosef would enjoy a pleasant
fragrance during his trip to Egypt, rather than be exposed to a putrid odor.
Chazal here convey the vitally
important message of appreciating the seemingly small blessings in life. The pleasant fragrance that
accompanied Yosef as he was carried in chains to Egypt did little, if anything,
to ease his pain and fears as his life had just fallen apart. Nevertheless,
Chazal found it significant that he
was carried to Egypt along with fragrant spices.
Even amidst the horrible tragedy of being sold as a slave to a foreign
country, there was something for which Yosef could feel grateful; there was at
least one small blessing in his life which had otherwise became accursed.
Very few people have to endure the kind of hardships and torment to which Yosef was subjected, but all of us go through difficult periods of one kind or another. Chazal here urge us not to overlook the “fragrant spices” that we enjoy even during life’s darker moments. When it seems as though life has turned sour, we must stop to “smell” the “fragrance,” to identify and appreciate the pleasant aspects of life. Just as Yosef was able to enjoy the scent of spices as he was taken into slavery, we, too, must try to enjoy and feel grateful for the small and not-so-small blessings in our lives even when difficulties arise.
Rav David Silverberg
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