We are coming to the end of the Joseph narrative, inching toward the end of the book of Genesis, and making our way to what will be the story that most defines us - our experiences in Egypt and ultimately the Exodus. Parsha Vayigash brings the story of Joseph and his brothers to a dramatic close. When Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, he comforts them saying, “Don't be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me here; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you... God has sent me ahead of you to insure your survival on earth, and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance." (Genesis 45:5-7)
What we are seeing here is the very human act of trying to understand “why”. Why is this happening? Why is my life traveling this path? Why am I here? We are meaning makers. We take the experiences of our lives - good and bad, uplifting and challenging, active and passive - and find ways to create meaning and purpose. For Joseph, being sold into slavery, ending up in the Egyptian prison, finally coming to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and becoming the grand vizier of Egypt were all according to God’s divine plan. These events were part of God’s plan not just for him but for his whole family. So with this acceptance, Joseph is able to let go of his anger and resentment toward his brothers. He is able to turn and comfort them in their guilt. And he finds a purpose to all the “bad” things that happened to him.
When we look at our own lives, it is sometimes difficult to understand why certain things are happening. It is important to try - try to see a bigger picture, try not to get stuck in the moments of sorrow and challenge. Jewish tradition teaches us that we should always remember the saying, “This too shall pass.” We should always remember that time is fleeting, experiences are temporary and that we should appreciate each moment as an opportunity to learn and grow. We may not always be living the lives we “expected” but these are the lives we are living and we should do our best to make the most of each moment to find meaning in each experience.