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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Vayigash

Don't Blame Him - He's Only the Messenger

And now be not distressed, and do not condemn yourselves for having sold me here, because it was to be a provider that God sent me ahead of you... And now, it was not you who sent me here, but God. (Bereishis 45:5, 8)

This is taken from Da'as Torah, by R. Yerucham Levovitz.

Both the Rambam and the Ramban (with reference to Shemos 18:11) elaborate on a profound principle that is concealed within this verse. In order to understand it, let us first turn to a puzzling question raised by our Sages in another area of Torah. Concerning the Egyptian's maltreatment of the Jews during their sojourn in Egypt, we are told that "[the Egyptians were punished] in that which they had schemed against them [the Jews]" (Shemos 18:11). And here the commentaries ask why the Egyptians deserved to be punished with the ten plagues and the drowning in the sea. Hadn't the Almighty previously decreed this and informed Avraham Avinu about this at the bris bein ha-besarim: "Know with a certainty that your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own, they will serve them, and they will afflict them for four hundred years" (Bereishis 15:13)? If so, the Egyptians were merely agents who carried out the Almighty's will. Why, then, were they punished?

The answer is that they were not punished for having afflicted suffering on Klal Yisrael, but for having schemed to annihilate them. The punishment was solely for what they had planned to perpetrate. Since they had plotted to exterminate the Jewish People, they were totally destroyed in return - measure for measure. This is true in all aspects of life. An afflicted person should neither be angry nor harbor any complaint against the one afflicting him. The perpetrator is merely an agent of the Heavenly court; a messenger sent by the Almighty to enforce His decree.

Hashem Told Him To Curse

At one point in David Ha-Melech's career, he was ousted in a coup d'?tat engineered by his son, Avshalom. Several of David's leading officers and advisors had deserted him, and only a small remnant of the royal army remained at his side. It was enough to cause even the greatest of men to despair. As David fled to exile, he and his entourage chanced upon his former teacher, Shim'i ben Gera. David looked to his teacher for support and encouragement, but instead he was met with a fearful curse. Shim'i ben Gera berated his former student and threw stones at him. David's bodyguards were outraged. The honor of their king had been trampled on, and the perpetrator deserved to be killed for his insolence. They drew their swords.

However, David's reaction was totally unexpected: "What does it matter to you or me? He is cursing because Hashem said to him, 'Curse David'" (Shmuel II 16:10). David Ha-Melech wouldn't allow his guards to lift a finger against Shim'i. He recognized that his teacher was only a messenger sent to convey the Almighty's wrath.

We can now understand why Yosef told his brothers, "And now be not distressed, and do not condemn yourselves for having sold me here, because it was to be a provider that God sent me ahead of you" (Bereishis 45:5). At first glance, the Torah merely seems to be recording a loving brother's charitable response toward family members who had earlier perpetrated evil against him. They were distressed and upset, and Yosef magnanimously calmed them down, saying, "Don't worry, it's really nothing - especially since I ultimately gained from the entire episode." However, the Torah doesn't speak in such plain terms, and in reality it is telling us something much deeper. Let us recall why the Egyptians were punished: If it hadn't been for their scheming to wipe the Israelites off the face of the earth, they would not have been deserving of punishment. This is so for a very simple reason: actually they didn't do anything at all; it was Hashem who decreed that the Jews be afflicted, and it was He who delivered them into the Egyptian's hands. The Almighty brought all this about. If so, how can an accusing finger be pointed at His agents?

This was the intent behind Yosef's declaration: "And now, it was not you who sent me here, but God" (Bereishis 45:8). Let us understand this statement in its most simple meaning. This whole incident came about without the involvement of the brothers. They had no hand in it whatsoever, and it made no sense for Yosef to be angry with them because of it. A victim does not have the right to automatically be angry with the one who apparently wronged him. Rather, he must have a valid reason - because in reality, everything that happened to him was a result of Divine Providence; and what does the one who hurt him have to do with this? If a stone came loose from a wall and fell on a person, would he have complaints against the stone? This outlook is in the spirit of the Torah, and is therefore worth remembering.

Gut Shabbos

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Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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