Parashat VaYeshev- Picture Perfect
When Reuven, the eldest of the twelve shevatim hears that his brothers are devising a plan to kill their youngest brother Yosef, he tries to convince them out of it. The Torah writes of him:
21. But Reuven heard, and he delivered him out of their hands, and he said, "Let us not deal him a deadly blow."
כא. וַיִּשְׁמַע רְאוּבֵן וַיַּצִּלֵהוּ מִיָּדָם וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא נַכֶּנּוּ נָפֶשׁ:
On my most recent trip to Eres Yisrael, while spending time at the Tahana Merkazi in Yerushalayim, I walked by a photo store and noticed mounted on a display was a large eye-catching photograph. Naturally, I drew nearer and observed the photograph closely. I realized that this large photo was made of hundreds of smaller photos that came together to create one uniform image. I surveyed each picture closely and considered its relevance to the main picture. I realized that no matter the content of each picture, if it was shifted even a little to the right or the left, it would ruin the continuity of the big picture. Each picture belonged exactly where it was put, and if it was missing, the big picture would no longer make sense.
Life is all about seeing the bigger picture, even when the small pictures do not seem to relate- they all belong there, they are all necessary. Sometimes, we go through an experience and we cannot fathom how it could possibly contribute to our lives, we cannot understand where this piece fits in, but know that if this piece was missing, the grand picture of our lives would be distorted.
We must embrace each experience in our lives….even if we don't understand them. They all belong where they are put.
The Midrash Raba on Sefer VaYikra tells us that had Reuven known that the Torah would write about him, "And Reuven heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands," he would have loaded Yosef on his shoulders and carried him back to his father.
What is the significance of this Midrash?
As part of human nature, we perceive an experience differently during the experience itself than after the experience, when looking at the big picture. We must understand that Reuven has no idea that his life will be recorded in the Torah, but if he knew that his whole life would be written down as one continuous story, one with a beginning and an end, he would have acted differently and carried Yosef home on his own shoulders. Why?
While he is with his brothers, he has no concept of what the big picture is at that point. He makes a simply decision to save his younger brother, he does not know what will come next. However, if one is granted the privilege of an overview of their life from beginning to end, they can understand exactly where this 'picture' fits in and why they must be experiencing it.
Just think, if our lives were written down, what would our story look like? What would our big picture be? Would it have vacant spots? Consider your actions in the big picture of your life, not only within its passing moments.
If I go through life with an open mind that, even though I do not understand why I might be going through this but I know I have to be, things become more endurable. We find relief knowing the very fact that we are meant to go be going through this. HaKadosh Barukh Hu is the artist of our life portrait. Could we ask for a more meticulous painter than that? Rest assured, He leaves out no details.
It was because Yosef understood this concept that he was able to reach the level that he did. Just imagine to yourself what Yosef had to endure. Just imagine the thoughts going through his head as he sat in the pit his brothers threw him in. Imagine the shame and betrayal he felt as he was standing there waiting for his brothers to sell him to Yishmaelim. What was Yosef feeling as he sat in the back of the caravan on his way to Misrayim alone, with absolutely no concept of where he is being taken to. What did this seventeen year old boy tell himself when Potiphar's wife accused him of violating her by which he was thrown into prison? Yosef realized that each of these small instances were vivid strokes of color in his beautiful portrait of life.
All that Yosef endured was not for nothing. What was his reward? He was called Safnat Pa'aneah, 'Revealer of Secrets'. Yosef was given the ability to see further, he was able to reveal the big picture.
The Midrash Rabbah (85:1) offers a glimpse into the heavenly orchestration that accompanies our earthly actions:
'Rabbi Shemuel Bar Nahman, when expounding on our Parsha would open his words with the following verse from Yirmiyahu (29:11): 'The thoughts that I'm thinking on them, says HaShem, are thoughts of peace and not evil, in order to give a future and a hope.' The tribes were involved in the sale of Yosef, Yosef was involved in his sackcloth and his fasting, Reuven was involved in his sackcloth and his fasting, Yaakov was involved in his sackcloth and his fasting, Yehuda was involved in finding himself a wife whileHaShem was involved in creating the light of the Mashiah.'
While we are mourning that which appears to be destruction, HaKadosh Barukh Hu is busy constructing the light of Mashiah!
This message is extremely powerful. At times when we feel that the picture does not belong, it could become the picture that defines our lives; we do not know what is behind it. Maybe we do not understand why that specific picture is there, but when we take a step back, we can see how it complements the overall picture.
The Maggid of Dubna explains that there are two means through which HaKadosh Barukh Hu delivers His goodness to us. Sometimes, HaShem sends down good in the form of honor, success and wealth. Other times, the berakhot come filtered through situations which appear to be the opposite, yet they are all necessary, and therefore all for the good.
This is comparable to a tailor producing a garment. Upon receiving elaborate pieces of expensive silk, the tailor 'attacks' the silk with large scissors, cutting it into different sizes and shapes, seemingly tearing it apart. An unknowledgeable onlooker would think that he has performed an act of destruction. A wiser person understands that these preliminary 'destructive' actions are necessary in order to produce a garment that will far surpass the silk material in both beauty and function.
Be'ezrat HaShem, may we all develop the understanding that each and every experience we endure has been beautifully orchestrated in the grand scheme of our lives and is most necessary to complete a beautiful portrait we can be proud to display in front of HaShem Himself.
Wishing each and every one of you a Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!
Make Your Neshamah Fly!