- Ilana Greenberg
This week’s parsha, Parshat Vayigash, describes the emotional reunion of Joseph and his brothers after 22 years. The last time Joseph had seen his family, he left in a state of tension and turmoil. His jealous brothers sold him as a slave. His father was left grieving, having seemingly lost his favorite son. Meanwhile, Joseph had been mistreated, and suffered as a slave and a prisoner. After all that has happened, it is expected that Joseph would hold a grudge when seeing his brothers.
However, as we know, he has quite the opposite reaction. When reflecting upon and
recounting his own experiences in Egypt, he states:
“ ְו ַעָּ֗תה ֹֽל ַ א־אֶּ֞תם ְׁש ַל ְחֶּ֤תם אֹ ִת֙י ֵ֔הּנָה ִּ֖כי ָהֱאֹל ִ֑הים ַויְ ִׂש ֵ֨ימ ִנֽי ְלָ֜אב ְל ַפ ְר֗עֹה ּו ְלָאדֹו֙ן ְלׇכל־ ֵּב ֔יתֹו ּומֵֹׁ֖של ְּבׇכ ֶ֥ ל־אֶרץ ִמ ְצָ ֽריִם ” “So, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his household, and ruler over the whole land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:8). Rather than focus on the negative aspects of his experience, Joseph simply states the final outcome of his suffering: he became second-in-command to Pharaoh. He goes even further to mention that his brothers are not to blame, as his suffering was only an outlet to lead to Hashem’s larger goal of his prominence in Egypt. Joseph’s incredible optimism should teach us that often, hardships are only steps on the path to a greater, positive outcome. We can only understand the true purpose of Hashem’s plan when we view it in hindsight, and this should motivate us to persevere through personal challenges, just as Joseph did. In the end, a great, positive result will often outweigh the negative aspects that led to it, and if we view success as a product of our challenges, we can live more fulfilling
Joseph’s optimism was also beneficial on a larger scale. It allowed him to forgive his
brothers, reunite with his father, and heal his family. It also allowed him to save Egypt, and
eventually lead the country out of famine, using his executive power. Optimism through
challenges will eventually lead to internal improvement and satisfaction, and success and
contribution to the world.