(Torah Portion Vayigash) Optimism!

In the Book of Iyov – Job, the verse states, “He (G-d) placed a limit on darkness.” The Medrash says that this refers to Yosef, and explains, “G-d fixed the amount of time that Yosef would be in jail.”

Rabbi Shimon Shwalb o.b.m. explains: Yosef languished in jail for twelve years because of false charges. Probably he thought he would remain in jail for the rest of his life. “Darkness,” has the tendency to make one think his situation is permanent. If one is suffering or in a difficult circumstance, he despairs of all hope that he will ever emerge from his condition. However, this can change in an instant; one’s problems can disappear as quickly as switching on a light.

This is what happened to Yosef. One morning (which was Rosh Hashana) Yosef woke up in his cell to the same dreary routine he experienced for the past 12 years. Then sometime during the day he was told to immediately appear before the Pharoh. He groomed himself and before he knew it he was standing before the king of Egypt. He interpreted the Pharoh’s dreams and after a brief discussion he was appointed viceroy of Egypt!

Yosef had gone from a life of utter hopelessness, to one of power, glory and honor within a matter of hours.

Our Sages apply the aforementioned verse, “G-d placed a limit on darkness,” to the incredible and abrupt turnaround of events in Yosef’s life bringing him from the darkness of incarceration to hope and light, by becoming the viceroy of Egypt.

In this week’s Portion, the Torah describes the quick end of a situation containing much emotional pain and suffering. After 22 years of believing that his son was dead, Yaacov received word that Yosef was alive and well, both physically and spiritually. Immediately, Yaacov’s vitality and spirit returned. This is another example of, “G-d placing a limit to darkness.”

The unexpected and sudden transformation in the lives of Yosef and Yaacov serves as a lesson to us never to despair and to always be optimistic and have hope in G-d’s power to bring salvation.

Our Sages tell us that the verse in Job also alludes to the epoch of our Redemption, the coming of Moshiach. The Moshiach will also come suddenly at the moment of G-d’s choosing. Our hope in the forthcoming redemption has been a major factor in helping us cope with the most difficult and challenging times throughout the millennia.

It is told, that as the Jews were led to their death in the concentration camps, they sang a haunting melody to the words Maimonides composed about the belief we have in the coming of the Moshiach.

I recall a story I heard in my youth about a young child who was on his father’s shoulders as they were being led to the gas chambers. The pure and innocent child was playing his violin to the heartfelt tune of the belief in the Moshiach, and the group hummed along. The melody was so sweet and pure, that it even touched some human chord in the Nazi officers. They were captivated by the intensity and passion of the moment and could not bring themselves to put him into the gas chambers. This went on for a while, until the inhumane head commandant came by and personally ordered them into the gas chambers.

This story touched me very much when I first heard it, and every so often I envision the moving scene in my mind.

Unfortunately this young lad did not survive, but the spirit and hope that he had that G-d would end the darkness is alive and well within us all!

Today is the last day of Chanukah. Chanukah is celebrated at the darkest time of the year –when the nights are longest. On Chanukah we light the candles of the Menorah in an ascending order. Each night we add an additional candle until the entire Menorah is illuminated.

The message of the Menorah is that with all the gloom and doom, uncertainty, threats, insecurity and hostilities in the world, a Jew turns to and places his trust in the Almighty – our beacon of light and hope for the good fortune that imminently awaits us!

Wishing you a most uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks