For twenty-two long years our forefather Yaacov mourned continuously over the loss of his beloved son Yosef. The Torah relates that all of Yaacov’s children tried to comfort him during this time, but he rejected their words and remained in a state of despair.
The question raised is, usually when one faces a devastating loss, a year or so after the passing, with support and encouragement, they eventually are able to move on. Why didn’t the comfort offered, and the passing of time, work for Yaacov?
The answer offered is that the ability to ease the memory of the departed one from our mind after a year, is a gift granted to us by the Almighty. However this is only granted to one who has truly departed. Although Yaacov perceived that Yosef was dead due to the evidence of seeing Yosef’s clothing drenched in blood, the fact was, Yosef was still alive. In this situation, the memory does not fade since a live energetic connection still exists between the loved ones, and thus Yaakov could not be consoled.
In consequence of the state of mourning that Yaacov experienced during this time, G-d did not communicate with him through prophesy, because the state of Simcha – happiness – is a prerequisite to receiving G-d’s communication.
Thus, when Yaacov received the news that Yosef was indeed alive, the Torah relates that his spirit became alive and he once again received G-d’s communication and assurances.
The human condition is that one becomes overcome with feelings of sadness upon hearing distressing news. Support during this time by family, friends or a professional are essential to revive one’s spirit.
The Talmud tells us that one can’t do it on his own, offering the parable, “One who is bound in jail cannot free himself unless he has a support mechanism in place.”
A person’s state of joy is essential to succeed in all matters of life. King David continually fought off feelings of depression as he was pursued from his youth, writing about it in the Psalms he composed. We recite each morning, “He is the Healer of the broken-hearted, and the One Who binds up the sorrows.” G-d is the ultimate Healer and we call out to Him to provide us with the necessary tools to deal with it.
There are times when hearing good news can be the cause of generating depressed feelings. We see this play itself out in this week’s Parsha.
For twenty-two years, Yosef’s brothers felt they were correct in selling him as a slave due to his wish to rule over them and unseat his brother Yehudah who would eventually become the monarch over Israel.
Then the moment of truth arrived. All of Yosef’s eleven brothers came to Egypt due to a famine in the land of Israel and bowed to the Viceroy of Egypt – who unbeknownst to them was their brother Yosef.
Yosef then revealed to them, “I am Yosef, who you sold to Egypt!”
The Torah describes the brothers’ utter disbelief and shock of this revelation! On the one hand it was a definitive moment, apprising them of their mistake, yet on the other hand, they were united with their brother and knew that this news would be tremendous for their father’s welfare.
Did they fall into a depressed state due to the realization of their mistake, or were they happy for their unification?
The Torah tell us that Yosef immediately addressed this and told them not to become depressed, after all, “look at it positively, I was placed in a position of providing food for you and the entire region.”
Yosef’s reassurance that he held no grudge was a key to the brothers’ ability to reconcile and move on.
Yosef, whose credentials after his name is, Hatzadik – the righteous one, earned this distinct classification due to his ability to deal with the most challenging situations and making hard and correct choices against human nature.
Yosef’s example should inspire us. When we are challenged, we should take a step back and focus on the positive in order to become productive, satisfied and successful!