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Parashat Vayeshev - 5777

Dear friends,

In this week's Parasha, Vayeshev, we find one of the most dramatic stories in the Torah - the story of Joseph and his brothers.

Joseph is hated by his brothers because he is the favorite son and believes that he should be the leader of the tribe. They hate him even more when he shares with them dreams he had which could only be interpreted as the predictions of a future where, indeed, he **will** rule over them.

One day Jacob asks Joseph to go and check on his brothers who were tending his sheep far away from Hebron, in the area of Shechem. He asks him to check on the welfare of the brothers and the sheep. Joseph accepts willingly and he goes on the journey to find his brothers. Imagine, a seventeen-year-old boy leaving home to fulfill his father's request of checking on their welfare. But when he gets close to his brothers, they have other plans for him. Their actions will make him a missing child for more than twenty years. For us Minnesotans who have been following the Jacob Wetterling story, we understand the pain and suffering of the parents and family, even after so many years. When Jacob is presented with Joseph's bloody coat as proof that he had been killed by a wild animal, the Torah says that Jacob refused to be comforted, and continued to mourn the loss of his missing son for years.

There is a Yiddish saying: "Man Trachts, und G-tt Lachts" - Man thinks and plans, while G-d laughs. It is a reality that all humans face when their best thought-up plans sometimes do not become reality. Jacob thought nothing of sending Joseph to check on his brothers. Had he thought that there was any danger, he certainly would not have sent him. He knew that the brothers envied him but it never occurred to him that they hated him to the point that they would want him dead.

Joseph, though aware that he and his brothers did not get along (in fact, the Torah states that they could not communicate peacefully on any subject), is very confident as he fulfills his father's request. He is certain that he will return home safely.

The brothers, hateful of their bragging brother, decide that he should disappear forever. By selling him as a slave to Egypt, they were certain that he would never show up again. His dreams would disappear for good and he would remain a slave forever. How wrong they were! Not only does he become a free man but he is elevated to the position of viceroy to the king. Thru their very action, they are instrumental in placing him in a country where he will flourish and succeed. During the famine, they will come and bow down to him just like he saw in his dreams.

Our sages see the hand of G-d in all that happens here, all for the purpose of bringing all the children of Israel to Egypt where they will be enslaved, just like it was told to Abraham. They will be liberated, they will be given the Torah and the Land of Israel, and become a nation for better or worse - just like who we are today.

As humans, we do our best, investing our thoughts and efforts to ensure that all our activities succeed. However, do not be disappointed if things do not quite work the way we had planned. There are so many unknowns. We are at the mercy of G-d, and we should always hope for the best. "Man trachts, G-tt lachts" - Man plans, G-d laughs.

May all your good thoughts and plans be fulfilled.

Shabbat Shalom,