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Moses appointed twelve emissaries to scout out the Holy Land and return with a report. The representative for the tribe of Ephraim was Moses’ primary disciple, Joshua. Until this time, the lad’s name was Oshua. But Moses added a letter to his name and called him Joshua.
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Home » Vayigash

Vayigash: A Recipe for Life

Submitted by on December 28, 2008 – 3:08 amNo Comment | 2,665 views


I can’t tell you how many times I have been frustrated by petty incidents such as getting caught in traffic or at red lights. These delays frustrate me to no end. I can’t stop thinking of the appointments I will miss or the things I will have to reschedule. The only thought that calms me is that everything happens for a reason. It is only when I look beyond the tunnel vision of today and remember that G-d’s master plan spans the whole of history, that I am calmed.

The belief that today’s mishap will serve a crucial cause at some indeterminate point in the future allows me to relax. This change of perspective enables me to take the delay in stride. Rather than grow frustrated I find a measure of meaning in my delays. With this delay, I tell myself, I will play a crucial part in the Divine master plan.

In Egypt

Joseph was sold as a slave to a foreign master in a foreign country. He ingratiated himself with his master and soon attained a measure of freedom. He could have used this freedom to write a letter to his parents and ask to be redeemed. Yet he never wrote the letter. He never sought respite from his Egyptian overlord.

He was later imprisoned for ten long years. Throughout his incarceration Joseph never lost his sense of contentment. He would have been happier to be free, but he was content with the role G-d had handed him. Where did Joseph find the inner strength to overcome his travails?

In his youth, Joseph received the tradition from Jacob that the Jewish people would be enslaved in Egypt. When he was brought to Egypt he recognized that this was the beginning of his people’s long prophesied slavery and he rejoiced with his opportunity to play a role in the Divine master plan. He understood that he was not intended to return to Israel and he was in no hurry to leave. He understood that every day he remained in Egypt would count toward the total number of days his people were destined to be there. Joseph was happy to serve his brothers’ time and help them avoid a longer slavery.


Joseph was eventually liberated from prison and appointed viceroy over Egypt. He understood that his new role was to prepare the ground and create a welcoming climate for his family’s eventual arrival. He toiled for seven years to amass and store provisions for the oncoming famine. By this time he must have guessed that the famine would serve as the trigger to bring his family to Egypt, but he never invited his family to Egypt to avoid the famine. He was not keen on hastening their arrival. He wanted them to enjoy their freedom as long as they possibly could.

Just the same, Joseph was, himself, fully committed to his lifelong exile. He accepted that he would never see his homeland again. He had two children in Egypt and the names he selected for them reflected his mindset. He named the first one Menashe to remind him that G-d had forced him to forget his father’s home. He named the second one Ephraim to indicate that G-d had enabled him to prosper in the land of his suffering. Joseph would always equate Egypt with suffering; Egypt could never be his true home. Yet he was happy amidst his suffering because he was playing the role G-d had scripted for him.


When Joseph finally revealed his identity to his brothers he invited his father to join him in Egypt. He did not offer to send food to Israel nor did he suggest that he might visit his father in Israel. He fully accepted that the time had come for the Jewish people to come to Egypt. They would have to arrive at some point and Joseph figured that this was the right time. It was best for his father to arrive in Egypt when he would be greeted with dignity.

Joseph was fully attuned to the rhythms of the Divine plan. He did not try to hasten it or slow it down. He accepted the events as they unfolded and rejoiced in his opportunity to play a role.

When he first confronted his brothers he assured them that he bore them no grudge for selling him into slavery. With Joseph’s mindset it was nearly impossible for him to bear a grudge against his brothers. He knew that G-d wanted him in Egypt. Being sold into slavery was merely the means that brought him there. It was one more step in the Divine plan. And Joseph accepted it.

Relevant Application

If you and I would adopt Joseph’s way of thinking the benefits would be incalculable. recipe for life - innerstreamWe would spare ourselves so much stress and friction. Most arguments begin with petty disagreements. Most of life’s stresses originate with significant concerns. If we would only accept that every inconvenience, every calamity, is part of a Divine plan our health and quality of life would be immeasurably enhanced. There would be no reason to stress and no cause for concern. We would always know that we are in good hands. This is a recipe for life.

Our spiritual health would benefit too. We would see the hand of G-d in every occurrence. We would feel His presence in every interaction. We would get to know G-d intimately and, more importantly, we would come to realize that G-d knows us intimately too. (1)


  1. This essay is based on commentary of Nachmanidies, Toras Moshe (Reb Moshe Sofer) and Toras Moshe (Reb Moshe Alshich)