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Thought for the Day: Little Reminders That HaShem Is Running The World

There is a nice/inspirational mashal about a man meeting HaShem in the coming world.  He sees his life as footprints in the sand.  As he looks over his life, he see two pair of footprints along most of the journey; only one, though, in a few critical areas.  The man asks the meaning and is told by HaShem, "I was with you along your journey through life."  "But," asks the man with some sadness, "I see only one set of footprints in the most critical junctures of my life.  Why did you abandon me when I needed You so much?"  "You misunderstand, My son; that is where I was carrying you."

It's a nice thought to keep in mind and it's certainly true, but it's also very hard to appreciate that when you are "in the trenches", as it were.  I heard a beautiful and practical technique the help keep  one focus and avoid panic.  When Yosef haTzadik was sold into slavery by his brothers, he was transported down to Mitzrayim in a caravan of arab spice sellers.  The Torah, of course, has not extra words, so there must be something very important about knowing who was running the caravan and what they were selling.  Rashi explains that arabs usually dealt in petroleum products (interesting, right?), so it was unusual that they were carrying spice.  (Ummm... ok, so?)  In order to not make that tzadik suffer the bad smell of kerosene and oil, this caravan of arabs was carrying sweet smelling spices.

So Yosef haTzadik, all of 17 years old, had just been stripped of his dignity, deposed as the heir apparent of Yaakov Avinu, thrown into a pit of snakes and scorpions by his older brothers, then hauled out to be sold into slavery in a foreign land; a land famous for the fact that a slave had never escaped.  Yosef haTzadik was entering an unimaginable darkness, lonely, and betrayed.  Is he really going to care one way or the other how the mobile prison to which he is chained smells?!

Care, no; notice, certainly.  Why?  Because Yosef haTzadik did not earn that title easily.  As a tzadik he noticed all details around him and looked for Yad HaShem/the Guiding Hand of Divine Providence in every moment of his life.  Yosef knew very well what arab caravans usually carried and he would certainly have noticed this incongruity.  It was the sweet smell of spices that gave Yosef haTzadik the comfort, it was the fact that the sweet smell was a contradiction to everything that had happened that day; it was Yad HaShem.

The lesson for each of us is to be looking for that Yad HaShem when things are bleak.  My wife and I had a small taste of that yesterday when coming to Denver for a chasuna for a friends son.  We thought we'd also use the opportunity to celebrate our birthdays and anniversary (I turned 20 in June, my wife in July, we got married in August).  What should have been a beautiful afternoon in Denver had turned in to a nightmare at the airport.  First the flight was delayed for over two hours, then we had to change planes so we lost our seats, then we got in late so lost our ride to the hotel.  We are tired and a bit down when we reached the Denver airport.  Waiting for our luggage, I heard a small voice behind me say, "Shalom Aleichem."  I turned around to see teenager in shorts and baseball cap smiling at me.  (I guess he was able to figure out I was Jewish; could have been I was the only one in white shirt, jacket, tie, cap, and tzitzis in the airport.)  I replied, "Aleichem Shalom."  "Hi!  I'm a bochur at the Denver yeshiva; we just graduated yesterday and it's hot today, so I that's why I'm not dressed so much like a yeshiva bochur today.  Do you need a ride anywhere?"

I hadn't been sold into slavery, but I am also no Yosef haTzadik.  I had had a very long day and that little "Shalom Aleichem; do you need a ride?" was a whiff of Gan Eden.

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