Nov 21

At the Darkest Moments


When Yosef’s brothers see a caravan of Arab merchants coming towards them on its way to Egypt, Yehudah suggests that they sell him — because as Reuven had asked, they did not kill him, leaving him instead in a dangerous pit.

glimmerThe convoy itself is identified in the Torah as “bearing spices.” Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) explains that this bears mention because it testifies to Yosef’s righteousness. Ordinarily, a train of merchants would be carrying naptha, pitch, or other resins, all of which have a bad odor. This one, however, had a pleasant fragrance.

Rabbi Asher Zelig Rubenstein asks a straightforward question: why would Yosef care? His brothers have just turned on him, taking his coat, thrown him in a pit, and are now selling him into slavery. Is he going to really care about the smell?

In actuality, though, there is a profound lesson here. In Yosef’s case, he needed to go down to Egypt as a slave, and then rise to royalty while he was there. So he needed to be carted off by merchants as a lowly slave — but there was no reason for him to experience a bad odor. If it had been anyone else, there might have been a spiritual benefit to the addition of that offensive smell, but not for Yosef.

No matter what the situation, G-d watches over each individual, and gives a person exactly what he or she needs. Like Yosef, whatever we are going through, even if it seems incredibly dark and painful — we should know that G-d gives us what will benefit us most, and we can look for the glimmer of light around the corner.


  1. Michael Mendershausen

    Yosef’s brothers did not sell him to the Ishmaelites: Gen 37:28 “Midianite men, traders, passed by; they drew Yosef up and lifted him out of the pit and sold Yosef to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver; then they brought Yosef to Egypt.” The Midianite men sold Yosef.

    1. mdixler

      There’s actually a discussion about this in the commentaries. I recall that the Rashbam understood the text as you did, but Rashi understands that it was the brothers who sold him. Rashi’s position is supported in the portion of Vayigash Yosef where reveals himself to the brothers saying “I’m Yosef who you sold to Egypt.”

  2. Vincent Ekeria

    Its G-d’s way of telling us that he is with us all the way through

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