This week’s Torah portion is Vayigash, “and they met.” On a superficial level we are talking about the actual events that transpired: Joseph, now a highly placed official in Egypt, reveals his true identity to his brothers and “meets” them as himself. Similarly, the elderly Jacob meets his son Joseph after many years of thinking that Joseph had passed.
But there is something about “meeting” another human being that also implies a transformation. (This is assuming you’re paying attention to them and not in your own head, which unfortunately is often the case.) When you truly pay attention to them, your life is not the same and neither is theirs, PRECISELY BECAUSE YOU HAVE ENCOUNTERED ONE ANOTHER. And God made that meeting happen, for whatever the purpose was.
In this case, we know that the Jewish people are about to descend into a horrible, horrific, deadly, centuries-long, physical enslavement and spiritual and emotional addiction to the total impurity that Egypt represents. We are looking back at history from the perspective of that knowing, and we shudder because the brothers LITERALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE WALKING INTO.
We learn from the Bible in this portion that no matter what the travails to come, we should not focus on the negative. Thus, in each “meeting,” the focus is on the POSITIVE OUTCOME that will result from all the difficulties.
Genesis 45:7–Joseph says to his brothers, “God has sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival on earth, and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance.” He mentions the famine to come, and Joseph reassures his brothers that they will be protected: “near me—you and your children and your grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all that is yours.”
Of course, Joseph did not know that the Jewish people would eventually be subjected to a deadly regime, but God knows everything. And when God tells Jacob to leave Israel, it is with the full awareness of what the Jewish people will eventually endure. Still and all, He focuses on the positive.
Genesis 46:2-4: “God called to Israel [Jacob’s other name] in a vision by night: ‘Jacob! Jacob!’ He answered, ‘Here.’ “I am God, the God of your father’s [house]. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back; and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”
God is telling Jacob here that the Jewish people will leave Egypt in large numbers, prosperous and mighty. He is not telling Jacob all the bad things they will suffer along the way.
The lesson for us is twofold. Most of us already know that when you talk to someone, you should not be a “negative Nelly” or a “Debbie Downer” about their situation. Whatever you speak may be factually accurate, but it also acts to remove hope. People need hope to survive. They (we) need to believe that the future can be better if they are to take action to make it so. So “meet” people with positivity.
On a deeper level, know that you will be constantly tormented by doubts in your life. This is the work of Satan, pure and simple. His job is to turn you away from faith. So he will say to you, “Look at the world, it is full of suffering, what kind of God would let a world like this exist?”
Satan goes on: “And look at you, what has become of you, you’re a nobody and a nothing and a failure, and your so-called spiritual life is hypocrisy, nothing more.”
Yes, it will wear you down if you let it. The trick (for Satan is a trickster) is that Satan mixes truth with negativity to make you forego the future. In the language of propaganda studies, this is the “wrap up smear,” meaning that Satan puts a misleading “headline” in your consciousness so as to confuse you, and make you sin.
If you know in advance that Satan does this, then you do not ever have to “meet” him. Just close the door, turn off the news, and remember God’s promise to Jacob.
In the end it will all be good, and everything else is just noise. All He wants from you is to do your part.
Note: For a very inspiring show that conveys this message, check out “The Man In The High Castle,” on Amazon.
By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal (Dossy). All opinions are the author’s own.