I have a good friend whose son was at a decision making stage about five years ago. He needed to decide what he would do for a living. He’s a very bright person and I knew he would find something and do well with it. He wasn’t yet sure. I offered him some unsolicited advice. I told him that good things are probably just around the bend. It could be any moment that you will find it, but by its very nature of being around the bend you just don’t see it yet. I thought I scored big points with him, and really helped to change his negative outlook. I was so proud of myself. Since then, he has found a good job, established his own small business, and married a very nice young woman. When I emailed him to wish him mazal tov, and tell him that I knew all along that things would work out well for him, he responded that he remembers the day I gave him that “good advice”. He said that he remembered thinking “why don’t you just shut up!” At this later point he thanked me for the advice, that it actually had gotten him through some times of near despair.
In this week’s parsha we find a similar idea. Yosef is arrested and imprisoned for something he is not guilty of. He spends 10 years in prison. He begs the soon-to-be freed butler to mention his name to Pharaoh, which he completely forgets to do. Another two years pass, and Pharaoh has a dream. He can’t find an interpreter to explain the dream to his satisfaction. Then the butler remembers Yoseif. Immediately the process begins, and before long Yosef is standing before Pharaoh about to begin a new chapter in his life as the prime minister of Egypt.
Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan HaKohein, of blessed memory, writes as follows. Everything has its time. As soon as something’s time comes, G-d doesn’t wait another minute longer than designated. We see this from Yoseif. As soon as the divinely ordained time that he needed to be in prison ended, he was rushed out of prison. The Chofetz Chaim continues that when the time for the Messiah will come, it will happen with lightning speed, and finally the diaspora will come to its close.
We can derive strength and encouragement from this in our day to day lives as well. We must always keep in mind that nothing is forever. Difficult situations come to an end, and we sometimes even forget they ever happened. In every difficult situation we should try to keep in mind that the end of the trouble may be just around the bend. The knowledge that there is light at the end of the tunnel gives us the strength to go on.
* There was once a Salesman from Deal N.J., whose business required him to travel around the country for several weeks at a time. He was an observant Jew, and he always tried to schedule his trips around stops for the Sabbath in places where kosher food was more readily available. This way he could stock up for the coming week. One of his usual stops for the Sabbath was in Memphis, Tennessee. On one of his trips to Birmingham, Alabama he contacted the president of a company which he was hoping to get an account with. His attempts in the previous years had been unsuccessful.However, this particular year he was pleasantly surprised. The president wanted to meet with him, and he made an appointment for that day. Unfortunately, the president was in a meeting which took longer than he had expected, and the salesman was told to return the next morning, which was Friday. The same scene repeated itself the next morning, and the salesman needed to get to Memphis, pick up his food, and check into his hotel before sundown. He burst into the president’s office and told him it was now or never. He received a small order, and left.
He made it to Memphis too late to get his food, but he decided to at least spend the Sabbath in the better hotel across the street. Embittered by the “mess” he’d gotten himself into he took a room and began to unpack. To his utter disbelief, he found in the closet of room a certified kosher meal enough to serve ten people. He even found wine! He couldn’t imagine where it came from, but it had obviously been abandoned. He thanked G-d for the wonderful gift and enjoyed the Sabbath.
Some weeks later he was back home with some friends, and he overheard them speaking about their trip to Memphis, and how it had been cut short by a health problem. “What ever happened to all that food we brought in?” one of them said. The salesman interrupted “I know what happened to it.” All eyes were now on him. “I ate it.”
* The story is taken from the book Visions of Greatness, by Rabbi Yosef Weiss.