“He [Yosef] comforted them [his brothers] and spoke to their hearts.” [50:21]
After the burial of Yaakov, Yosef’s brothers became afraid. They feared that perhaps Yosef still bore a grudge against them because of what they had done to him. The brothers turned to Yosef, pleading for forgiveness.
As he had done when first identifying himself, Yosef reassured his brothers that G-d meant it all for good. This time, however, Yosef used a new rationale to reassure the brothers that he would not kill or oppress them.
Rash”i, explaining the verse “He comforted them and spoke to their hearts,” relates Yosef’s convincing words:
Yosef explained, “Before you [the brothers] came down to Egypt, the Egyptians slandered me, saying that I am a slave. Through you it became known that I am a free man. If I would kill you, what would people say? ‘Yosef saw a group of men. He elevated himself through them, by claiming that they were his brothers. But in the end, he killed them! Is there a brother who would kill his brothers? [So clearly he is a liar, and these were not his brothers at all. He really is a slave.]'”
On one hand, Yosef’s words are logical and may have convinced the brothers that Yosef will not kill them. On the other hand, if we examine what Yosef told his brothers, his words are little comfort! Yosef was telling them that even the Egyptians would not believe that a man would kill his own brother. But his brothers did want to kill their brother – Yosef! These are painful, hurtful words!
Rav Yosef Salant explains that Yosef was indeed comforting his brothers. Yosef was proving to them that the entire incident must have been influenced from above – from G-d, and that it was not from their own hearts and desires that they did it. Yosef explained to them that when they plotted to kill him, it was against nature. It was – quite literally – unnatural behavior. Even the Egyptians know that brothers don’t kill brothers! It was clearly impossible that the righteous sons of Yaakov would even contemplate such a horrible thing.
So how could it happen? It could only happen through the hand of G-d, acting to fulfill His will, to provide salvation during the hunger and to cause the family to move to Egypt. So these are true words of comfort!
We need to constantly remind ourselves that G-d controls His world. Most of the time, however, He hides His influence. We are unable to see the hashgacha – that G-d is really controlling His world. We often don’t understand why things happen. We don’t have answers.
It is only rarely that G-d does allow us to see and understand a small aspect of His influence. Shidduchim, the coming together of young men and women to marry, are specifically known as an area where G-d’s influence is present. In my own case, I can trace a series of events that date back two full years, that in one small way, led to this particular shidduch.
It is only a tiny glimpse. It was not visible in advance and it only relates to one small aspect of the shidduch. But there are so many aspects of hashgacha, of Divine Guidance, of which we never become aware.
We must strive to utilize the small hints of hashgacha that G-d allows us to see, to help us endure during times when G-d completely hides His presence – when we see His hand, it must strengthen us during those times when we don’t see and don’t understand…