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Vayigash(Genesis 44:18-47:27)

A Meaningful Plan


Most of the time life makes sense. Things go on as usual as we ride the ups and downs of life's roller coaster. But there can be times in life that may seem more uncertain and topsy-turvy. Things we always thought we could count on may not seem that way anymore.

But we learn from this week's Torah portion that there is always an underlying meaning to the most confusing situations even if we don't see it at first. Jacob's sons experienced this when they innocently went to Egypt to buy a supply of food to bring back to their home. Thousands of others were doing the same thing. One after the other, people lined up, paid and brought their food home. But when the brothers' turn came everything seemed to turn upside down. First they were accused of being spies. Then they were let go, only to be called back again and accused of stealing. Then their brother was taken as a hostage! One thing after another after another. Nothing made sense.

In the end, as the confused brothers found themselves alone with the fearsome looking Egyptian leader, an amazing thing happened. The leader started to cry, and told them that he was really their long-lost brother, Joseph! They hadn't recognized him. Suddenly all the pieces fell into place, and everything made sense. All the strange things that had been happening were really part of God's great plan to reunite the brothers! When we remind ourselves that everything in life is part of a meaningful plan, even the most confusing situations won't seem to be quite so confusing anymore.

 


In our story a couple of boys in a confusing situation see some of life's plan revealed.

"EVEN STEVEN"

Josh and David Lewis were reminiscing as they drove in their new pick-up truck down highway 495. The brothers were partners in a new painting business and were both considered solid members of their communities. But when they were young they were really wild. The brothers laughed as they remembered some of the stunts they had pulled back in school.

"And remember that skinny little kid, what was his name, Steve...Nebbins? We really gave him a hard time," said Josh with a touch of remorse in his voice.

"Yeah," sighed David, "We really owe the guy an apology. But how will we ever find him?"

Just then a police siren started wailing in the background. The men didn't pay much attention as they were staying within the speed limit. But as the sound got closer and the blue, flashing lights speeded their way, the brothers got nervous. The police car was chasing them. They pulled over to the side of the road and an officer jumped out of the police car.

"What in the world is happening?" asked Josh as he looked at his brother, confused.

"I have no idea, but there must be some good explanation." he answered.

The stern looking policeman brusquely asked them for their driver's license and registration and quickly called up on his radio. The brothers trembled as he heard him mentioning the words "suspects," "robbery," and "stolen truck," as the police officer examined their license plate.

"This is a nightmare," groaned Josh. David only nodded.

Minutes passed that seemed like hours. Finally the policeman hung up his radio phone. He turned to Josh and David and with a sheepish smile on his face said, "I'm sorry gentlemen. I owe you an apology."

He explained how a bank had been robbed that morning and the getaway car had been a pick up truck similar to theirs. "You have some paint splatters on you license plate and from far away it looked like the same number. But now I can see that it's not. I'm sorry for the mix-up."

The brothers breathed a sigh of relief, as things were finally starting to make sense. As the officer was speaking, Josh happened to notice the name on his badge: Sergeant Steven Nebbins. He studied the policeman's face and did a double take. The skinny boy that he and his brother used to tease had grown into this big strong police officer.

Josh turned to his brother and whispered, "You're not going to believe this..." Then he looked up at the policeman and said, "Officer Nebbins we forgive you completely. You were only trying to do your job. But we also owe you a big apology..." Josh explained how they had just been talking about their school days and how they had felt sorry about what they had done.

The amazed policeman finally recognized them and told them he forgave them. "I forgot about it long ago," he said. "But I bet you wouldn't do it now!" he added with a hearty chuckle. The three men parted as friends, each amazed at how what had seemed like such a mess was really a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces were waiting to be brought together.

 


Ages 3-5

Q. How did the brothers feel when the policeman stopped them?
A. They were scared and confused over what was happening.

Q. How about after they realized that it had all been a mistake and that the policeman was the one they used to tease in school?
A. They saw how everything made perfect sense now, even though at first it didn't make sense at all.

Ages 6-9

Q. What tools can help a person deal successfully with difficult or confusing life situations?
A. One of the most important things to remember is that nothing happens by chance. No matter what is happening, God is on top of the situation, and is available to give us the guidance and strength to deal with it successfully. On our part we need only to be willing to see it that way, and ask Him to help us out. Patience is another key. Often things that don't make sense right away will become clear with the passage of time.

Q. Is there anything positive that can come out of confusing times and experiences?
A. These situations, though perhaps uncomfortable, can serve to open our minds to accept that there may be more to life than we thought. Any new skill we ever learned was strange and confusing the first time we tried it. Rather than fear uncertainty, we can view it as part of life's learning process.

Q. Can you think of a difficult, confusing situation that turned out to be positive in the end?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Do things ever 'just happen', or is there a meaning to everything?
A. Although we may not always be able to discern the reason behind everything, the reality is that there is nothing in our lives that does not contain within it a deeper lesson. Our lives, and the entire world, is an incredibly organized and complex laboratory to bring us to spiritual growth in order to reap the unmatched pleasure. As we strive to see the hidden meaning in life, we fulfill our highest purpose as human beings.

Q. Our sages teach us that one of the most satisfying feelings a person can experience is the resolution of a doubt. Why do you think this is so?
A. An aspect of human nature is that we want things to make sense and be clear. It can feel quite unsettling to find ourselves in a situation that we simply don't understand. The drive to explain and understand is in essence quite healthy. But care should be taken not to settle for over-simplistic answers in our desire to make sense out of things.

Q. Can you think of a difficult, confusing situation that turned out to be positive in the end?

 

Published: December 15, 2001

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