You ARE The Man (So to Speak)

Posted December 8, 2009 by Rabbi Efraim Davidson
Categories: Parsha Insights

Yosef’s father sends him to find his brothers, check in on them and bring back a report.  Yosef sets out but is unable to locate them and winds up stumbling about in a field.  A man comes along and offers his help.

“What are you looking for?”

“I’m looking for my brothers,” replied Yosef.  “Perhaps you can tell me where they are tending the sheep.”

“They already left this area,” said the man.  “I heard them planning to go to Dothan.”

Yosef continues his journey and indeed finds his brothers.  They see him first, throw him in a pit and wind up selling him to traveling merchants who bring him to Egypt.

Why does the Torah bother to tell us that Yosef couldn’t find his brothers, then got help, then found them?  The story would have been complete without this aside.

As a result of Yosef being sold to Egypt, his entire family will ultimately move there.  As new generations arise they are enslaved, and remain so for two centuries.  Now a full nation their cries are heard by God who, with the might of 10 plagues and awe-inspiring miracles, humbles the inhumane Egypt and brings the Jews out of slavery.  Shortly thereafter God reveals Himself to the nation, gives them the Torah and the Ten Commandments, and eventually leads them into the Land of Israel.

Yosef setting out to find his brothers is the beginning of what will be the world’s most momentous sequence of events.  And they all came about because one stranger, seeing a young man wandering about, directs him on his way.

What would have happened if that man didn’t stop to speak with Yosef?  Having done his best, Yosef might have turned back home and awaited his brother’s return.  Or, what if the man hadn’t paid attention when he overhead the group of strangers speaking of their next stop?  He may have wanted to help Yosef but would have been unable.

Without this man’s help, Egypt, Sinai, Torah, Revelation and Israel may never have taken place. 

Who was this man?  While some suggest it was an angel, others read the Torah as is, understanding that it was just a man who found himself in the right place at the right time, and who changed history as a result.

On your own journeys, sometimes you are Yosef.  Sometimes you’re The Man.

As Yosef, we have tasks to accomplish, and we move toward them the best we can.  At those times when we become lost – confused, uncertain or distracted from what we otherwise know is important – we may have to rely on someone who can get us back on track.  How will we be able to put aside our egos to listen and trust another’s judgment?

As The Man, we are called upon to pay attention to opportunities, and to not underestimate the importance of what we hear, whom we meet and how we act.  How will we be able to put aside our egos to realize that someone else’s need at that moment might be greater than ours?

In both cases we understand that God works through us, just as he did with Yosef.  Neither Yosef nor The Man knew what events lay ahead.  God brought them together for just a moment, an otherwise trivial encounter, and in so doing allowed the unfolding of God’s plans for all of Israel and humanity.

Whether we realize it or not, we are changing people’s lives every day. Great, accomplished people often tell of a single individual, or a single encounter, that shaped their lives.  Simple folk tell stories like that, too.

We should not be afraid to see God’s hand working in our lives, and to have the courage to be a faithful partner, whether we are the one stumbling or offering the guiding hand.