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"No 'U-Turn' Allowed!"

12/17/2020 06:00:03 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In this week’s parashah, Parashat Mikeitz, we find the following: “And they said to one another: ‘Indeed, we are guilty for our brother [Yoseyf], for we observed the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us but we did not listen; therefore, the distress has come upon us.’” (Bereishit 42:21) Who caused the distress of Yoseyf’s brothers?  Our Tradition teaches us that HaShem orchestrated the distress that came upon Yoseyf’s brothers.  Why did Hashem do this?  Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains that HaShem causes everything that happens to us to become a message to us from H-m.  Why does HaShem need to send us a “message?”  Because He wants to bring us closer to H-m so that our relationship with H-m will better than before.  Perhaps the following Chasidic parable will help us to realize the importance of our understanding the messages we receive from HaShem:

The royal proclamation reached every province in the kingdom: the King needed a new Head Royal Courier, a person who should be of impeccable character, one who was loyal, reliable, and swift of foot.  The courier would be required to travel to the far corners of the earth in service of the King, delivering royal messages to their proper destinations and returning to the palace as quickly as possible.  Having interviewed thousands of candidates, the King’s closest advisors narrowed the field down to two candidates.  Both were veterans of the King’s elite cavalry.  Both were combat veterans whose loyalty and dedication to King and country were beyond a shadow of a doubt.  The first soldier was the King’s fastest runner, fiercest fighter, and best marksman.  The second soldier, while much less impressive on all counts than the first, was the unit’s intelligence specialist and map reader and was fluent in no less than a dozen languages.

The King was in a quandary.  He could not decide between the two candidates.  Each had relatively special advantages unique to himself.  The King debated back and forth with himself as to which of the two men was preferable.  Finally, he decided to give each of them a test.  The King sent the first candidate on a mission to deliver a greeting to a tribal monarch in the wilderness of Manchuria.  He sent the second candidate on a mission to deliver a gift to the Emperor of Japan.  Whoever would successfully complete his mission and return to the palace in the shortest amount of time would be rewarded the post of Head Royal Courier.   After issuing these instructions to the two candidates, they set out on their respective journeys.

The second candidate carefully planned his itinerary pouring over maps in order to find the best route to take.  Once he reached Japan, he easily found his way to the Emperor’s Palace, this because he understood Japanese and could easily understand the road signs.  Besides, when he needed to, he asked directions from the locals as he spoke fluent Japanese.  Within two short days, the second candidate had completed his task and had already begun his journey home.  The first candidate traversed Russia in record time.  After crossing the Manchurian border on horseback, he reached a certain crossroad and stopped dead in his tracks dumbfounded.  The road signs were all in Manchurian, and he could not read Manchurian!  He tried stopping a few of the locals he saw on the way in order to ask them directions, but they spoke only Manchurian.  He could speak only Russian and German.  Frustrated at the turn of events but determined to complete his mission, the first candidate spent months roaming the vast expanses of Manchuria.  Ultimately, because all of his efforts became focused on his survival, he completely forgot about the mission and why he was in Manchuria in the first place.  Eventually, he completely forgot about the King and his homeland as well.

While the new Head Royal Courier was eating pheasant-under-glass at his Majesty’s table, his lost and bewildered counterpart was roaming a Manchurian forest in search of a few pine nuts or plant tubers that would enable him to survive for just one more day.

Understanding the “messages” we receive from HaShem is exactly like what the second candidate did when he was able to decipher the road signs on his journey in Japan.  It did not matter how strong or brave or talented he was.  It only mattered that he was able to understand what each road sign said.  By not being able to understand the “messages” we receive from HaShem, we become like the first candidate who became totally disoriented eventually failing to complete his mission.  We can fail to perceive, let alone complete, what our mission as Jews is here on this earth, in this World.  We can better understand the “messages” we receive from Hashem through daily prayer and Torah study.

May we not be like Yoseyf’s brothers failing to pay attention to and understand the distress they had put him through resulting in their own.  May we be more like Yoseyf HaTzaddik, opening our eyes and hearts to HaShem in order to understand the “messages’ He sends us so that we may complete our Divine Mission here on this earth, in this World in spite of any distress we may encounter.  


Sun, March 7 2021 23 Adar 5781