Today’s curse may become tomorrow’s blessing

Sometimes in life when we look back, things that happened to us in the past, suddenly take on a new and different meaning.

By Anat Schneider | | Topics: Gaza, Jewish Holidays
Israeli soldiers light candles on the second night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, at a staging area near the Israeli border with Syria, on December 8, 2023. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90
Israeli soldiers light candles on the second night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, at a staging area near the Israeli border with Syria, on December 8, 2023. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90

Has it ever happened to you that missing out on one thing that you were very disappointed with at the time, actually led to the fulfillment of another much better and higher opportunity?

The story of Joseph, son of Jacob, illustrates this phenomenon splendidly.

Joseph’s story begins with his father Jacob loving him more than his brothers. The gifts that Jacob gave Joseph made it clear to them that Joseph was his favorite. But in a flash, this love and preference turn out to be the biggest obstacle in Yosef’s life. His brothers despise him, and are jealous of him. When he tells them about his dreams they hate him even more, and even his father reproaches him. It reaches a climax when his brothers literally want to kill him, and to everyone’s happiness it “only” ends in his being sold into slavery. Even when it seems that his life is starting to improve at his employer’s house, along comes the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife which takes Joseph down to the bottom of the underworld.

To the dark pit.

Years later a ray of light enters this dark place, when Yosef interprets the dream of the royal cup-bearer. Yet even this hope that maybe now he will be rescued, begets disappointment. The royal cupbearer is released from prison. “But the royal cupbearer did not remember Joseph and forgot him.”

From all appearances, Joseph’s last chance to be freed has been lost. The beloved son with the robe of many colors has become a hopeless foreigner in prisoner’s clothes. The darkness gets even darker. And here after two full additional years, all of a sudden we read about Joseph’s meteoric rise, and he becomes second to Pharaoh. Pharaoh dresses him in royal clothes and gold instead of his prison rags. And Joseph becomes the second most powerful man in the world.

What looks like a history of personal tragedy, reveals to us an important thing that the Torah teaches us. The Bible is not structured like a Greek tragedy in which there is a tormented hero whose life goes from rejection to rejection until its bitter end.

The Bible is founded on great faith in the Creator. This book teaches us that God is with us and accompanies us throughout our journey on earth. Even if sometimes we think we are lost, a small light emerges that reveals to us just as it did to Joseph that God guides our steps even in these difficult moments.

Residents of Kibbutz Kfar Aza light Hanukkah candles in Shefayim, December 10, 2023. Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

The journey of our life is one of constant motion. It would be a mistake to think that we already understand and know everything. For at any given moment something can happen, and push our life light-years away from its seeming trajectory or our well-laid plans.

Joseph at the age of 29 likely thought that his life was one big failure, judging from that low point he was in at that moment. His brothers had hated him; his father had criticized him; he was sold into slavery, imprisoned on false charges, and now the cupbearer forgot him. But here comes the second half of his life, and shows him and us that everything he has gone through so far, worked together, to bring him to his new position in Egypt. And if it wasn’t for all the trials he went through, he might not have become such a powerful man.

He became a success both politically and materially, but also morally and spiritually. If you think about it, Joseph is the first man who demonstrates what it is to forgive, in the stories of the Bible. He fully forgives his brothers even though they were so cruel to him. During the earlier stages of his journey we do not see any clear hint of the dramatic upswing coming. But God’s hand was at work even when Joseph was sure that everyone had abandoned him.

Our eyes in life are directed forward, because that’s how our skulls are built. But the role of the Supreme Providence in our lives we can only see from the distance of time, when we look back at our life up to this point.

Looking back, we can see and understand that every link in Yosef’s story (which at the time seemed disastrous), in retrospect, turns out to be an essential step in saving Yosef’s life and the lives of many others. But unfortunately this does not mean that it does not also involve a lot of suffering.

I assume that many people have experienced a dark pit at some time in their life. I personally find myself in this hole quite a few times in this difficult current period in Israel. Sometimes I really don’t know how we will get out of this difficulty. I am afraid of the heavy price we are paying and may still pay. Sometimes that’s all I see, and I can’t see beyond. And sometimes I also manage to see a ray of light piercing the darkness.

These days that ray of light is WhatsApp with two “checks” in the messages I send to my sons as they serve in the IDF. Because as long as the WhatsApp message I sent them still has only one “check,” that means that they are in Gaza fighting; then negative feelings and thoughts creep into me. And when it changes to two checks, I understand that they have taken a break and turned on their smartphone, and my whole being is in a state of relaxation as inner joy fills me. And this cycle repeats again and again, back and forth. One check. Two checks. Sometimes the emotion is so stark, that it feels like the chances of happiness are zero.

At that moment how important is the faith that manages to fill me with the feeling that things will work out! And maybe this is a formula for an easier life? May faith constantly be revived in us, creating love and bringing comfort. A faith that helps to generate the passion for life, time and again.

In the eyes of the person who manages to produce this great faith in his life, in fact, today’s curse can be the beginning of tomorrow’s blessing. This is a very deep thought, and not at all easy to digest;  and in order for it to be realized, and so that we don’t sink into the darkness, we must practice it.

Israeli soldiers light candles on the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at a gathering point near the Israel-Gaza border, southern Israel, December 7, 2023. Photo by Flash90

This belief that everything will turn out for the better, is like that small ray of light that entered Joseph’s dark pit, and sometime later turned his dark world upside down.

These days we are in the midst of an unbearably difficult war that is nothing less than total darkness. Yet, in these very same days we also celebrate the Festival of Hanukkah, which is the symbol of light and miracles.

This paradoxical combination indicates that darkness and light are both present. And all we have to do is decide what to focus on, with the confidence that whatever we focus on will grow stronger. I choose to focus on the light, and I pray that with this intention I will also be able to be filled with it. I am also sure and know that the more people there are who focus on the light, the more it will grow and intensify.

Just as it is written in the famous Hanukkah song, which we sing these days.

Each of us individually is a dim light, and together we are a bright light.”

Together we will be victorious.

A bright Hanukkah full of miracles for all of us.


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