December 8, 2023
וַיִּמְצָאֵ֣הוּ אִ֔ישׁ וְהִנֵּ֥ה תֹעֶ֖ה בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וַיִּשְׁאָלֵ֧הוּ הָאִ֛ישׁ לֵאמֹ֖ר מַה־תְּבַקֵּֽשׁ׃
A man came upon him wandering in the fields, and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
If you were to list the most important biblical figures, you would likely miss the one on whom all Jewish history depends. In our Torah portion, Joseph was sent by his father to check on his brothers. Upon encountering them, the wheel of Jewish history began to turn. At that fateful meeting Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, which would lead to the Jewish people’s sojourning in Egypt, their becoming enslaved, their redemption from Egypt by way of the plagues, the crossing of the sea, the revelation at Sinai, and all that unfolded for the Jewish people until today.
None of this would have been possible without one little known biblical figure. Upon arriving at his destination, Joseph’s brothers were not where he thought they were. A man, nameless and profoundly unimportant, approached Joseph to see if he was lost. Having seen Joseph’s brothers travel from that place, it’s this man that points him in the right direction. Without this nameless stranger, Joseph would have gone home. No being sold into slavery, no rising to be the second in command to Pharaoh, no slavery in Egypt, no plagues, no sea, no Sinai. Did this man know that his words, which amounted to “Oh, they went that way,” would begin millennia of Jewish history? He probably did not think twice about it. This seemingly unremarkable person, saying seemingly unremarkable words, turned out to be the most important cog in the wheel ofJewish history. To the untrained eye, it seems that only great men and women shape history, but this is not so. God works in mysterious ways, and through each person in ways we may never know.