Parshat Vayigash: Believing the Unbelievable
כִּי־זֶ֛ה שְׁנָתַ֥יִם הָרָעָ֖ב בְּקֶ֣רֶב הָאָ֑רֶץ וְעוֹד֙ חָמֵ֣שׁ שָׁנִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֵין־חָרִ֖ישׁ וְקָצִֽיר׃
It is now two years that there has been famine in the land, and there are still five years to come in which there shall be no yield from tilling.
It had been twenty-two years since Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and assumed he had been lost to the world. By a terrible famine, these brothers are forced to travel to Egypt, not knowing that Joseph had become viceroy of Egypt. Recognizing them, but they not recognizing him, Joseph tests his brothers to see if they changed. After a wrenchingly emotional experience these eleven brothers suffer at the hands of this strange Egyptian viceroy, all of a sudden he reveals himself to be none other than their brother Joseph.
Can you imagine what they must have felt? Disbelief barely expresses what it must have been like to see that Joseph was not only well, but the very Egyptian official who had put them through such a painful ordeal.
Then Joseph says the seemingly innocuous line above, that there are five years left of the famine. We forget that this knowledge is miraculous! For the length of the famine to be known, God had to deliver the message to Pharaoh in a dream. Yet none of the brothers ask how Joseph knows this. They take it for granted the idea that someone can just know this remarkable piece of information.
To the brothers, the fact that this Egyptian viceroy turned out to be Joseph was miraculous. Because they saw what they assumed to be impossible come to fruition, other impossibilities became, at least for a moment, viable. For us in the 21st century, believing in miracles seems like a tall order. Maybe we are going about it wrong. Instead, focus on the reality of one miraculous moment, and there plant the seed of faith.