This week, Parashat Vayeshev, the Torah tells us the sad story when Yosef was sold because of his brother’s envy. Yosef was 17 years old when he was sold as a slave to Egypt, where he spend 22 years away from his family.
At the moment of the sell (Bereshit 36:25) the Torah tells us that a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming with good smelling spices and fragrances on its way to Egypt. Rashi (Feb 1040-Jul 1105) explains that usually this kind of merchants would take oil and bad smelling things, but in order for Yosef not to suffer this bad smell, HaShem arranged it for them to bring good smelling spices.
The truth is that this explanation is hard to understand, Yosef was being sold as a slave, a 17 year old boy, why would he care if on the way there’s a good smell or not???
One explanation that I like is that we know we come to this world to pass tests in order to become great according to our potential. But sometimes some tests seem very hard and one can feel abandoned and despair. We only see darkness. Even if we have the strength to pass the test, without will, it’s impossible. We know that when there’s will, nothing can stand against man’s will. Yosef was in terrible despair, the brother’s hatred, loneliness, uncertainty, and so forth, were getting him depressed. But the fact that the Arab merchants were bringing species instead of bad smelling oil, was a sign from Heaven that he was not alone, he was not abandoned. Like a smile from HaShem telling him that in the middle of his sorrow he should be strong because HaShem is always with him.
In all our tests we need to look up and see that smile that shows us His love and gives us strength to fight and conquer.