Vayigash 5769 – That’s Bad! That’s Good!

The mishna in Masechta Brachos states a person should say a blessing over bad news just as he would over good news. Rav Ovadia M’Bartenura comments that not only should you say a blessing over bad news, but it should be said with the same amount of feeling as a blessing said over good news. The reason is because we do not know what is ultimately good and what is ultimately bad. Rav Matisyahu Salomon once made a comparison between the selling of Yosef, from a few parshas ago, and the re-uniting of Yaakov and Yosef after a twenty-two year separation, in this week’s parsha. We would think it is bad news hearing the story of the selling of Yosef and good news of the reunion of Yaakov and Yosef. The exact opposite is actually true. Look at what happens because of these events. After Yosef is sold, things go downhill, but in the end, he becomes the prime minister of Egypt. It was only because he was sold by his brothers that he got this distinguished position and was able to save the world during a terrible famine. On the other hand, after Yaakov came down to Egypt to be reunited with his son, the whole Jewish nation was now down in Egypt. Although the worst suffering did not start until years later, the slavery in Egypt can be traced back to this moment. If it did not happen, there still would have been Jews outside of Egypt and the years of slavery would not be able to begin. We do not really know what is good and what is bad.

Rabbi Jonathan Rietti once told a story. There was once a conversation between two friends – we’ll call them Dovid and Shlomo. The story went something like this:
Dovid: Guess what! I just won the lottery and I won millions of dollars!
Shlomo: That’s good!
Dovid: Yeah! But I spent it all!
Shlomo: Oh, that’s bad.
D: But I bought a plane.
S: That’s good.
D: But it crashed.
S: That’s bad.
D: But I jumped out with a parachute.
S: That’s good.
D: But the parachute did not work.
S: That’s bad.
D: But I landed in a haystack.
S: That’s good.
D: But it had a needle in it.
S: That’s bad.
D: But I jumped out.
S: That’s good.
D: But I fell into an open grave and got stuck.
S: That’s bad.
D: But I saw a gravedigger and asked for some help.
S: That’s good.
D: But he threw dirt on top of me.
S: That’s bad.
D: But I told him I was still alive.
S: That’s good.
D: But he didn’t believe me.
S: Oh, that’s bad.

This is life! Life is full of uphills and downhills. We can see this also from the comment Rav Salomon made – we do not really know if something is good or bad. If things are going well for you, you should certainly be happy, but do not become overly conceited. Things can change quickly and these good times might lead to bad. If, on the other hand, things are not going well for you, do not get depressed. Things will get better – they always do.

I think during these times, this is something we need to constantly remind ourselves. The market is not doing well. Terrorists are waiting for their next moment to strike. Things sometimes look very bad, but always remember that the bad will not last forever. All of these things will lead us to good.

May we speedily see the day when everything is good!

Good Shabbos!
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