The Midrash tells us that when Joseph was originally sent down to Egypt, he quoted a verse from Psalms, where King David tells us that what happens in the world is all set up by the Creator; there is very little that the individual actually influences.
Therefore, the Creator knew that for the perfection of not only humanity, but also for Jacob and his sons, they had to go down into Egypt and live there for 210 years. And so, the Creator shaped all the stories that we hear regarding Jacob, Joseph, and his brothers. The love that Jacob had for Joseph did not come from Jacob; it came from the Creator, instilled in Jacob. It was not even his choice… the Creator sent it to him. And it was the same with the brothers. Their hatred of Joseph was not their own hatred, but was also sent to them by the Creator.
However, we read in the Zohar and from the Ari that it was Jacob's fault, and the brothers' fault. Then why is the Midrash telling us something different, which is that everything that happened was going to happen? Joseph was going to be sold down into Egypt and Jacob was going to wind up in Egypt, no matter what. When Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, they are scared, saying, “All this is our fault. We sent you down there, and we hated you.” To which Joseph replies, "No! You are wrong. None of this is your fault. I am here because the Creator needed me here, on a physical level, to bring sustenance to the world, so the world does not starve in a time of famine." Had Joseph not been there all those years by himself doing the spiritual work, the world would have been annihilated in famine, and Jacob, his children, and all the Israelites afterwards could not have done the spiritual work.
But still, this is very confusing. Whose fault is it? Is it Jacob's fault? Is it the brother's fault? Is it Joseph's fault? No. The Midrash is actually telling us it is the Creator’s “fault!” Did Jacob really want to love Joseph more than the other brothers? No. The Creator forced him to love him more. Did the brothers want to hate Joseph so much? No. The Creator made them hate him so that this story would unfold, because all of them needed to be in Egypt.
Where we need to be, we need to be.
It is almost two opposite understandings of what is going on. So, how can we make sense of it? What it boils down to is an amazing understanding: Where we need to be, we need to be. Joseph needed to be in Egypt. Jacob and the brothers had to come down into Egypt and stay there for 210 years. Whose fault is it? Who caused it? Not Jacob and not the brothers; it was the Light. The Creator needed this to happen.
And this is true for all of us. When we say, "I made a stupid mistake, and that is why I am in this mess,” we actually need to separate those two statements. We may or may not have made a mistake. But the mess we are in, we are in because we need to be there. There are a hundred different paths we could have taken to end up there, but we had to end up there. It might have been through what we call our mistakes, or it might have been in other ways. But where we are is where we need to be, for our soul, our correction, and for what we need to do in this world.
It does not mean we don’t make mistakes. Did Jacob make a mistake? Probably. But is that the cause or reason for why Joseph was sold out? No. It was because Joseph needed to be sold out, and he needed to be in Egypt. Did his brothers make a mistake? Probably. But are they the reason Joseph was in Egypt? No. Joseph needed to be there. Did the wife of Potiphar make a mistake in accusing Joseph of rape? Yes. But was she the cause for why Joseph wound up in jail? No, because Joseph needed to be in jail. The mistakes that we make need to be separated from where we find ourselves, because where we find ourselves is where we need to be.
We have to keep in mind that, yes, when we make a mistake, we need to learn from it, and we might have to purify ourselves from that mistake, but we cannot think that where we find ourselves is because of our mistake. Where we find ourselves is where the Light of the Creator says we need to be, for reasons that we often do not know. We have to be there, and whatever mistakes we make or whatever things people do to us do not influence where we are. The only influence is how we got there.
Jacob, it says in the Zohar, was meant to come down into Egypt as a prisoner. He was supposed to have shackles on him, and all the brothers brought down as prisoners. That is one way Jacob could have found himself in Egypt. But because Jacob had purified himself and was an elevated soul, he did not change where he was going to be, and he still wound up in Egypt all the same. But he did not come down in shackles; he came as a guest of Pharaoh. There were a hundred different possibilities of ways for Jacob to have gotten to Egypt, but since he needed to be in Egypt, he wound up in Egypt.
When we can understand this, it changes so much of the anger and resentment that we have towards ourselves and others. When we really understand this, we can begin reminding ourselves to separate mistakes we have made or negative things people have done to us from where we wound up, because where we wound up is where the Creator, and our soul, needs us to be. We could have gotten there a hundred different ways, but none of that actually influences where we are, because where we are is where the Light of the Creator and our soul needs us to be.
Living this understanding can change our lives.
Living this understanding can change our lives. How many times do we say, "Oh, I made such a terrible mistake and that is why I am in this mess?” But if we live this understanding, we know that, yes, while it is very likely it was a mistake, that is not the reason we are in that mess. The reason we are in that mess is because our soul needs to be there. Jacob needed to be in Egypt. Joseph needed to be sold down and to be in jail. Joseph needed to be second in command, and Jacob and the brothers needed to come down to Egypt. All those facts are unchangeable, because that is what they needed for their souls. How they got there, whether Jacob, or Joseph, or a thousand different people made a mistake, it is just one path that was set up, because it could have happened in a hundred different ways.
This understanding allows us to separate all the resentment and anger we hold towards those we believe put us in the place we are in, and even separate the anger or resentment towards ourselves for putting ourselves there. We have to remember, as King David tells us, it is almost a trick. There were a hundred different ways for us to get to the same place, but we had to end up there.
Joseph, therefore, tells his brothers not to beat themselves up, because the reality is he loves them and they probably have to correct themselves, which is why they felt that hatred. But do not think for a moment, Joseph tells them, that he is in Egypt because of them. “I am in Egypt,” Joseph tells them, “because the Creator needed me in Egypt. Because I needed to save the world from famine and I needed to do the spiritual work so that Jacob, and you, my brothers, can do your work over the next 210 years. I am not here because of you. I am here because of the Creator.”
This lesson is for every single one of us. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, it is nobody's fault that we are there. There may have been mistakes made in the path that got us there, but where we wind up is where the Creator needs us to be. And if we are able to do that, so much of the resentment and anger towards others and even towards ourselves is removed.
On Shabbat Vayigash, Joseph tells his brothers, “Do not think I am here because of you. I am here because of the Creator. A thousand people did things they should not have done to me on my way here, but I was going to get here anyways. Neither the things that I or you have done would have changed where I wind up; they only would have changed how I got here.” And, of course, we all want the path to be a nice one, not a difficult one. But wherever we are, we cannot blame ourselves or others; we can only say, “This is where the Creator needs me to be.”
With this understanding, so much of the anger and resentment that we hold towards others and ourselves is removed. Joseph tells his brothers not to make the mistake that everybody makes of thinking that either others’, or our own mistakes, got us in the situation. The Creator needed us there. Our soul needed to be there, and that is why we are there. Where we wind up is where the Creator needs us to be. It is a teaching and understanding that if we practice can absolutely and completely change our lives.