So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe the ornate robe he was wearing and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. Genesis 37:23-24
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeishev, which means "and he lived," is from Genesis 37:1 40:23, and the Haftorah is from Amos 2:6-3:8.
Joseph had reached rock bottom in this week's Torah reading. Life already had not been easy for Joseph. His mother had died in childbirth, and he was the constant object of his brothers' scorn. Now, Joseph was merely obeying his father by checking on his brothers while they were out in the fields when they ambushed him and threw him into a pit. He quite literally hit rock bottom.
But that's not all. The verse describes the pit this way: "The cistern was empty; there was no water in it." The Jewish sages comment: "There was no water in it but there were snakes and scorpions in it!" So here was Joseph, at the bottom and in danger. Things could not be any worse! Yet, as we, the readers, know, Joseph was on a journey to becoming one of the most powerful and wealthiest men in the ancient world.
This was the beginning of Joseph's journey to success. From the pit, Joseph would be sold to a band of gypsies, who, in turn, would sell him as a slave to a prestigious Egyptian master. From there, Joseph would rise in rank only to be sent to prison on false accusations from his master's wife.
Yet, Joseph's imprisonment would lead him to encounter one of Pharaoh's servants who eventually would bring Joseph to Pharaoh himself in order to interpret a dream. Joseph would successfully interpret Pharaoh's dream, which would earn him the honor of becoming second-in-command to Pharaoh, ruler of the world's super-power.
So in hindsight, Joseph's "rock bottom" was the springboard for his rise to the top. His journey was full of strange twists and turns, ups and downs. And yet, it was constantly moving Joseph in the right direction as he approached his own personal success. That, in turn, would allow him to be the savior and sustainer of Jacob's children when they experienced famine in Canaan.
From a beginning that appeared hopeless, Joseph ended up better off than he could have ever imagined. How mysterious and wondrous are God's ways!
Praise the Lord, my friends, in all things. Praise him whether you are enjoying the comforts and blessings of your life, or you are finding yourself at your own rock bottom. Praise God especially when all seems lost! It is precisely when all seems lost that we find some of the greatest treasures in life. It's when we hit rock bottom that we find that God is truly our Rock and Redeemer.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President