“Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht – We plan; God laughs.”

[On Parashat Vayigash]

How often do you hear someone say, in the face of some difficulty, challenge or crisis, that ‘it is all part of God’s plan, so I accept it.’?

This week in Torah, we find that is exactly Joseph’s sentiment. Genesis 45:4-5 reads “Joseph then went on to say to his brothers, ‘Come, draw near to me!’ so they drew near. He said, ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold to Egypt. And now, don’t be troubled; don’t be chagrined because you sold me here, for it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.’”  Joseph repeats this assertion two more times, in verses 7 and 8.

Can that really be what Joseph believes?  Is it just easier for us to put difficult things aside citing God’s plan for us, or is it a deeply comfortable belief that supports our faith?

I struggle with the notion that God has a particular plan for me, day by day. I believe that rather, what is important is what I do with what happens to me, how I respond. There is a measure of randomness in the circumstances of the world; I do not believe in a God that has either the time or the inclination to set everyone’s plan, day by day, minute by minute.  Don’t I have a hand in my own life? This paradox was captured centuries ago by Rabbi Akiba: “All is foreseen, yet [free] will is given.” (Pirkei Avot, 3:15).

I have been silent on this blog for a few weeks now, dealing with health issues and pain – ones that have kept me from work, from interacting at my best with those I love, from clarity of mind and from purpose of spirit.  I have been living a minimal life these last weeks, supported by family and friends, just trying to get by each day, through each minute.  Each year, I have accompanied Joseph in these weeks of Torah as difficulties befall him; he finds ways to live with what happens to him, to take hold of it and to transform it. That is my inspiration now.

These health challenges are not God’s plan for me. There is, though a bigger picture that I must look at, even as I take hold of my life, and act with free will in response to what happens to me. I am more than any one thing that happens to me. The question I ask isn’t ‘Why did God plan this for me?” but rather, “Where is God in this with me?” I just have to be open to God’s presence with me; I know am not alone.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shira Stern
    Dec 05, 2013 @ 21:09:34

    Wishing you a refuah shleimah, and an easing of the pain. You will be in my misheberachs, if that’s ok.


  2. Kathy Herder
    Dec 05, 2013 @ 21:47:14

    Hi Susan, thanks for this,and I am so sorry to hear you are in pain.  What is wrong, and what is the prognosis?   I truly hope you get some relief soon, and you are amazing to keep such a positive attitude through it all–it is quite an incentive to look at struggles this way. Love and best wishes, Kathy 



  3. Jennifer Bern-Vogel
    Dec 17, 2013 @ 22:44:25

    Dear Susan, thinking of you, sending strength and prayers for a smooth surgery and a relief from your pain. Refuah Shleimah, with love, Jennifer


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