A friend of mine runs a Chabad center with a Hebrew School in a fairly Jewish community in the Northeastern United States. As the beginning of the academic year came closer this past summer, he and his wife were still looking for one last teacher for one of the Hebrew school classes. They looked high and low, from Brooklyn to Monsey to outlying communities in New Jersey—with no luck. This went on for months, to no avail. They were at their wits’ end, and there didn’t seem to be any solution in sight.

Days before school was slated to begin, on a Shabbat afternoon, my friend’s wife was speaking with a community member in shul. She mentioned the struggle to find that last teacher, and unexpectedly the community member offered, “I can do it!”

The Rebbetzin was taken aback, but the lady assured her that she was capable of the job, and just like that, she was hired.

“I can tell you now, she’s our best teacher!” my friend told me. “Never in a million years would my wife and I have thought that she was even an option, but here we are, and she’s been a dream.”

An inextricable problem turned out to be eminently solvable, for the solution was always there, right under their noses.

Joseph’s Noble Reaction

After a harrowing three weeks, the saga of Joseph and his brothers comes to a dramatic head in our parshah. Judah defiantly and passionately stands up to the Egyptian ruler, pleading, begging, and threatening that he will never let his younger brother languish in prison.

After multiple attempts to hold back his tears, Joseph cries out, “I am Joseph, your brother!” The brothers are stunned, rendered completely speechless. Out of intense shame and fear of retaliation, they retreat and brace themselves for the worst.

Instead, Joseph delivers perhaps one of the most edifying monologues in the Torah, placating his brothers:

But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you.1

Joseph proceeds to convince them that his odyssey was, in fact, a positive thing, for it was only because he was sold into slavery in Egypt that he was now able to provide sustenance to his entire family. Instead of vengeant, Joseph is gracious and forgiving.

Just When It Can’t Get Any Worse

Much attention is given to Joseph and his remarkable character, and rightfully so. In a stirring commentary, Rabbi Mordechai Leiner of Izhbitz (1800-1854) points out that this entire chronicle is remarkably encouraging for anyone undergoing any sort of challenge or hardship. His cue is surprisingly not from Joseph’s perspective, but from the brothers’ viewpoint.

Think about the moment just before Joseph pulled the curtain back and revealed his true identity. Things were looking very bleak for Jacob’s 11 sons. They had been accused of spying; their strongest member, Shimon, was already in prison; and now, the viceroy’s personal goblet had been found in the youngest brothers’ sack.

This cruel and evil Egyptian dictator was making them crazy, and now, the nail in the coffin: he was demanding to take Benjamin hostage. This family who had a painful and tortuous relationship with slavery was terrified at the prospect of losing Rachel’s other son to bondage. They knew this would be a fatal blow to their father.

It couldn’t have really been any worse.

And then, in the blink of an eye, everything dissipated. With one revelation, all of those challenges disappeared like a distant memory, for it had turned out that the Egyptian tyrant wasn’t a tyrant after all, but their brother who loved them and wished them no harm.

The Solution is Right in Front of You

In hindsight, the solution to their problem was right there in front of their eyes the entire time. You see, nothing actually changed in their situation. It’s not as if they were suddenly endowed with superpowers and decimated the Egyptian opposition. No outside force swept in to deliver them, nor was there an earthquake that shook the rafters, allowing them to escape.

Nothing like that at all. Rather, the truth simply came to the fore: everything was a ruse, and their next of kin was right there in front of them waiting for their embrace.

A Lot Closer Than You Think

And so it is in our lives. Who doesn’t have their share of challenges? From health to finances to issues with parents, children, and friends, there’s no lack of struggle in this world. At times, it can all feel so crippling, so crushing, that it seems like there’s no way out.

To make matters worse, the solution you can think of seems so outlandish, so remote, and so far-fetched. It’s one thing not to have enough money to cover the monthly expenses, but when it’s compounded with outstanding debt that’s collecting interest by the minute and incidental health issues that rack up bills, the solution just seems to be out of reach. “I know what I need to get back on my feet—but no one’s raining a million dollars on my head!” you think to yourself.

If you mess up with your partner or scuffle with your children, that’s one thing. You make up, you have a heart-to-heart talk, and with enough good will, you move on. But what about those times in life when issues have compounded and accumulated over years of dysfunction? What if it’s like the roller coaster Joseph’s brothers endured, and it now seems so complex and multi-layered so as to be inextricable?

“Solutions?” you scoff, “this is way out of anyone’s league, it’s simply hopeless.”

You’re forgiven for thinking so. The brothers would have been, too. But they didn’t. They maintained hope. And you know what happened? Poof! Just like that, it became something to laugh and cry about, for the solution was literally in front of their faces the entire time.

G‑d is big. Very big. He holds your challenge, and as impossible and out-of-reach the solution to your problem may seem, it could very well be that the solution is, in fact, right under your nose, tantalizingly close.

Hang in there for just a bit more, maintain your trust in G‑d, and you may just get your “Poof!” moment sooner than you think.2