In his usual dynamic fashion, Charlie Harary, in one of his lectures delivered a magical message that pinpoints the subtle and nuanced relationship that we all share with G-d.
Harary mentioned the Rashi regarding Yosef HaTzadik which brings down that when Yosef was sold to the Yishmaelim traveling to Mitzraim, the wagon contained pleasant-smelling spices. Harary asked a powerful question: namely, how does this seeming bit fact of minutiae play into the greater narrative of a rage-driven sale by the brothers and ultimate unfolding of events in Egypt?
Before providing his answer, it’s worthwhile to investigate the nature of Pesach and what sets it apart from all the other Yomim Tovim, as well as how to understand miracles in general.
I would label Pesach the Yom Tov of the “individual,” and the other regalim as the “collective” Yomin Tovim. Pesach, in its essence and name means that G-d individually skipped over our homes, saving our firstborns from death. In contrast, Sukkos saw a collective intervention with the clouds of glory and Shavuos is all about a collective experience at Har Sinai.
No greater reason exists for the line in the Haggadah that declares: “In every generation we must view ourselves as if we left Egypt ourselves.” Right before we left, we experienced unparalleled individual attention.
There’s a famous Ramban at the end of Parsha Bo that really conveys the fundamental teaching on how to understand miracles. He says, in essence, that every natural occurrence is a (hidden) miracle. It’s just that G-d show-cased open miracles in our liberation from Mitzraim and what followed thereafter in order to embed a piercing belief in our souls that opened the gates to a later appreciation of all miracles.
In his lecture, Harary added the final majestic layer of how to internalize our relationship with the Creator. Returning to the original question of the spices, he explained that G-d was sending a subliminal message to Yosef, who had just endured a lone battle against his mighty brothers. To that end G-d infused a pleasant smell I the wagon to let Yosef know in nuanced fashion that He was with him.
Many years ago I was looking for an apartment and finally found a reasonable deal. The rent was $900.00 a month, so with an extra month’s rent of rent and security a total of $2,700.00 was required to secure the apartment. That $2,700.00 was a number that rang in my mind and I wondered how I would hit that amount. I vaguely remembered that I was due some salary and a bonus from my previous job, but wasn’t sure the precise figure I was to receive. It turned out that I got a check of just about $2,700.00. This was my “spice of life” incident.
There’s no doubt that every person experiences these “spice of life moments” on a continual basis. Such moments are symbolic of a nuanced and personal relationship with a personal G-d who is trying to constantly enrich our lives with subtlety and thoughtfulness and assure us that we are moving in the right direction.