Yosef was seventeen years old… (Bereshis 37:2)
I have recently been reading stories about professional athletes (need to stay knowledgeable for my sons) and realized something similar with many of the stories. Not all athletes, but many of them, have come from a difficult background. This one was homeless. Another one watched as his grandfather shot his grandmother. A different one’s parents divorced and his mother, who had custody, was always high on drugs. But all of these athletes “made it” because despite having difficulties, they worked hard to excel. I realized that this is not only true with athletes but with any type of person. If a person goes through difficulties and works hard to grow from the experience, he or she will become great.
We can see that in this week’s parsha. Yosef Ha’Tzaddik went through a hard life. We was hated by his brothers so much that they almost killed him. He was sold as a slave. He was falsely accused of abusing his master’s wife and was thrown in jail for 12 years (and it’s not like the jails of today… there was no gym or TV in his jail). But Yosef did not let himself get depressed and he grew from the experience. He grew so much that he became one of very few people known as “Ha’Tzaddik”.
Dovid Ha’Melech also went through a hard life. His father threw him out of the house because he thought Dovid was an illegitimate child. He did not have many friends. His father-in-law tried to kill him. His son tried to kill him. He did not live the easy life that we think kings live. I recently heard that the reason we say Tehillim (which was authored by Dovid) when we go through hard times is because Dovid went through the hardest of times – but he still loved Hashem. Dovid grew from his difficulties.
There were many great women who also went through hard times. I’ll just bring one of many examples: Imagine the life of Esther. She was an orphan at a young age. When she grows up, she is taken away by this extremely disgusting king. According to many opinions, she was originally married to Mordechai and after being taken by King Achashverosh, she never returned to him again. She lived a difficult life, but because she grew from the experience, she became a heroine in Jewish history.
This should be a lesson to all of us. When we go through hard times, we should not become depressed or upset. It is very hard, but we should realize that this is an opportunity for us to become great. Great people go through hard challenges.
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