“Yisro heard--- priest of Midian, Moshe`s father-in-law--- about all that El-him had done for Moshe and for His people Yisrael, when Ad-noy brought Yisrael out of Egypt.”
The Baal Haturim (Rabbi Ya`akov ben Asher, born in Cologne, Germany about 1269 and died in Toledo, Spain in about 1343), known for his brief and terse commentary writes that you find this term “that El-him had done” in two places in Chumash; here and by Yosef`s brothers, upon discovering that the full amount they paid for the grain that they bought in Egypt was returned to them in their sacks, they exclaimed to each other, "What is this that El-him has done to us?"
The Baal Haturim explains that “the very same phrase that marked their distress [at their descent to Egypt] expressed their fortune at their exodus from there”.
This brief exposition teaches us a profound lesson. Distress is often the source of salvation!
To explain this we must consider a perspective that often eludes us. We are accustomed that we turn to G-d in prayer when we are experiencing distress so that we merit to end the suffering and be granted salvation. In reality though, the opposite holds true. H-shem sends us suffering in order that we should turn to him in prayer. “G-d desires the prayers of the righteous” and knows that it is for our benefit to recognize that He is the Ultimate Force that controls events. Therefore every so often when we need awakening, He sends us trials and tribulation that give us the opportunity to grow in His service through our prayers.
Indeed H-shem desires our prayers, yet, He has the right to postpone His answer; the salvation we seek, to a time that He, in His Infinite Wisdom and benevolence sees fit.
Let`s examine what we may possibly learn from the Baal Haturim`s explanation above. Yosef`s brothers thought their descent to Egypt [to purchase grain for their famished households and the events that followed; their money being returned, Shimon`s imprisonment, their eventual return to Egypt to buy more grain conditional on bringing their youngest brother, Binyomin, with them, the new accusation; that Binyomin stole the goblet, etc.] was a catastrophic event filled with misery. In truth, this was the first step of G-d`s plan to bring them down to Egypt in fulfillment of the prophecy made to our forefather, Avraham, that "Know for sure that your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs. They will enslave them and oppress them [for] four hundred years” which culminated in the fulfillment of the second part of the prophecy, their Exodus from Egypt, and the B`nei Yisrael leaving there with great wealth.
We see that not everything is as we see it. In truth, the suffering was the beginning of the salvation, and not for the sake of torment! [It is also noteworthy that we often expect to realize the answers to our prayers as if WE are “calling the shots” and not H-shem. Here it took 210 years before the salvation came about! We learn from this that although we may not see the salvation to our problems, possibly not even in our own lifetime, it is sure to come-- at the time that H-shem decides it is ripe, and not us!]
Rather than disappointing us and questioning G-d, this should serve as the inspiration we need to go through whatever travails we endure, secure in the knowledge that we are in H-shem`s trusting hands. This is the way the Jews of bygone days lived -- with the awareness that H-shem is in charge and it is up to us to live up to His expectations -- no matter what the consequences!
May we merit to continue in the ways of our fathers and to realize G-d`s Hand in all aspects of our lives.