Deju vu! Here we go again, just when we are starting to breathe again, there’s another new variant on the loose and it feels like we’re back where we were last year. Covid cases are rising rapidly. There’s talk of further restrictions. Borders are closing. There’s a meme going around that 2022 is really 2020, too.
Are we looking at another lockdown? It’s all very uncertain and worrying. How many more deaths await us? Are we on the verge of being trapped once again?
It’s at times like these that the story of Joseph, yes the one with the coat, can offer us hope. Joseph was a 17 year old kid. His brothers wanted to kill him. They threw him into a pit and left them to die. But then they saw a caravan of Philistines who were heading down to Egypt, and sold him to them instead. Let’s put ourselves in the mind of Joseph for a moment. Young and totally uprooted from his family, hated by his brothers.
What does the Torah tell us about his journey down to Egypt? That the spices were sweet-smelling! Who cares? Do you really think that in the depths of his despair, Joseph cared whether the spices in the caravan were sweet or foul-smelling?
There is a message of comfort here. God was telling Joseph, there is a plan and you have to go through this terrible ordeal of being sold and sent down to Egypt, but I want you to know that I am with you. I am not going to give you any more discomfort than necessary. Even though the norm is for the caravan to be carrying foul-smelling spices, I’m going to make those spices smell sweet so that your journey down is a little more comfortable.
I had a moment like that myself when my father passed away when I was a teenager. On the day of his stone setting, I woke up feeling really sad. I just did not want to face what the day had in store. As I got out of bed, I saw that someone had left a book by my bed. I opened it up to a random page and the message I read — which I can’t remember all these years later — was just what I needed to feel God’s love, telling me ‘I know this is hard, but I’ll send you what you need to get through it.’
So as we find ourselves once more facing uncertainty from Omicron, perhaps we can take comfort in knowing that even within the difficulties (and the past year and a half has been so difficult!) that there will be moments of ‘sweet-smelling spices’ – moments where God sends us little messages that He’s with us.