It’s easy to play “Monday morning quarterback” – or is it?
As Sefer B’reishis comes to a close, Yosef is approached by his brothers, who beg for forgiveness and mercy. An understanding Yosef reassures them: “You may have intended to harm me, but Hashem had good intentions; today it is clear that He placed me here to sustain all of the people” (B’reishis 50:20). In other words, Yosef wisely told his brothers that they were examining the events of the story through an overly narrow lens. They were focused on the minute details of their actions, while Yosef was keeping an eye on the big picture. Blessed with the perspective of hindsight, he helped the brothers see that they all were mere pawns in the hands of the Grand Chessmaster of the universe. Everything that had transpired was all for the endgame of sustaining the world during the years of famine.
How wrong he was.
As much as Yosef wagged his finger and patronized his brothers for their myopic view of history, we – living thousands of years later – can see plainly that he, too, was not looking at the whole picture. The reality is that the sale of Yosef, and its ensuing relocation of Yaakov’s family to Egypt, was about something much larger than the famine. That, as well, was just a pawn in the grand scheme! Of course, now we know that this was the fulfillment of Bris Bein HaB’sarim – the formation of a Jewish nation, the great miracles of Y’tzias Mitzrayim and K’rias Yam Suf, the Revelation at Har Sinai, the conquering of Eretz Yisrael – that was the master plan! As much as Yosef thought he was appreciating history through hindsight, the truth is that Jewish history was just getting underway.
We, too, like to play “Monday morning quarterback.” We are humble enough to admit that we have no way of predicting the future, or even understanding the present; but, at least, we like to believe that we are good judges of the past. We can look back at a wonderful or tragic event with years of hindsight and say, “Aha, this must be what Hashem had in mind.”
However, from Yosef we learn that we are sometimes just as limited at understanding the past as we are at foretelling the future. As much as it can feel comforting to make sense of the stories of our lives, we must also remember that the rear-view mirror can only give us a partial image. While the passage of time can sometimes yield meaningful insight, there will always be certain questions that remain unanswered. Ultimately, we are better off acknowledging our limitations and putting our trust in Hashem and His master plan.