What the Heck, G-d?

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Written by:
Norma Mintz
Access editable doc with student handouts:

ברכה ראשונה

(5 minutes)

  • Think of a time in the last two weeks when you got frustrated. Try to quote yourself: What did you say to someone (a friend, parent, someone else) in reaction to your frustration?

לימוד ועבודה פנימית

The following text describes what happened when Yosef’s brothers departed after their first interaction with Yosef in Egypt. The brothers had just paid for grain to feed their family during the famine.

בראשית מ"ב: כ"ה-כ"ח

Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, return each one’s money to his sack, and give them provisions for the journey; and this was done for them.

So they loaded their asses with the rations and departed from there.

As one of them was opening his sack to give feed to his ass at the night encampment, he saw his money right there at the mouth of his bag.

And he said to his brothers, “My money has been returned! It is here in my bag!” Their hearts sank; and, trembling, they turned to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

וַיְצַ֣ו יוֹסֵ֗ף וַיְמַלְא֣וּ אֶת־כְּלֵיהֶם֮ בָּר֒ וּלְהָשִׁ֤יב כַּסְפֵּיהֶם֙ אִ֣ישׁ אֶל־שַׂקּ֔וֹ וְלָתֵ֥ת לָהֶ֛ם צֵדָ֖ה לַדָּ֑רֶךְ וַיַּ֥עַשׂ לָהֶ֖ם כֵּֽן. וַיִּשְׂא֥וּ אֶת־שִׁבְרָ֖ם עַל־חֲמֹרֵיהֶ֑ם וַיֵּלְכ֖וּ מִשָּֽׁם׃ וַיִּפְתַּ֨ח הָאֶחָ֜ד אֶת־שַׂקּ֗וֹ לָתֵ֥ת מִסְפּ֛וֹא לַחֲמֹר֖וֹ בַּמָּל֑וֹן וַיַּרְא֙ אֶת־כַּסְפּ֔וֹ וְהִנֵּה־ה֖וּא בְּפִ֥י אַמְתַּחְתּֽוֹ. וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֶל־אֶחָיו֙ הוּשַׁ֣ב כַּסְפִּ֔י וְגַ֖ם הִנֵּ֣ה בְאַמְתַּחְתִּ֑י וַיֵּצֵ֣א לִבָּ֗ם וַיֶּֽחֶרְד֞וּ אִ֤ישׁ אֶל־אָחִיו֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר מַה־זֹּ֛את עָשָׂ֥ה אֱלֹקים לָֽנוּ׃

Question for Reflection and Discussion

  • What does one brother find in his sack? 
  • How does the text specifically describe his reaction? What is he feeling?
  • Why is this so upsetting to him? What does he think will happen to him?
  • As the audience, what do we know that the brothers do not know?
  • “What is this that God has done to us?” “מַה־זֹּ֛את עָשָׂ֥ה אֱלֹקים לָֽנוּ׃” Why do you think Hashem might have chosen to share this specific expression of frustration in the text of the chumash?

 

Have students write privately for a few minutes:

  • What is a time in my life when I was upset with Hashem?
  • Can I think of a time in my life when I felt I knew better than Hashem, but now I see in retrospect that Hashem had a plan for me?

 

Ask the class if anyone wants to share his or her reflections.

ברכה אחרונה

Choose one of the following options: 

  • How might we carry this perspective with us when we feel afraid or upset?
  • Make a בקשה to Hashem: What can you ask Him to help you when you struggle in the future?
  • What would you say to the brothers if you were there with them?

Notes to the teacher

  • This is a topic that should be reserved for mature audiences because it can be a difficult and nuanced subject.
  • Important note: Please explain that while this may be an important and helpful perspective for one to have about one’s own troubles, it is actively unhelpful to tell others that their difficulties are part of Hashem’s plan and are therefore not difficult.
  •  Similarly, it can be dangerous to assign “cause” for a difficult experience (E.g., “The Holocaust happened in order for the State of Israel to come into existence.) Please avoid that kind of language or framing.

עבודת המורה

  • This is the place to raise some questions that make sure the teacher tests the limmud on themselves or others
  • Could be a general question like - which part of the limmud resonated most for you? Which question was the hardest for you to answer?
  • Or questions anticipating students’ responses- What do you think students will say for X or Y? To what extent are you open to being surprised? 
Download with student handouts:
Please help others by sharing how you used the resource, how you adapted it (link to your own version!) and what worked more or less well. You can also post questions that Lifnai Vlifnim staff or community members will try to respond to.

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