In Parashat Mikeitz, Yosef’s meeting with his brothers is recounted. The Pasuk (BeReishit 44:12) states, “VaYechapeis BaGadol Heicheil UVaKaton Kilah VaYimatzei HaGavi’a BeAmtachat Binyamin,” “And he searched; he began with the oldest and ended with the youngest. And the goblet was found in the sack of Binyamin.” Rashi (ad loc. BaGadol Heicheil) explains that although Yosef obviously knew that the goblet was in Binyamin’s sack, he purposely started with the sack of the oldest, so they would not realize that he knew where it would be found. However, the Midrash states that “he began with the oldest” refers to Shimon. The question is therefore obvious: Reuven was the oldest, not Shimon! Why does the Midrash single out Shimon as the one whose sack was searched first?
When Yosef first approached the brothers to accuse them of theft, they countered with the argument, “Hein Kesef Asher Matzanu BeFi Amtechoteinu Heshivonu Eilecha MeiEretz Kena’an VeEich Nignov MiBeit Adonecha Kesef Oh Zahav,” “The money we found in the mouths of our sacks we brought back to you from the land of Cana’an. How then could we steal from your house silver and gold” (44:8)? Rashi (ad loc. s.v. Hein Kesef Asher Matzanu) quotes a Midrash (BeReishit Rabbah 92:7) which states that this argument is one of several examples of Kal VaChomer found in the Torah. Maharil Diskin questions Rashi’s comment, wondering why the Midrash would cite their argument as an example of a Kal VaChomer, when, in this case, the Kal VaChomer was not effective? After all, Yosef did not accept their argument and he went ahead and searched their bags anyway.
The Maharil Diskin explains that Yosef, in fact, did accept their argument and did not search the sacks of those who had returned with money found on the earlier trip. However, not all of the brothers had returned money. Binyamin had not been with the brothers on the first trip, and Shimon had not returned any money either because he stayed in Egypt the entire time. Yosef therefore replied to the brothers that he accepts their argument, but there are still two sacks that must be searched. He began with the oldest, Shimon’s, and ended with Binyamin’s.
The Midrash (BeReishit Rabbah 92:8 s.v. VaYimatzei HaGavi’a BeAmtachat Binyamin) recounts that when the goblet was found in Binyamin’s sack, the brothers pounced on Binyamin and taunting him by saying, “Thief, the son of a woman who was also a thief! You have brought disgrace upon us by stealing, just as your mother disgraced our father by stealing the Terafim from Lavan (See BeReishit 31:19).” According to another Midrash, the brothers actually began beating Binyamin, until he swore to them by the life of his father that he has committed no crime.
We are able to learn two powerful lessons from these Midrashim. One lesson is that even the holy brothers were ready to instantly accept that their brother Binyamin was a thief. The Gemara (Bava Batra 17a) states that Binyamin was one of only four supremely righteous people who never sinned and died only because it had been commanded as a result of the sin of Adam HaRishon. Surely, then, he had never been guilty of thievery! However, when the brothers looked at Binyamin, they didn’t see a Tzaddik, but their brother Yosef. As the Midrash relates, the brothers accused Binyamin of thievery by mentioned his mother, who also stole. The brothers were focused on Binyamin’s family, rather than Binyamin as a person. Their hatred for Yosef blinded them to the fact that Binyamin surely had not stolen the goblet. If the brothers fell to such a low level by falsely accusing Binyamin as a result of their hatred, we must ensure that we are even more careful regarding this matter.
Yet a second lesson can be learned from the end of the Midrash which states the reward Binyamin received for the undeserved suffering that he had experienced. In return for the misery that the brothers rained upon Binyamin’s shoulders, Hashem decreed that the Shechinah would rest “between [Binyamin’s] shoulders” (Devarim 33:12) by having the Beit HaMikdash built in his portion of Eretz Yisrael. It appears that due to their false accusation of Binyamin, the brothers lost the opportunity to be the hosts of the Shechinah. This, too, should serve to warn a person never to quickly judge another, because the cost of making incorrect accusations may be very severe. If we change our ways and are more positive in our outlook to one another with more Ahavat Yisrael, than we will be Zocheh to a bright future and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash.