The week’s Parsha starts with Yehuda asking Yosef, not knowing his true identity at the time, not to take Binyamin captive. He asks Yosef to show mercy toward their father, Yaakov, who would die if he found out that Binyamin had been taken prisoner. Finally, Yosef bursts out and reveals his true identity saying his famous line (45:3), “I am Yosef; is my father still alive?”
The Brisker Rav notes that in last week’s Parsha, Yosef also asked about Yaakov’s wellbeing and was told that he was alive and well. Therefore, the Brisker Rav asks, why did Yosef ask his brothers if Yaakov was still alive if he already knew his current condition? Ingeniously, the Brisker Rav answers that his was a different type of question, not one meant to be answered. When the brothers came to Yosef to ask him to spare Binyamin, their manner showed they thought Yosef was a completely heartless and cruel ruler. With this statement, Yosef intended to remind the brothers that they did not have this type of consideration for their father Yaakov when they sold Yosef into slavery and told Yaakov that he had been killed. They spent so much time involved in their personal issues and problems that it did not occur to them that they might be hurting their father in the process of taking care of themselves. Through Binyamin, Yosef tried to rebuke his brothers and point out their faults and misdeeds.
Quite often, we too get wrapped up in our lives and act without thinking of anyone else. It is often just a little too late when we realize how self-absorbed we have been and how we have wreaked havoc on the lives of others. In order to deal with our problems, we must start with ourselves. As the Pasuk says about Teshuva in Parshat Nitzavim (Devarim 30:11-13), "It is not in Heaven... It is not distant from you... For the matter is very near. It is in your mouth and heart to do it." We must train ourselves to think about the people around us and their needs, and then it will be “in your heart to do it.”