Upon seeing his younger brother Binyamin, Yosef asks his brothers (Bereishit 43:29), “HaZeh Achichem HaKaton Asher Amartem Eilai? VaYomar Elokim Yachnecha Beni,” “Is this your little brother of whom you spoke to me? And he said, ‘‘May Hashem be gracious to you my son”. Yosef’s question to his brothers went unanswered; why didn’t they respond?
Rav Yitzchak of Volozhin solves the difficulty based on an insight of the Alshich on an earlier Pasuk in the Parsha, where Yosef tells his brothers (Bereishit 42:34), “VeHaviu Et Achichem HaKaton Eilai VeEde’ah Ki Lo Meraglim Atem…,” “And bring your youngest brother to me and then I will know that you are not spies…”. What connection was there between the brothers bringing Binyamin and their being cleared of the charges of being spies? The Alshich explains that questioning Binyamin, the youngest brother, would reveal the truth. It is hard for children to keep secrets and they tend to reveal information spoken about at home. Thus, through Binyamin, Yosef would be able to find out the truth about these brothers.
Rav Yitzchak of Volozhin uses this interpretation to explain the lack of response to Yosef’s question. Yosef was expecting a “little brother” to come whom he could interrogate. However, when Binyamin arrived, he was thirty years old and had ten children. Therefore, Yosef asked his brothers if this was the “little brother” they mentioned to him. Yosef’s question was rhetorical and therefore received no response.
The Netziv (our own Gabi Wiseman is a nephew of the Netziv) furthers this point and explains why Yosef blessed Binyamin, “Elokim Yachnecha Beni.” Since the question was asked in response to Binyamin’s unanticipated maturity, it may have appeared that Yosef was viewing it with an Ayin HaRa (evil eye). Hence, Yosef blessed Binyamin to dismiss this suspicion.