Not Knowing by Philip Blass


In addition to kidnapping Yosef, the ten brothers cruelly gave Yosef’s bloody, tattered coat to an inconsolable Yaakov, who inferred that his favorite son, Yosef, was dead, and felt responsible since he sent Yosef to seek his brothers alone.  Rashi notices that Yaakov refused consolation for Yosef, and since a person is not consoled for a living person, Yaakov had a flicker of hope that Yosef survived -- a horrible ending to a terrifying nightmare.

Twenty-two years later, Yaakov is informed that not only is Yosef alive but is Egypt’s sovereign.  However, the Torah does not say if Yaakov ever learned what happened to Yosef twenty-two years earlier.  One would suppose that Yaakov would immediately ask what happened to Yosef!

Ramban’s theory is that Yaakov never found out the truth.  Yaakov thought that Yosef was kidnapped when he was searching for his brothers and then sold into slavery in Egypt.

Ramban believed that Yosef evolved from a petty tattletale to Egypt’s ruler because he stopped snitching on his brothers.  He forgave them since the situation was out of their control, but his relationship with them was never fully ironed out.  For Yaakov, on the other hand, the uncertainty regarding his child’s whereabouts was worse than death.  If he had known of the brothers’ deed, he would not have blessed them on his deathbed.  Therefore, since he blessed them, Ramban’s belief that Yaakov never learned of the brothers’ deed is plausible (see, though, Rashi to Bereishit 49:6 and 8 who clearly disagrees with Ramban on this point). 

The Israeli Missing Soldiers, Ron Arad, Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, Tzvi Feldman, and Guy Hever’s parents have lived Yaakov’s nightmare for longer than twenty two years, and are now joined by the parents of Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who must endure the pain of this “interloper” stage.  We all must keep them in our hearts and prayers; we need to collaborate to help them, whether with our neighbors or our brothers overseas.  I feel that the local Yeshivot should unite and pressure Syria to cease funding terrorists by supporting demonstrations, like the one I attended last Sunday night, outside the Syrian Mission to the United Nations.

The Torah teaches this message in the most dramatic way, and as we can see from the events of our own day and age, a most realistic way.  We can learn a real lesson from this week’s Parasha, that we cannot forget that while we go about our daily lives, our brothers sit in a prison, and their parents are in their own kind of prison.  We must act upon the piercing message of the rally: free them now!

Editor’s note: for updates on activist activities regarding the soldiers, visit  The NORPAC mission to Washington on May 21st is a great venue for ordinary citizens to become activists.  At this event one has the opportunity to lobby members of Congress to support the American-Israel relationship.  In past years, NORPAC has successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Syrian Accountability Act which imposes economic sanctions on Syria for its support of terrorism.  Visit for more details.

Is Teshuvah Really So Simple? by Jesse Friedman

Tradition, Tradition! by Rabbi Josh Kahn