After the burial of Yaakov, the brothers immediately worry that since Yaakov no longer is alive, nothing will stop Yosef from expressing his rage against them. As long as Yaakov was alive, the brothers felt safe, because Yosef would not dare mistreat them in front of their father. With this protection now gone, the brothers had to find some way to appease Yosef so that he wouldn’t harm them. To this end, they go to Yosef and bow in front of him. They say that Yaakov wanted Yosef to be kind to them even after death. Yosef reacts by breaking down and crying. He obviously is hurt by the brothers’ assumption that he wished them ill. Why, in fact, do they assume Yosef wants to harm them? Why are they Chosheid BeKesheirim, being mistrustful of someone righteous, a quality one would not expect to be exhibited by the brothers?
The Meforshim present a number of reasons why the brothers thought the way they did. The Gur Aryeh suggests that because of the politics in Egypt at the time, Yosef was forced to disconnect with his brothers. The Egyptians might accuse Yosef of playing favorites. Therefore, he stopped inviting the brothers to eat with him. Accordingly, they saw his severance of relations as a sign that he wished them ill. Alternatively, the Baal HaTurim states that during the burial procession, Yosef saw the pit into which he had been thrown and said a Berachah of thanks to Hashem. Seeing that he remembered the way he had been treated made the brothers afraid that he would punish them.
This story can teach us a few lessons. One, it shows the power of being Dan LeKaf Zechut, judging someone favorably. When the brothers misjudge Yosef, he breaks down crying. That the way people thought about him made Yosef so emotional also is noteworthy. One has to be careful not to be accusatory or to misjudge anyone, especially one who has displayed much kindness.