When Yosef revealed himself to his brothers after hiding his identity for so long, he asked them, “HaOd Avi Chai?” “Is my father still alive?” (Bereishit 45:3). The Beit HaLevi finds this question quite puzzling. What was the purpose of asking such a question if Yosef clearly already knew that Yaakov was alive and well, as reported by the brothers upon their initial arrival to Mitzrayim? Furthermore, just a few moments before Yosef reveals himself, Yehuda implores Yosef to acquit Binyanim since Yaakov is waiting for Binyamin to come home. Obviously Yaakov is alive if he is anxiously waiting for Binyamin to return! The Ralbag suggests that until this point Yosef was not fully confident that his brothers were telling him the truth. He felt that they might have been telling him about an old father, a missing brother, and a cherished son just so that the Egyptian ruler they were dealing with would have pity on them and give them food. Once Yosef revealed himself the brothers realized that they were talking to their long-lost brother and have nothing to hide, so Yosef asked them once again if his father is truly still alive.
The events that follow Yosef’s question pose a second dilemma for the Beit HaLevi. If Yosef was indeed asking a genuine question, why didn’t he ask for a response when the brothers failed to answer his inquiry about the welfare of their father? In fact, according to Rabbi Tuvia Grossman, Yosef is not really asking his brothers a question; rather, he is rebuking his brothers for their earlier actions. His words serve as an incisive remark, asking his brothers, “If now you are exceedingly worried about your father and are thinking of the pain you could cause him by losing Binyamin why didn’t you consider this 22 years ago when you sold me?” He asks “HaOd Avi Chai” “Is my father still alive?” Yosef emphasized that Yaakov is his father, demonstrating how none of the others had shown any compassion for their father who deserved to be treated with more respect than he was given.
From the brothers’ actions and Yosef’s following rebuke, we understand the importance of thinking carefully before we act. We must ask ourselves what we are doing. What will be the consequences of our actions? If the brothers would have thought of what they were doing before they sold Yosef, they might not have sold him and would have spared their father immense pain. Although we always mean well, if we just take a moment to think before act, we could avoid possibly detrimental mistakes and prevent tremendous amounts of pain and suffering.