True Teshuva by Joseph Jarashow


Parshat Mikeitz recounts the first interaction between Yosef and his brothers since they sold him. One would expect that the brothers would rejoice and be happy to see one and other. However, the opposite occurred. The Pasuk (Bereishit 42:7) says, “VaYar Yosef Et Echav VaYakireim VaYitnakeir Aleihem,” “Yosef saw his brothers and he recognized them, but he acted like a stranger toward them.” Why didn’t Yosef inform his brothers of his true identity? Why did he mislead them and act as if he had never seen them before? Furthermore, Yosef knew that his father was distraught and depressed over the loss of his son. If Yosef truly was a Tzaddik, why didn’t he inform his father that he was indeed alive, thereby relieving his father of much anxiety?

Rav Shlomo Twerski explains what was running through Yosef’s mind. Yosef knew that if he forgave the brothers immediately, they would feel ashamed. They would feel so bad that they would never be able to face Yosef or Yaakov again. Their morale would have been completely destroyed. Of course, Yosef did not wish this unto his brothers. Therefore, he provided his brothers with the opportunity to achieve Teshuva.

The Gemara says that full Teshuva is obtained only if the person is placed in the same situation but this time successfully conquers his Yeitzer HaRa and does not commit the same act a second time. Therefore, Yosef had to create a situation which would allow his brothers the opportunity to achieve such Teshuva.

Yosef’s plan was to falsely accuse Binyamin of robbery and sentence him to prison. He would then see how the brothers would react. Would they neglect Binyamin as they had neglected Yosef or would they acknowledge their mistake and do Teshuva? When Yehuda offered to stay in the jail instead of Binyamin, Yosef knew that the brothers had done Teshuva. Since they had done Teshuva, the brothers would not be crushed by Yosef’s revelation and would indeed be able to face Yosef and Yaakov. At that point, Yosef revealed himself to his brothers.

The question still remains why Yosef did not inform his father of his well being. Rav Twerski explains that Yosef knew his father well. He knew that his father would be willing to sacrifice years of suffering in order to provide his children the opportunity for Teshuva. Yosef would not have been able to fulfill his father’s wish if he had informed Yaakov of his well being. Therefore, Yosef was indeed justified in his actions and is deserving of the title “Yosef HaTzaddik.”

We can learn a profound lesson from this story. Yosef shows us the importance of helping others do Teshuva. He was even willing to be responsible for his father’s suffering in order to provide his brothers the chance for Teshuva. We must all strive to put others in a similar situation and use all resources to assist them in achieving Teshuva.

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