The Torah records that during the inauguration ceremony of the Mishkan, Bnei Yisrael brought a young goat as a Korban Chatat and a calf as a Korban Olah. In Torat Kohanim, Chazal ask why they brought these specific animals. They answer that each was brought to atone for a specific sin in the history of Bnei Yisrael. The goat was for the sin of Mechirat Yosef, in which the brothers slaughtered a goat and dipped Yosef’s garment in its blood to “prove” that Yosef had died, and the calf was for the sin of the Golden Calf.
Rav Yechezkel Libshitz of Kalisch wonders: why did we all of a sudden have to atone for Mechirat Yosef at this time, and why was the atonement for Mechirat Yosef specifically paired together with the atonement for the Golden Calf?
Rav Yechezkel answers by exploring the essence of the sin of Mechirat Yosef. Chazal (Bereshit Rabbah 4:13) state that the brothers sold Yosef because they foresaw that Yeravam ben Nevat, the king of the 10 tribes who rebelled against Shlomo’s son Rechavam, would descend from Yosef. Yeravam would cause his people to sin by setting up two golden calves and instructing his people to worship them. Yosef’s brothers tried to excuse their sin by claiming to want to prevent Yeravam from coming into existence by getting rid of Yosef. However, since their descendents had also worshipped a golden calf, this defense was rendered moot. Therefore, now that we were achieving forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf, we also had to be forgiven for the sin of Mechirat Yosef.
Rav Zalman Sorotzkin offers another reason why we waited so long to atone for the sin of Mechirat Yosef. The essence of the sin Mechirat Yosef was disunion between the sons of Yaakov. Therefore, the only way to atone for such a sin was to create total unity between them. This first happened at the inauguration of the Mishkan, when everyone was united around a central unit, the Mishkan.
This explanation fits very well with a lesson to be learned from last week’s holiday of Purim. Haman was able to target us because we were “Mefuzar Umeforad Bein Ha’amim” (Esther 3:8), scattered and divided amongst the nations. Only by joining together were we able to overcome him, only through total unity were we able to atone for Mechirat Yosef, and only by joining together can we hope to bring the Mashiach, may he come speedily in our days!