Yosef’s Enduring Message by Shmuel Garber


In Parashat VaYigash, Yosef reveals to his brothers that he is not the evil viceroy they thought he was; rather, he is their brother, Yosef. The Torah writes that when he tries to prove to them that he is indeed Yosef, they are confused and embarrassed. Yosef responds, “VeHinei Einechem Ro’ot VeEinei Achi Vinyamin Ki Fi HaMedaber Aleichem,” “Behold! Your eyes see, as do the eyes of my brother, Binyamin, that it is my mouth that is speaking to you” (BeReishit 45:12). According to Rashi, Yosef showed them his circumcision to prove he was Jewish. However, why does the Pasuk need to say that Yosef speaks from his mouth?

Rashi states that he is trying to prove he is their brother by speaking Lashon HaKodesh. However, the Ramban argues, pointing out that he was a leader, and leaders of that time spoke many languages. Certainly, as an important leader of Mitzrayim, he would speak Lashon HaKodesh, a language of a neighboring country. According to the Ramban (quoting Megillah 16b), however, Yosef is telling his brothers that he is no longer the evil prime minister, speaking for Par’oh; now, he is talking to them “from his own mouth.” We can learn from here that the motivations of one’s statements are important. Yosef felt compelled to tell his brothers that he sincerely meant every word he was saying.

 After Yosef reveals himself to his brothers, the Pasuk states, “VaYipol Al Tzav’rei Binyamin Achiv VaYevk, UVinyamin Bachah Al Tzavarav” “And he fell upon his brother Binyamin’s neck and cried, and Binyamin cried upon his neck” (45:14). Why did Yosef and Binaymin cry at a time of joy? In addition, why is “Tzav’rei,” “neck,” written in plural? Rashi answers that Yosef was crying on Binyamin’s shoulder because he saw that the two Batei HaMikdash, which were situated in Binyamin’s territory in Eretz Yisrael, were to be destroyed, and Binyamin cried because of the Mishkan Shiloh, in Yosef’s section, that was to be destroyed.

Our first question, though, still remains. Why did they cry now? The Sefat Emet explains that they saw the background, the big picture, of why they were in Mitzrayim in the first place. They were sent there because of Sin’at Achim, brotherly hatred, and Sin’at Chinam, blind hate. At a time of peace, they saw that Sin’at Chinam and Sin’at Achim would rear their heads again. They saw that these were the reasons that the Batei HaMikdash and the Mishkan in Shiloh would be destroyed.

Rav Mordechai Pomegranski gives a completely different answer. He quotes the Pasuk in Yeshayahu (25:8), “Bila HaMavet LaNetzach UMachah Hashem Elokim Dim’ah MeiAl Kol Panim,” “He will eliminate death forever, and Hashem will erase tears from all faces.” Chazal explain “from all faces” that Hashem will remove tears of sadness as well as joy. Why would Hashem remove tears of joy? In order to understand, this we must know why we cry tears of joy. Rav Pomegranski gives two reasons. He explains that we cry at Simchot because we recognize how much pain it took us to get to that Simchah. Rav Pomegranski also suggests the reason we cry in joy is because subconsciously, we know that the happiness will eventually end. This is why both Yosef and Binyamin were crying – they were first happy about the Kedushah in their property, and then they saw the destruction.

Yosef then instructs his brothers to bring Yaakov and the rest of the family to Mitzrayim, and commands them, “Al Tirgezu Baderech,” “Do not become agitated on the way” (BeReishit 45:24). According to the Gemara in Ta’anit (10b), Yosef was instructing his brothers not to go faster than normal, so as not to bring themselves to danger. The Kotzker Rebbe explains that Yosef knew exactly what his brothers were thinking. They were thinking how important it was to Yaakov to see his son again, and they wanted to rush to make it back to Cana’an in one and a half days instead of the normal three days that it typically took. However, Yosef knew that Hashem takes a person out of suffering at the exact right moment, and it wouldn’t matter if the brothers went faster – Yaakov would be consoled at the same time. However, Onkelos, Rashi, Radak, and Ibn Ezra say that Lo Tirgezu means not to argue over who was responsible for the sale of Yosef on the way back. Rashi also suggests that it could mean not to become disturbed on the way with Halachic matters. Ramban and Rashbam say that the Pasuk means not to be scared on the way of robbers, even though they carrying precious merchandise. The Baal HaTurim explains that “Al Tirgezu BaDerech” means don’t go through sown fields to make the journey faster. Yosef is telling his brothers that even though the trip was important, they should not cause someone else to lose produce. In addition, he was telling them not to use their connection to him as the viceroy to make an excuse for using such a shortcut. This teaches us that no one is more important than others, or can make an excuse to take advantage of others.  

In Parashat VaYigash we see some insights on how to be a pious Jew. We learn that we can’t just listen to someone; we must also see if he means it and if it is coming from his heart. We also learn that our lives are not more important than others, and that Hashem will take us out of suffering at the exact right moment. Finally, we shouldn’t make the mistake of hating our fellow Jew like the brothers did by selling Yosef. This lack of brotherly love also destroyed the Mishkan and Batei HaMikdash. We must have Achdut to see the next Beit HaMikdash.

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