This week’s Parsha tells us the end of the story of Yosef and his brothers. The brothers stand before Yosef, their brother whom they had sold as a slave, who now has the power to have them imprisoned or killed at whim. They reluctantly bring Binyamin before him as well, and to their horror, Yosef orders Binyamin to stay in Egypt as Yosef’s slave.
After hearing the plea of Yehuda, however, Yosef is moved to tears. No longer able to conceal himself from his brothers, he says, “I am Yosef, is my father still alive?” Shocked beyond belief, “His brothers could not answer him because they were devastated before him” (45:3).
Masechet Chagiga states, “When Rabbi Eliezer came to this passage he cried, ’If the rebuke of people is such [that Yosef’s brothers were so devastated by his rebuke], the rebuke of Hashem, how much more so?’”
Rav Avraham Pam, שליט"א, asks: “What was Yosef’s rebuke of his brothers? All he said was, ‘I am Yosef!’” Rav Pam quotes the Bait Halevi who answers that the next part of Yosef’s revelation, the question, “Is my father still alive,” is the rebuke. He meant to say, “Is it possible that my father is still alive after all of the pain that you have caused him?”
Rav Pam offers a second answer. He posits that the rebuke is contained in the words “I am Yosef.” Yosef meant, “I am Yosef whom you hated and degraded. You did not even consider that my dreams could come true or that I could end up as the second-in-command in Egypt, sent by Hashem to save my family and this country from famine. Can you imagine that you sold such a person as a slave?”
Rav Pam concludes that we can learn a valuable lesson from this Pasuk. When we view others, we often attribute much less worth to them than they deserve, and therefore we treat them with less respect than is due. Finding out how special others are can be a powerful rebuke.