Hanukah/ Parashat Mikketz 5768/
the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of
Joseph and His Brothers: A New Approach
Prof. Yehiel Domb
Department of Physics
behavior towards his brothers who had come to
How did Joseph imagine his brothers when he was taken down
Joseph may have thought that a similar parting of ways
might also occur among Jacob’s children; the sons of Rachel would be chosen to
continue the line and fulfill the destiny, and the sons of Leah would be
rejected and would go their own way.
Therefore, when the brothers did not recognize Joseph when they came
In order to carry out his plan, Joseph demanded that his brothers prove the truth of their story and required them to bring him Benjamin. Due to the severe famine, the brother had no choice but to comply with his request. This provides an answer to the question why Joseph did not make efforts to contact his father: first, he was convinced that he was no longer alive. Second, the only way to get to his father was by means of his brothers, in whom he had no faith.
The legends in Sefer ha-Yashar provide an enlightening comment on the encounter between Joseph and Benjamin (also presented in Yalkut Am Lo’ez).* The Torah hints that at the festive dinner that Joseph gave for his brothers he conversed secretly with his brother Benjamin. Sefer ha-Yashar explains that Joseph seized the opportunity to reveal his identity to Benjamin and inform him of his plan:
Joseph said to him: I am Joseph, your brother. Do not reveal this to your brothers. I am going to send you off with them, and they will leave. Then I will order them brought back into town and will take you from them. If they are willing to give themselves up … to save you, then I will know that they have repented of what they did to me and I will make myself known to them. If they abandon you, then I will keep you and you will live with me; and I will send them off, and they will go without my making myself known to them.
We all know that when the brothers faced the great trial that Joseph set up for them, Judah in his impressive speech succeeded in displaying tremendous devotion, patently showing that he and all his brothers had truly repented and that they were worthy of being included in the Lord’s promise to Abraham. This speech led to reunification of the family and to ending Joseph’s anger at his brothers.
* I am deeply indebted to Rabbi David Carmel for calling my attention to this comment.