This issue is sponsored
Vol. 21 No. 11
Baila bas Pinchas z"l
by her family
"And now, it is not you who sent me here but G-d, and He appointed me as Par'oh's vizier, master over all his house and ruler over the whole land of Egypt" (45:8).
Just two Pesukim earlier, Yosef declared that he was Yosef their brother whom they sold to Egypt. And now he claims that it was not his brothers, but G-d, who sent him to Egypt?
Some years ago, we discussed the Ramban, who explains that, although G-d had decreed that Yisrael would suffer in Egypt, He was nevertheless justified in punishing Par'oh for fulfilling His decree, because Par'oh had gone too far.
For one, Par'oh had thrown the Jewish babies in the river, although this was not part of the initial decree.
The question arose as to how anyone can go beyond what G-d has decreed?
And we explained that due to a change of circumstances, it suited G-d to tighten the screws against K'lal Yisrael, to make them suffer way beyond what He had originally planned. G-d might well have planned to change His decree, but the fact that Par'oh acted the way he did before this happened, earned him his due punishment.
In one of the thirteen Principles of Faith, the Rambam states that 'He (G-d) did, does and will do all acts.' The Master of the World runs the world according to His master plan. It is a plan that we formulate, by virtue of our actions, and that we cannot change (directly). We can synchronize our own actions with that plan. And we can play into G-d's Hands by falling in line with it, whilst unknowingly attempting to achieve different results than those of the Divine plan.
Hence Ya'akov sent Yosef to enquire after the wellbeing of his brothers and the sheep (whether of his own accord or prompted by Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu to do so - See main article, Parshas Vayeishev), and the brothers planned and succeeded in selling Yosef into slavery in Egypt.
Both played into the Hands of G-d, who wanted Yosef in Egypt. Ya'akov innocently set the ball of Galus rolling, the brothers attempted to prevent Yueosef's rise to power - whilst G-d wanted the sale to take place precisely to enable that rise to power to take place. They may inadvertently have been trying to negate G-d's ultimate plan, yet, for the time being, what they did fell in line with His master plan, so He allowed them to succeed - under the jurisdiction of an angel to ensure that things went in accordance with His plan and not with theirs (as we pointed out there).
This explains why, after telling his brothers that he was the same Yosef whom they had sold to Egypt, he pointed out that it was G-d who had sent him there (as the first step of the fulfillment of his dreams), and not they, (who sold him in order to prevent those dreams from coming true).
And Yosef reiterated this lesson later, when, in Parshas Vayechi (50:20), after they returned from burying his father Ya'akov, he allayed their fears that he would now avenge his sale (what they did to him was G-d's business, not his). To this he added "You thought to do me evil, but G-d thought to do (me) good; to reach the stage where I will be able to sustain so many people". This was G-d's plan from the start.
The Or ha'Chayim explains the last Pasuk differently. He explains that although they planned to do him harm, G-d negated their intentions and it turned good. This can be compared, he says, to someone who intends to pour his friend a cup of poison, and by mistake, he pours him a cup of wine. For this, he is not liable.
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(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)
Yehudah and Binyamin
It is interesting that the entire episode with Yosef and his brothers terminates with Yehudah's Mesiras Nefesh (self-sacrifice) on behalf of Binyamin, He offers himself as Yosef's personal slave in place of Binyamin, and even threatens to kill Yosef should he insist on retaining Binyamin.
As some commentaries explain, what Yosef was waiting to hear was precisely the extent to which the brothers, headed by Yehudah, were willing to sacrifice themselves on behalf of Rachel's children (be it himself or Binyamin). That is why, following Yehudah's tough words, Yosef decided to reveal his identity.
What is even more fascinating still is the bond that Yehudah's protection of Binyamin created between the two of them. The Oznayim la'Torah observes how, Yehudah and Binyamin became neighbours in Eretz Yisrael. Moreover, the Beis-Hamikdash was built in their combined portions. Ultimately, when Yisrael split from Yehudah, he points out,
Although it would have been the most natural thing for Binyamin to join forces with his maternal brother Yosef - a brother, one might add, with whom he was so close that he named all his ten sons after him.
Yet, this is not what happened. Due to the close bond that had sprung up between them and the fact that the Beis-Hamikdash was built on their joint portions of land, Binyamin landed up as part of the kingdom of Yehudah!
Reading Between the Lines
"My maser asked his servants 'Do you have a father and any brothers?'" (44:19).
We do not find that Yosef asked them any such question, remarks the Oznayim la'Torah.
He explains however, based on the principle that what the Torah sometimes lacks in one place, it complements in another, that even though he would certainly not have posed such a question immediately, so as not to give away his identity, he might well have asked one till they began speaking about themselves, When they said "We are all the sons of one man" (22:11), that is when Yosef would have thrown in the question regarding their father and other brothers.
Likewise in Pasuk 22, where Yehudah quotes the brothers as having claimed the Binyamin could not leave his father … , we do not find that they actually said that. Nevertheless, the author suggests, they may well have said it, when Yosef initially planned to hold them all captive and to send one of them back to their father with provisions and to bring back Binyamin, to support their claim of having a brother.
That is when, in all likelihood, they would have pointed out, their father would in no way agree to send Binyamin with one brother, and that, if Yosef insisted that their father sends Binyamin, he would be far more likely to condescend if he (Yosef) would send all of them (except for one hostage), a. to convince him to do so, and b. to increase his protection.
And that would also explain why Yosef for agreed to send one of the brothers back to Cana'an, and then, for no known reason, he agreed to send all of them back, with the exception of Shimon.
No Time to Talk
"Hurry and go to my father … " (45:9).
'After all these years', Yosef was saying, 'it would have been nice to sit down 'over a cup of tea' and schmooze. But not at the expense of my father. Hurry back home and tell him the good news as quickly as humanly possible!'
You May not Like this, But …
"G-d appointed me master over the whole of Egypt" (Ibid.).
You will be sure to tell him that I am alive. But what will you say when he wants to know why I didn't accompany you to come and see him personally after all these years?
You may not feel inclined to inform him that my dreams came true - in spite of your protestations and efforts to prevent their fulfilment. But inform him you will have to - because it is precisely my position as ruler of Egypt that prevents me from leaving the country at a time such as this - when we are still facing five more years of famine (Oznayim la'Torah).
Leaving Eretz Yisrael
"Come down to me, don't delay" (Ibid.)
As is well-known, Eretz Yisrael is 'higher than all other countries', in which case Ya'akov would have to travel down to Egypt. What is more significant however, is the fact that leaving Eretz Yisrael is a come down, the Oznayim la'Torah explains, and should not be taken lightly. In view of the heavy famine, Yosef was telling his father, and the fact that he (Yosef) was in a position to sustain him, this ought not to be a problem.
Speaking in Lashon ha'Kodesh
"Behold your eyes see … that I am speaking to you in Lashon ha'Kodesh" (45:12).
This is how Rashi, based on Targum Unklus, explains the Pasuk.
The Ramban points out that the fact that Yosef was speaking Lashon ha'Kodesh was not such a good proof that he must be Yosef, since it was the spoken language of Cana'an, and there were probably others who spoke it too. In any event, Menasheh, Yosef's (son and) interpreter, spoke it fluently, even when Yosef pretended not to understand it.
The Oznayim la'Torah, who maintains that it is not uncommon for important dignitaries to speak a variety of languages, explains that Yosef was referring, not so much to the language, as to the fact that he constantly alluded to G-d's Name in the course of his speech (in this speech alone, he refers to G-d no less than four times ("G-d sent me to sustain you", "G-d sent me ahead of you", "Not you sent me here, but G-d" and "G-d appointed me master").
Surely, he told his brothers, no Egyptian would communicate in this manner.
Indeed, mentioning the Name of G-d was a hallmark of Yosef's method of communication. He did it with everybody with whom he came into contact - with Potifar, with his wife, with the butler and the baker, with Par'oh. And with his brothers from the moment they turned up in Egypt. And it was that, coupled with the fact that he constantly submitted himself, verbally, to G-d's Omnipotence ('Not I, but G-d'), that impressed Potifar and later, Par'oh, and earned their respect and confidence.
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