Meir Tzvi Berman

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Parsha Vayigash


""Vayomer Yosef Ell Echav Ani Yosef Ha'od Avi Chai V'lo Yochlu Echav La'anos Oso Ki Nivhalu Miponav" "And Yosef(Joseph) to his brothers "I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?" And his brothers could not answer him because they were flustered before him."

Yosef's brothers shrank back from him with shame over having sold him into slavery. Our sages remarked. Imagine! If Yosef's brothers could not withstand his rebuke, even though he was younger than any of them (Binyamin was not involved in Yosef's sale) how can anyone withstand the rebuke of Hashem on Judgement Day.

Where in Yosef's words is there a hint of reproach to his brothers?

Yehudah (Judah) had approached Yosef with an emotional appeal. Yehudah tried to arouse sympathy for Yaakov; a bereaved father who could not survive the loss of yet another son. Yehudah implored that on this basis Binyamin should be freed.

Yosef replied "I am Yosef" I am the brother whom you sold into slavery. "Is my father still alive?" As if to say hasn't my father suffered greatly because of your actions? Why weren't you sensitive to Yaakov's(Jacob) feelings then?" Yosef showed his brothers that the principles they now espoused were not consistent with their actions.

With self-contradiction the person realizes himself how he is wrong instead of merely hearing it from others. As a result, it is the strongest form of rebuke.

When a person's life comes under the scrutiny of Hashem's judgement, contradictions in the persons behavior come to light. A person may neglect Torah study, rationalizing that the subject matter is too difficult for him. Such an excuse would be exposed as flimsy when is observed how proficiently he has mastered the skills necessary for his profession. The inconsistencies in a persons own actions incriminate him the worst way.

This is a part of the parallel drawn between Yosef's rebuke and the judgement of Hashem. Hashem's judgement of our actions will leave nothing hidden and we must take care not to incriminate ourselves.


"Vayesor Yosef Merkavto Vaya'al Likras Yisroel Aviv Goshnah Vayeira Eilav Vayipoel Al Tzavarav Vayevk Al Tzavarav Od"
"And Yosef (Joseph) hitched his chariot and he went up toward Yisroel(Jacob) his father to Goshen. And he appeared to him and he fell on his neck and he cried on his neck still"

In order to explain why only Yosef wept upon meeting his father while no mention is made of Yaakov's reaction, Rashi quotes our sages. They say that Yaakov was engrossed in the recital of Shema at this time. Yaakov, although overwhelmed with joy at seeing his long lost son, chose not to express his fatherly love in tears of joy. Rather, he channeled his overpowering emotions into the recital of Shema; the devotion of accepting Hashem's kingship. Yaakov, as a quintessential servant of Hashem, directed all of his energies to the service of Hashem. He felt that his ecstasy at being reunited with Yosef should be devoted to a greater feeling of Hashem's greatness. This is why Yaakov recited the Shema at the that moment. Reciting the Shema at that moment was Yaakov's way of using his profound joy to reach greater heights of appreciation of Hashem's ways. (Kotzker Rebbe)

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