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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Vayigash(69)

This week's sedra gives us the culmination of the confrontation between Joseph & his brothers when Joseph reveals his true identity and forgives them for having sold him into slavery. The brothers return home to Jacob and bring him and their families to live in Egypt (the land of Goshen). Unbeknownst to them, this is the beginning of the first Jewish exile.

The meeting of Joseph and his father was quite emotional for both of them, as we would expect; after not having seen Joseph for 22 years, Jacob had thought that he was dead and would never see him again in this world.

Genesis 46:29

Joseph harnessed his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father to Goshen, and he appeared to him, he fell on his neck, and he cried more.


And he appeared to him: Rashi: Joseph appeared to his father.


What difficulty is Rashi relating to?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The verse uses two pronouns: and 'he' appeared to 'him'. Rashi is asking: Who is 'he' and who is 'him'? Which of the pronouns refers to Joseph and which one to Jacob?

Clearly Rashi's short comment answers this question.

But we can ask several questions on Rashi's answer.

Your question(s):


A Question: How does Rashi know that is was Joseph who appeared to Jacob? Maybe it was the other way around - Jacob appeared to Joseph?

Can you see what lead Rashi to his decision here?

Your Answer:


An Answer: See all the action in this verse before this phrase refers to Joseph:

"And Joseph harnessed his chariot

And he (Joseph) went up towards Israel his father."

So Rashi rightly concluded that this pronoun also refers to Joseph.


We said there may be more than one question here. The Ramban asks another question here. He asks why does the Torah have to tell us that "he appeared to him."? Isn't it obvious that Jacob saw Joseph, if Joseph fell on Jacob's neck and cried who else could he have seen, if not Joseph? These words seem unnecessary, says the Ramban.

The Ramban answers his question by saying that since Jacob was old and his eyesight probably weakened and not recognizing the boy he knew years ago now dressed in royal garments, so the fact that he "appeared to him" was important to state and was by no means obvious. But the Ramban understands the rest of the verse differently from Rashi.

Rashi says that it was Joseph who fell on Jacob and it was Joseph who cried extremely. But the Ramban asks rhetorically who is more likely to cry - the father who found his long lost, beloved son or the son who had become the viceroy of Egypt and who already knew his father was alive? Of course, the father is more likely to cry "more" (Hebrew: 'ode') (more than he had all those years); so it was Jacob who saw Joseph and it was Jacob who fell on his son's neck (not vice versa as Rashi claims) and it was Jacob who did the crying. Rashi explains, based on a midrash, that Jacob did not cry because he was reciting the Shema at that moment.


From theses two interpretations of this verse, we see the differing interpretive styles of the Ramban and of Rashi.

Ramban bases his interpretation on common experience, on a psychological understanding of how people react to emotional situations. The Ramban refers to psychological issues many times in his Torah commentary. Rashi, on the other hand, bases his interpretation on the Sages' midrashim.

Two styles, two roads to insights into he Torah's meaning.

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek

What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

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