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Vol. 22 No. 11
R' Zalman Yosef ben R' Avraham Sharfman z"l
v'hachaver Simcha ben Hachaver Moshe Hain z"l
(Adapted from the Ramban)
Just a Word
" … Yehudah approached him (Yosef) and said 'Please my master, let your servant speak a word in the ears of my master, and do not let your anger be aroused against your servant, because (to me) you are like Par'oh' " (44:18).
"The word" that Yehudah mentioned referred to the brevity of Yehudah's speech, which would in no way offend Yosef.
Alternatively, it referred to the one request that he was about to make - to accept him as a slave in place of Binyamin, as everything else was merely by way of appeasement.
"My master asked his servant saying 'Do you have a father or a brother?' … And you said to your servants 'Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him?' "(44:19 & 21)
The Ramban is initially puzzled by Yehudah's repetition of all the events that led up to the current confrontation with Yosef, seeing as they contain nothing that Yosef (Tzofnas Pa'ne'ach) did not already know. And as for the comment (cited in Rashi, Pasuk 18) 'Is this the 'setting eyes on him' of which you spoke?', what sort of claim was that, he asks? Surely, a ruler who orders someone to appear before him does not have in mind to turn a blind eye to whatever evil that person perpetrates, and certainly not if he steals his own personal goblet from which he drinks! Moreover, when Binyamin first arrived, he did set eyes on him favorably. He greeted him with the beautiful blessing 'MayG-d favour you, my son!'. He invited all the brothers to join him in his palace for dinner. In his honour he showered them all with gifts and he sent them home with as much corn as they were able to carry! What more did Yehudah expect of him?
Initially, the Ramban answers that Yehudah was not asking Yosef for justice, he was appealing for clemency, assuming him to be the G-d-fearing man that he claimed he was. He was appealing to the sense of kindness that had already displayed earlier (in 43:23), when he placated them after they expressed their concern over the money that they had found in their sacks. Yehudah was playing on Yosef's conscience, reminding him how, having been forced to divulge the existence of Binyamin, they had strongly objected to his request to bring him down to Egypt, making it clear that this would endanger his life. And he informed him that his father had flatly refused to send his beloved son - even if it meant leaving their brother Shimon languishing in jail, and that he had only relented when the pangs of hunger forced him to do so. And finally, he pointed out that if they would now return without Binyamin, their father would die of a broken heart. Consequently, he begged him to have compassion on the brothers and on their aged father and to accept him as a slave in place of Binyamin.
It may even be, the author concedes, that Yehudah was actually taking Yosef to task. When Chazal talk about 'Yosef's setting of eyes on Binyamin', what they meant was that, having forced the brothers to return with Binyamin so that he could set his eyes on him, it behoove him to keep his word and to overlook whatever Binyamin may have done as a result, though he was afraid to say that outright. More than that, Yehudah may well have been hinting that the entire episode with the goblet was a put-up job in order to libel them. And he cites the Medrash which quotes Yehudah as having said 'I will prove to you that you instituted a libel against us! People from many countries came down to you to purchase food. Did you ask them the questions that you asked us? Did we ask to marry your daughter or did you want to marry our daughter? Yehudah may not have said this in so many words, but it is intimated in his words.
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(Adapted from the Ramban)
"And the news was heard in the house of Par'oh saying 'Yosef's brothers have come …" (45:16).
For years now, the people had been embarrassed at having a viceroy who was not only a foreigner, but one who had ascended to power directly from jail. True, he had informed them that he had been kidnapped from the land of the Ivrim, where his father and brothers were esteemed aristocrats, but until now, this had been unsubstantiated. Now that his brothers had arrived, and proved to be men of stature, the people were satisfied that Yosef was indeed a worthy viceroy.
Nothing to Fear
" … and he said to them "Don't quarrel on the way!" (45:24).
That is how Unklus translates 'Al tirg'zu ba'darech!' and that is one of Rashi's three interpretations of the same phrase.
The Ramban however, translates it as 'Do not be afraid'.
Considering the amount of provisions they were carrying - including the best that Egypt had to offer, it would have been only natural for the brothers to have been afraid that they would be held up by robbers, particularly as it was a time of famine. That is why Yosef reassured them that they had nothing to worry about, since their association with him was well-known and nobody would dare harass them.
The Rashbam adds that Yosef had no enemies and that, consequently, anything with which he was connected was safe.
The G-d of Yitzchak
"And he brought sacrifices to the G-d of his father Yitzchak" (46:1).
He brought them to the G-d of his father Yitzchak, and not to the G-d of his grandfather Avraham, comments Rashi, because one is obligated to honour one's father more than one's grandfather.
Nevertheless, asks the Ramban, the Torah ought to have said that he brought the sacrifices " … to the G-d of his fathers" (as he himself would say later, 48:47) or simply " … to Hashem" (as we find by Avraham 12:7)?
He therefore explains that Ya'akov deliberately mentioned his father Yitzchak, in order to evoke his Midah - Midas ha'Din. He realized that his journey down to Egypt was the start of the terrible Galus that he and his children were destined to undergo. That is why, afraid of the suffering that lay ahead, he brought sacrifices to G-d's Midas ha'Din (also known as 'Pachad Yitzchak') in order to soften it.
And he did this in Be'er Sheva, the town in which his fathers had prayed, and in which he himself had received permission to go into exile to Charan.
"All the people who came with Ya'akov to Egypt, his own descendants besides the wives of Ya'akov's sons, sixty-six people" (46:26).
According to the opinion that a twin sister was born with each of Ya'akov's sons, Rashi comments, they must have died before the family went down to Egypt, since they are not mentioned here.
But it is not necessary to say that, argues the Ramban, since the Medrash, quoting Rebbi Yehudah, maintains that the brothers married them (i.e. each brother married a sister from his father but not from his mother) and the same Pasuk specifically mentions the wives of Ya'akov's sons.
In fact, says the Ramban, it is from the current Pasuk that Rebbi Yehudah derives the fact that Ya'akov had daughters in the first place. Otherwise, he says, having stated "his own descendants", why would the Pasuk deem it necessary to add "besides the wives of Ya'akov's sons", if those wives were Cana'aniyos, and not Ya'akov's daughters.
The commentary on the Ramban cites the Maharsha in Bava Basra, who supports the theory that Ya'akov had daughters from the Pasuk earlier (37:35), which states that all Ya'akov's sons and daughters came to console him, after the sale of Yosef, which implies actual daughters, like Rebbi Yehudah and not Cana'aniyos, like Rebbi Nechemyah (See Rashi there).
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