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Judah's pleas to spare Benjamin included reference to Jacob's suffering Joseph's disappearance: My father said to us: "You know that [Rachel] bore me two sons. The first one [Joseph] went away from me and I said that he must have been torn into pieces. I have not seen him since…" So when he sees that the [second son, Benjamin] is not with us, he will die. (44:27-31).
The commentators wrestle with the obvious question throughout the story: why did Joseph, as viceroy of Egypt, not send a message home to say that he was safe?
The well-known answer is given by the Ramban: Joseph understood the dreams as a revelation to be fulfilled personally by him. The sun, moon, and the eleven stars - understood to be all his family, including his father - had to bow down to him. It was his divinely-dictated brief to make that happen.
However, the following might be suggested. Joseph did not wish to renew contact with his family as he believed that they had betrayed him. After hearing the dreams, Jacob "kept the matter to himself" (37:11). He had rebuked Joseph, but the matter did not end there. Joseph - his favorite son, of all people, had caused a serious disturbance in the family. Joseph believed that his father's sending him to Shechem to meet the brothers purposely put his life in danger. Indeed, it was through his father's instructions and his brothers' actions that he had nearly been killed, left for dead in a pit, and finally sold to desert tribes. Joseph believed that he had been rejected and cut out of the lives of his family, very much including his father. His father had made no effort to inquire about his whereabouts. He was unwanted, left for dead, and his new life in Egypt was a fresh start.
Thus he did not write to his father and his family as he believed they had sought to get rid of him.
Even though the brothers openly regretted the harshness involved in the sale (42:21), they did not verbally regret the actual sale. Only when Judah's impassioned plea included "he first one [Joseph] went away from me and I said that he must have been torn into pieces. I have not seen him since…" did Joseph understand that he had misjudged his father. He only then learnt of his father's grief over his death, and why he had made no effort to contact him. In short, it was only through a detail Judah's speech that he found out that he had tragically misjudged his father…
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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