Friday, December 03, 2010

Parshat Miketz - פרשת מקץ

"וַיִּזְכֹּר יוֹסֵף--אֵת הַחֲלֹמוֹת, אֲשֶׁר חָלַם לָהֶם; וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם מְרַגְּלִים אַתֶּם, לִרְאוֹת אֶת-עֶרְוַת הָאָרֶץ בָּאתֶם - And Yoseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them: 'You are spies; to see the nakedness of the land you have come.' "
(בראשית מ"ב:ט)

In this week's Parsha, we read of the famous episode in which Yosef is asked to interpret the dreams of Par'oh. This sets in action a chain of events which leads to his transformation and reversal in fortunes, going from a lowly prisoner to second-in-command over the Egyptian Kingdom.

As we know, Yoseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Denied the chance to see his father for years, it's surprising that he waited as long as he did to reveal himself. If we stop to think, we may realise that although Yoseph decided to contact his father later on, he might have done so considerably earlier. True, Yospeh kept his identity hidden for some time as he decided to test his brothers, but surely he didn't need to wait quite as long as he did. Why did Yoseph tarry so? This is all the more puzzling given Ya'akov's continued mourning over his long-lost/long-feared-dead son. Surely such a delay was needless?

The Ramban poses precisely this question in his commentary on the verse above. His answer is puzzling; he had to wait until the dreams of his youth, the dreams in which he saw his entire family bow down to him, come true. To tell the truth, I don't really see much of a connection between the two, though. Surely Yoseph could have waited to see the dream be realised and also send his father a message to let him know that he was indeed alive? Indeed, couldn't Yoseph have done this even earlier? Why did Yoseph wait to meet his brothers? He could have easily sent a message home when he was appointed head of Poiphar's household.

Rav Ari Kahn of Aish Hatorah frames Ramban's answer in a different way. As he writes: "The answer which Nachmanides offers is that Joseph could not contact Jacob until the dreams of his youth had come true. Joseph had dreamt that his brothers would one day bow to him, and his revelation of this dream had set off the brothers' jealous rage that led to his eventual sale into slavery. Only when the dream came true could Joseph be vindicated and reveal himself." (From here.)

If I understand correctly, I think Rav Kahn expresses an important aspect of Yoseph's actions which I'd like to elaborate upon; that Yoseph realised that he had to act with the utmost sensitivity to his family. Indeed, he quotes Rav Shimshon Rephael Hirsch, who in turn writes that: "...Joseph's consideration in not sending a letter to his father in his years of success was: What would Jacob gain in getting one son back, if in the process he would lose ten?... Therefore, Joseph used all the subterfuge [necessary], and in my mind this was certainly worthy of the wisdom of Joseph." (Commentary on verse above.)

I would like to add to this by saying that not only was Yoseph concerned with his father, but that Yoseph was concerned with his brothers. Imagine standing in his shoes for a second. Before you are the brothers who, the last time you saw them, sought to have you killed. Wouldn't you be furious with them? Nevertheless, Yoseph conducts himself carefully. His immediate concern is for his family and to ensure that, at this most sensitive of times, he doesn't cause unnecessary pain. I think that we can all learn a tremendous amount from this.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom.

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