Friday, December 18, 2009

Miketz - Guest Post By My Student Alex Finkelstein

In Parshat Miketz Yosef is appointed ruler of the land after he interprets Pharaohs dream. When Yosef is appointed ruler he becomes very powerful and we see the famous encounter with him and his brothers. Parshat Miketz tells the story of Yaakov’s children traveling to Mitzrayim to buy food. Yosef, at the time, is the ruler of the land and gives his own brothers a hard time. He forces them to return home and bring their brother Binyamin. When the brothers come to Yosef for food, they do not recognize him but he recognizes them. Strangely, Yosef gives his own brothers a hard time.

rrrrrrrrrWhy would Yosef give his own brothers a hard time and not give them food right when he sees them? We saw in Parshat Vayeshev that Yosef's brothers treated him awfully and eventually sold him. A simple explanation for Yosef’s behavior is that now that it’s the brothers that need a favor from Yosef, he gives them a hard time and makes them suffer for what they did to him, even accusing them of being spies.

A deeper explanation is that Yosef is trying to change his brothers and give them an opportunity to do teshuva. He is trying to change his relationship with his brothers and improve it. When Yosef sends his brothers back to Canaan to get Binyamin, it is to see if they are sincere in regard to their brother. It turns out they are sincere, as they go back and get Binyamin. Yosef’s plan works. His brothers become better people through teshuva.

The Beis Halevi comments on a puzzling medrash. Yosef asks his brothers if his father is still alive. The medrash says we learn from this pasuk how difficult it will be on the Day of Judgment; when Hashem judges us and rebukes us we will not be able to answer him. What does Yosef asking his brothers if Yaakov is still alive have to do with Hashem judging us? The answer, explains the Beis Halevi, is that Yosef wanted to remind his brothers of the horrible things they did to him. This is why he asked them, “Is my father alive?” What he was really saying was, “After all that you have done to me, all the hardships you put my father and me through, can Yaakov still be alive?!” Yosef got his brothers to realize their wrongdoings on their own. The same is true when Hashem judges us. He won’t need to say anything to us; the truth will become clear on its own. When Hashem reveals himself to on the Yom HaDin, we will realize how far we are from the truth and that is the most difficult form of rebuke.

We learn a very important lesson from this story of how Yosef related to his brothers. Yosef had a chance to even the score by taking revenge against his brothers and he chose not to. Instead Yosef helped his brothers do teshuvah and he repaired their relationship. Often we have disagreements with friends. Then we have opportunities to hurt the friends we had issues with. We need to think carefully and do the right thing. We should help our friends correct their mistakes and look to return to a good relationship with our peers.

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