Parshas Vayigash - Family Values
by Rabbi Dovid Green
This week's parsha is the dramatic climax of the story of Yoseif and his
brothers. First, they sell him as a slave to Egypt. Afterwards, Yoseif
achieves phenomenal success in his position, only to end up in prison for 12
years, accused of a crime he didn't commit. Then again he goes from the
despair of prison to become Prime Minister of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.
Now Yoseif's brothers are standing before him, and they don't even know he
is Yoseif. They reluctantly brought Binyomin as he requested, and now
Binyomin is accused of stealing Yoseif's silver cup, and the punishment is
that he must remain in Egypt as his slave.
Yehudah committed himself to bring Binyomin back to his father Yaakov, and
as a result, he enters into a dialogue with Yoseif with the goal of
convincing Yoseif to take him in exchange for Binyomin.
At the end of Yehudah's request, Yoseif is moved. He can no longer conceal
his identity. He sends everyone else out, and only he and his brothers
remain. "I am Yoseif, is my father still alive?" "And his brothers could not
answer him, because they were devastated before him."
The Talmud in Tractate Chagiga (4b) states as follows. "When Rabbi Elazar
came to this passage he cried...'if the rebuke of people is such (that
Yoseif's brothers were so devastated by his rebuke), the rebuke of G-d, how
much more so'."
Rabbi Avraham Pam, the Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaas, asks, what was Yoseif's
rebuke to his brothers? Didn't he just say "I am Yoseif"? Rav Pam quotes the
Maharsha's answer that the brothers were devastated by the thought of what
they expected to come next, namely his rebuke for what they did to him. They
were embarrassed that they could not bear his rebuke.
Rav Pam also quotes the Bais HaLevi who answers that Yoseif's subsequent
words were his rebuke. "Is my father still alive?" That is to say: is it
possible that after all of the pain you caused my father by selling me to
Egypt, that he is still alive?
Rav Pam offers his own explanation of what Yoseif's rebuke was. "I am
Yoseif." I'm the Yoseif that you hated and denigrated. You didn't consider
who I really might be. You didn't think that my dreams would be completely
fulfilled. You never imagined that I would end up being the Prime Minister
of Egypt! In your wildest dreams you never thought that I would be G-d's
messenger to save the entire land with food during these years of famine!!
Can you imagine that you sold such a person as a slave, with such a mission
Rav Pam quotes the Talmud (Tractate Bava Basra 10b) which states that
Yoseif, son of Rabbi Yehoshua, saw the next world, and said "I saw a reverse
world, the higher-ups were low, and the low were high." It means that the
things we place value on in this world are the opposite of what has true
value according to the view in the world of truth.
Rav Pam concludes that the lesson to us is that in our view of others, and
in our view of ourselves, we need to understand that we often attribute much
less worth than what is truly there. We often treat others with much less
respect than what is due them. Imagine how we will feel when we see how
special these people really are!
When we stop to think about Rav Pam's insightful words, and consider who we
most need to apply them to, many will agree that it is to those we are
closest to. We should take to heart that our family members; our parents,
our spouses, our siblings, and our children often bear the brunt of an
under-evaluation of their true worth. Let us take these words to heart. In
the future when we will see their true worth in terms of the bigger picture,
we will be glad we made our efforts to treat them as they truly deserve.
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.