This week’s Torah portion begins with Judah interceding on behalf of his brother Benjamin before—unbeknownst to him—his long lost brother Joseph, Viceroy of Egypt, as it says in verse 18; “Then Judah came near to him (Joseph) and said: “O my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s hearing…” In Hebrew Judah says to Joseph, “Yadaber-Na…Davar B’aznei Adoni” which literally translates as “Please let me speak…a word in the ears of my lord.” Why does Judah want to speak “a word in the ears” of Joseph? Joseph is (in Judah’s eyes) an Egyptian official “like Pharaoh” who speaks to the brothers through an interpreter, why does Judah want to speak directly to Joseph’s ears? The Chofetz Chaim once was in a similar situation when an unfavorable edict was issued against the Jewish people. It is said that before the translator even began translating the Chofetz Chaim’s words the government official whom he was petitioning said to the translator, “You do need to say anything, I sense what the Rabbi is saying and I grant his appeal.” You see, “Words that come from the heart, enter the heart.” Judah wasn’t necessarily asking Joseph to understand what he was saying, rather he was asking for Joseph to sense the anguish, pain and sincerity of his words. This situation that had been created by Joseph was in some ways much like the situation the brothers had faced 22 years earlier; what are we going to do with “dad’s favorite” son? Though years separate these two instances, the moral dilemma remains the same. Would the sons of Jacob sell off another brother because of jealousy? Joseph gives the brothers the option to get rid of Benjamin once and for all, just as they had done with him (Joseph). However, this time all the brothers band together with Judah at the forefront. The very one who had suggested selling Joseph into slavery is now the one willing to go into slavery in order to save his brother Benjamin. When Joseph sees his brothers have truly changed he can restrain himself no longer. The text says Joseph could no longer restrain himself “before all those who stood by him.” The Ramban writes in his commentary concerning this verse, “Joseph’s multitude of attendants were moved by Judah’s plea and they joined in pleading for Benjamin’s freedom. Joseph could not resist their combined pleas.” After hearing Judah’s heartfelt plea for his brother Benjamin, the Egyptian attendants themselves were moved with compassion and began earnestly beseeching Joseph to have mercy as well.
In Hebrew it says that Joseph could not contain himself anymore “l’chol hanitzavim elav—before all those who stood on him.” Now, what does it mean that Joseph’s attendants stood “on him?” Personally, I read this as, Joseph, though 2nd in command of all of Egypt was still viewed as a foreigner and outsider. Joseph wasn’t able to define/redefine Egyptian culture; rather Egyptian culture defined Joseph. The trappings, vestments and customs of Egypt were forced upon Joseph because of his position. So while Joseph dominated Egyptian affairs, Egyptian culture dominated Joseph. It says in the passage that Joseph “Yikra—Cried out” to his attendants “Hoziu kol ish—Make every man go out.” For this observation I would like to write about 2 reasons Joseph sent his attendants out of the room. The 1st reason was for Joseph to reveal that, beneath all of his Egyptian attire, he still remained a devoted God-fearer. Under all the pomp and regality, Joseph was still their Hebrew brother whom they had sold so long ago. According to the Rashi, “[Joseph] called to [his brothers] and showed them that he was circumcised.” How else would they believe this Egyptian ruler to truly be their brother? This was obviously a very private moment between brothers when Joseph showed himself to the others in order to prove to them that he was “kosher” = he was who he said he was. This is the first reason Joseph sent all of his servants out of the room. The 2nd reason we find that Joseph sent all his servants away was to preserve the dignity of his brothers. Baal HaTurim writes in his commentary that, “[Joseph] did not want to shame his brothers publicly when he would reveal himself to them, and unavoidably their part in his having been brought to Egypt in the first place would come to light.” Joseph knew that in order to reconcile with his brothers he would have to recount the entire story, from the point of his brothers selling him, all the way until the point of how he had ended up in the halls of power in Egypt. This was something he did not want the Egyptians to know about. He wanted to keep his brothers honor and dignity intact. We know that Joseph did not slander his brothers publicly because we read later in the chapter that “[a] report of it was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, ‘Joseph’s brothers have come.’ So it pleased Pharaoh and his servants well.” If Joseph had publicly exposed the sin of his brothers in selling him as a slave, why then would Pharaoh and his servants be pleased when his brothers arrive in Egypt? Joseph preserved his brothers honor. First Fruits of Zion writes a good reason as to why Joseph was quiet concerning his story, they note, “Had [Joseph] told his sad story to everyone, the Egyptians would have had cause to say, ‘If that’s how the followers of your God behave, I want nothing to do with Him or your religion.’” Joseph not only preserved the good name of his brothers, but also the name of God. This is the second reason Joseph sent all his servants out of the room. After all this we read, “So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.” Another version translates this verse as, “So there was no one else about when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace.” From this verse we understand the intensity that took place when Joseph revealed himself alone to his brothers; and when he made himself known, his weeping was so loud that the Egyptians as well as the entire house of Pharaoh heard his wail. Rashi writes in his commentary concerning the phrase “And the house of Pharaoh heard it” that “The house of Pharaoh means his servants and the members of his household. ‘House’ here does not mean an actual house (so that the words would mean ‘and one heard it in the house of Pharaoh’), but it is similar to (1 Kings 12:21) ‘the house of Israel’, or ‘the house of Judah,’ meaning the people of Judah.” What Rashi is saying is that expression “the house of Pharaoh” is equal to the entire nation of Egypt.” The Radak, another commentator wrote that the words “V’yishmu Mitzrayim—and the Egyptians heard” means that “the Egyptians who had [been sent from Joseph’s] house heard the sound of weeping, and the matter spread like a wildfire until it came to the attention of Pharaoh’s servants that Joseph was crying.” Joseph’s wail was so loud that the news of his weeping spread like a wildfire throughout the entire nation of Egypt, until everyone knew, from the lowest slave even up to the Pharaoh himself; the Savior of the known world, Joseph, had cried because he was finally reunited with his brothers. This weeping heard throughout the land of Egypt reminds me of a passage of Scripture we read of in Zechariah 12. In this passage it says, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem…And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself…the family of the house of Nathan by itself…the family of the house of Levi by itself…every family by itself, and their wives by themselves. Joseph’s brothers looked upon the one whom they had sold, then they all mourned, as it says “[Joseph] fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him.” Lastly, it was just the brothers alone, as it is written in Zechariah, every family “by itself.” First Fruits of Zion writes, This is how it will be in the day of King Messiah when He reveals Himself to His brothers and to all the world, as Scripture says, ‘Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him’ (Revelation 1:7)”
Joseph Reveals Himself To His Brothers by Phillip Medhurst
Just as Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, so too, Messiah son of Joseph will reveal himself to the world. “The house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…they will look on Me whom they pierced… in that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem… every family by itself.” The story of Joseph will play itself out once again in a greater way, when the Messiah arrives on the scene. Rabbi Hillel Shaklover, grandnephew of the Vilna Gaon, writes in his book “Kol HaTor—Voice of the Turtledove” that the verse from Psalm 126, “those who sow in tears will reap in joy” means, “the footsteps of the Messiah will be like this. Every good thing will come out of pain and distress.” Joseph reveals himself to his brothers with the words, “Ani Yosef—I am Joseph!” The Chofetz Chaim writes concerning these two words, When Joseph said ‘I am Joseph,’ God’s master plan became clear to the brothers. They had no more questions. Everything that had happened for the last twenty-two years fell into perspective. So, too, will it be in the time to come when God will reveal Himself and announce, ‘I am the LORD.’ The veil will be lifted from our eyes and we will comprehend everything that transpired throughout history.” What the Chofetz Chaim is saying reminds me of the story of Job. Job had many questions; many unresolved questions that at the end of the book were never answered. What made Job stop asking questions? Job says to God “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.” We currently live in a world of questions, puzzles, complexities and tragedy. But one day, when God arrives on the scene and says, “I Am the Lord” the questions, concerns and troubles will all melt away because we will see Him, and “when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Today our role, job and calling in the world is to “Be still and know that He is God” and to always remember that, “He who says he abides in [Yeshua] ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” What does God want from you today? Listen to the calling of God from Isaiah 42. “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” This is the role of Messiah son of Joseph, making it the mission for all those who follow in the Master’s footsteps.

Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,

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