In this week's parsha, Vayigash, we find the climax of the episode of Yosef and his
brothers the shevatim. From approximately twenty years earlier when Yosef dreamt
prophetically about his ascension over his family, to his brother's sentencing him to
death, to the sojourn in Egypt as slave, prisoner, and ultimately ruler, until now Yaakov
thought Yosef to be dead and his brothers knew nothing of his fate. When Yosef hears how
his father misses him and will suffer even more if Binyomin (the other son of Rochel) is
kept in Egypt, he is moved to dramatically reveal his true identity as Yosef.
The verse says: "Velo yachol Yosef lehisapek"-and Yosef was not able to
refrain himself. He then ordered all the Egyptians out before telling the shevatim he is
in truth their brother that they sold many years ago. The commentaries discuss what the
word "lehisapek" means. Rashi says Yosef was unable to bear that the Egyptians
would hear that his brothers are shamed when he reveals himself, so he ordered them out.
Ramban goes according to Onkelus' translation of "to strengthen". There were
many Egyptians around the palace who were filled with compassion for the captive Binyomin,
and Yosef could not strengthen himself against their opinion. The reason Yosef didn't want
the Egyptians to hear about the brothers selling him was so the Egyptians wouldn't think
of them as treacherous people (tricking their father, selling him) and not allow them to
settle in Egypt.
I heard from Horav Scheinberg shlita that Yosef was called "tzaddik" not for
his tremendous self control in resisting Potifar's wife (he was eighteen years old at that
time), but for his forbearance in removing the Egyptians before revealing himself. He was
so emotionally involved and ready to acknowledge his family after all the years and
hardships- but wait, make sure no one will suffer embarrassment. Control for the sake of a
human being's feelings is tzidkus. We may, at one time or another, need to admonish a
child, spouse, friend, but never may we embarrass them in front of others no matter how
pressing the issue is.
The Medrash Rabbah brings two opinions on Yosef's action of sending out the Egyptians.
Rav Chama bar Chanina says that Yosef was in danger of his brothers killing him in their
embarrassment over his revalation that they sold him etc. He left himself alone with them
and at their mercy because he didn't want them to be embarrassed in front of the Egyptians
and was prepared to sacrifice his life for this end. We have countless examples of people
sacrificing themselves in order not to bring another person to shame and this is an
example we should all try to emulate. The other opinion of Shmuel bar Nachman is that
Yosef knew his brothers were tzaddikim and in no way suspected that they would do him harm
when alone with him. This must be explained, however, because they had attempted murdering
him years before, so how was Yosef so sure it wouldn't happen again? Maharil Diskin
explains that Yosef knew that in his heart he bore no hatred to his brothers. And since we
say that "As in water a face reflects a face, so to with one man's heart to
another" (Proverbs 27:19) - see women's viewpoint Parshas Vayishlach- Yosef
understood that his brothers didn't hate him either.
When Yosef revealed his identity to the brothers they immediately understood all that
had happened to them. Now the reason for all the hardship they suffered at the hands of
this "Egyptian ruler" was obvious. Their questions of why Hashem is putting them
through this are answered. So too, says the Chofetz Chaim, when Hashem announces "I
am king" we will understand all the suffering the Jews have suffered. Everything will
become clear to us and we will appreciate how correct are all Hashem's actions. We must
always remember that no matter how much we are confused by the workings of this world,
that is due only to our shortsightedness. Hashem is in charge of every detail of our lives
and it is all working according to His plan.
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