Archive for December 2012

Parashat VaYechi

Parashat VaYechi

Bereishit 47:28 - 50:26

Parsha Summary

Yosef's promise to Yaakov
Yaakov's blessing of Efrayim and Menashe
Yaakov's blessing of the Twelve Tribes
Yaakov's death
Yosef's death and promise

47:28 Vayechi Yaakov be'eretz Mitzrayim shva esreh shanah vayehi yemei-Yaakov shnei chayav sheva shanim ve'arba'im ume'at shanah
Yaakov lived in the land of Mitzrayim seventeen years; and the days of Yaakov - the years of his life - where one hundred and forty-seven years.
One sees that Yaakov had troubles all his life.  First, Esav' wanted to kill him.  Then, when he fled to Padan Aram, Elifaz intercepted him and took all his possessions, leaving him virtually naked and without food.  He did not even have a pillow upon which to lay his head.  He then went to live with Lavan, where he served as a shepherd for 20 years, through the heat of the day and the frost of the night (31:40).  During these years he even went without sleep, but Lavan was totally unappreciative.  Aside from cheating him by substituting Leah for Rachel, Lavan also tricked Yaakov many other times, constantly changing the conditions of his employment.

No sooner had Yaakov returned home than Esav came with hundreds of troops to kill him.  When he was along in the field at night, Esav's guardian angle came and wrestled with him all night until dawn, striking him so hard that his hip was dislocated.  This was followed by the disaster occurring to Dinah in Shechem, after which a number of kings formed an alliance to wage war with him.  No sooner did he feel that he had survived all these troubles than he was confronted with the disappearance of Yosef.  His favorite son vanished and he did not know if he was alive or dead.  Hew as in mourning for 22 years.  During this time the heart of any one who heard him weep would tremble.  When he sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain during the famine, he had twice as much grief.  First because Shimon had been held hostage, and second because he was compelled to send Binyamin.

In all, Yaakov did not have a single pleasant day in all the years that he lived.

Now, the Torah tells us, "Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years." During these 17 years in Egypt Yaakov truly lived, happy and content.  His years before this could not be considered years of life. (Yafeh Toar, p. 515)

The Torah teaches us that G-d rewards individual for the good that he does.  Yaakov had supported Yosef for 17 years; and feeding one's minor children is considered charity. (Rashi)

This is alluded to in the Torah's statement, "Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years."  This might seem redundant, since the Torah earlier said that when Yaakov came to Egypt he was 130 years old (47:9).  Since the Torah now says that Yaakov lived to be 147 years old, why should it state that he lived in Egypt for 17 years?  The Torah thus indicates that Yaakov was supported in dignity by Yosef during these 17 years.

47:29 Vayikrevu yemei Yisrael lamut vayikra liveno le-Yosef vayomer lo im-na matzati chen be'eyneicha sim-na yadecha tachat yerechi ve'asita imadi chesed ve'emet al-na tikbereni beMitzrayim
The time approached for Yisrael to die, so he called his son, for Yosef, and said to him, "Please - if I have found favor in your eyes, please place your hand under my thigh and do kindness and truth with me - please do not bury me in Egypt.
30 Veshachavti im-avotai unesatani mi-Mitzrayim ukvartani bikevuratam vayomer anochi e'eseh chidvarecha
For I will lie down with my fathers and you shall transport me out of Egypt and bury me in their tomb."
The Torah teaches us that he main life of a tzaddik is in the next world, that their days in this world are not considered significant.  Even if a person lives a thousand years, his lifetime passes as swiftly as the shadow of a flying bird. (Alluding to Tehillim 102:12; 1Divrei HaYamim; Cf. Bereishit Rabbah)  The moment a man dies, it seems to him as if he left through one door and entered through another.  Tzaddikim are like strangers visiting a foreign land; they constantly think about their homes and their families, and cannot wait to return.

We therefore see that all the tzaddikim mentioned their death verbally. (Regarding Avraham: "I am going [to my final resting place] childless" 15:2;  Regarding Yitzchak:, Bereishit 27:4)   This is because they knew that they would not attain true perfection on a physical plane; this can only be attained in the next world. (Bereishit Rabbah)

Yaakov prayed that G-d would allow him to live longer so that he would be able to go to the Holy Land and not die in Egypt.  G-d told him that his prayer would not be granted, since the time had come for him to die. (Yafeh Toar)

The Torah uses the expression, "The time approached for Yisrael to die," because Yaakov did not live as long as his fathers.  Avraham lived to be 175 and Yitzchak lived to be 180, while Yaakov only lived for 147 years.  The above expression is only used in cases where the individual did not live as long as his fathers. (Bereishit Rabbah; Rashi)

"please do not bury me in Egypt" In asking Yosef not to bury him in Egypt, Yaakov asked for true kindness. True kindness is that done for the dead, since one cannot expect any repayment for it. (Rashi)

Yaakov asked that he not be buried in Egypt, even though he might have wanted to remain there so that his merit would protect his descendants.  This would be proper, as it is written, "A father has compassion on his children" (Tehillim 103:13).  Yaakov knew that his descendants would suffer exile in Egypt.

However, when Yaakov came from the land of Kenaan, he was concerned that the Divine Presence would abandon him for leaving the Holy Land, and his children would therefore perish among the nations.  G-d then made him a promise and said, "Do not be afraid to go to Egypt....I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up" (46:3,4).  Yaakov therefore realized that there was no need for him to be buried in Egypt. (Zohar)

47:31 Vayomer hishave'ah li vayishava lo vayishtachu Yisrael al-rosh hamitah
He replied, "Swear to me," and he swore to him; then Yisrael prostrated himself towards the head of the bed.
At first Yaakov asked Yosef to swear that he would make an effort to have him brought to his ancestral grave in Chevron, without specifying who would actually bring his body there.

"I myself will bring you," replied Yosef.  "I myself will go to Chevron."

Hearing this, Yaakov said, "Swear to me.  When you placed your hand under my thigh, it was not a strong enough oath for this promise.  This will require much more than you have promised." (Rabbi Eliahu ibn Chaim)

Yaakov then prostrated himself toward the head of the bed.  He turned toward the Divine Presence which is a the head of a sick person.  He gave thanks and praise to G-d because all his offspring were perfect, and none were unworthy.  Yaakov had been very concerned about this, since Avraham had had his Yishmael, and Yitzchak had had his Esav'.  He had been particularly concerned about Yosef, since he had been enslaved by idolaters and was a ruler in Egypt.  But as he now saw, Yosef was a good and virtuous as ever. (Rashi; Zohar, VaYishlach. Cf. Zohar, VaYechi - according to this interpretation, "bed" in this verse denotes offspring.)

One might ask why Yaakov gave these instructions to Yosef rather than his firstborn Reuven, or to Yehudah, who was the leaders of the brothers.  Yaakov realized that YOsef was the only one who would have the power to fulfill his request, since he was a ruler in Egypt.  Had he asked any of his other sons, they might not have been able to fulfill the request;  Par'oh might not have granted permission.  Yaakov was also concerned that Esav's sons might come and claim Machpelah Cave. and not allow Yaakov to be buried in it.  They would not dare to do this to Yosef, first, because he was an Egyptian ruler; and second, because Yosef was Esav's nemesis.  (Yafeh Toar, p. 517)

The oath was merely to strengthen Yosef's hand with respect to Par'oh.  If Par'oh refused to let Yosef go to Chevron, Yosef would be able to argue that he could not violate the oath that he had made to his father. (RaMBaN)

Burial in Eretz Yisrael

Burial in the Holy Land confers a great advantage for six reasons:

  1. When a person dies, the soul leaves the body.  If this occurs in Eretz Yisrael, the soul ascends directly to heaven.  The abode of souls is under G-d's כִּסֵא הַכָּבוֹד (Kissey HaKovod - Throne of Glory), and this Throne is in direct spiritual proximity to Eretz Yisrael.  The בֵּית הַמִקְדָשׁ (Beit HaMikdash - Holy Temple) on high is also in direct proximity to the place where the Temple in Yerushalayim stood on earth, and it is through this place that souls enter and leave the world.  During the first 12 months after a person's death, the soul descends to its grave every Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) to visit the corpse of the body with which it was previously associated. (Yeshayahu 66:23.  Cf. Shabbat 152b)  If the body is buried in Eretz Yisrael, the soul can descend and ascend through a direct route, without any delay. When a person dies outside Eretz Yisrael, the soul has great difficulty in ascending to the heavens.  It must go in roundabout ways and pass through all the Mekatrigin (Denouncing Powers) associated with the evil Sitra Achra (Other Side).  It is as if the soul were a person who suddenly found himself in the midst of an army of tens of thousands of armed warriors.  It must undergo much anguish until it can pass through them all. (Bachya, Lech Lecha; Zohar, Terumah; Yafeh Toar, p. 518; Chesed LeAvraham 3)  Many Jews therefore wanted to go to Eretz Yisrael to die, so that their souls would have a straight path when leaving the body, without any opposition.   One who is worthy of dying in Eretz Yisrael has great merit. (Zohar, Achrei Mot)  When a person dies in Eretz Yisrael, immediately after his death the soul goes directly to Machpelah Cave, and from there it goes to its proper place. (Zohar, Chayei Sarah)  Being buried in Eretz Yisrael is just like being buried beneath the Mizbeach (Great Altar), which was a focal point of the Temple in Yerushalayim.  It is also just like being buried under the Throne of Glory.
  2. When people die outside Eretz Yisrael, they die by the hand of a destroying angel, Samael, otherwise known as the Angel of Death.  When a person dies in Eretz Yisrael, on the other hand, he dies through the hand of Gavriel, who is a merciful angel.  The only exception to this rule were Moshe, Aharon and Miriam, who died outside the Holy Land but were not given Sama'el. (Zohar, Terumah; Chesed LeAvraham, loc. cit.)  
  3. If a person dies in Eretz Yisrael and is buried on the same day he dies, before nightfall, no unclean force has power over him. (Zohar)
  4. The agony of the grave חִבּוּט הַקֶבֶר (chibbut ha-kever - literally "beating of the grave") is even worse than death itself (some say that chibbut ha-kever is the psychological anguish of seeing the decay of one's mortal remains).  When a person dies outside Eretz Yisrael, there is no way he can escape this fate.  In Eretz Yisrael, on the other hand, if a person is buried on Friday after the fourth hour of the day (around 10 a.m.) he avoids this anguish.  This is speaking of someone who lives in Eretz Yisrael and dies on a Friday.  Then the holiness of Eretz Yisrael and the holiness of the Shabbat join to protect him.  When a person dies under such conditions, it is an indication that he does not deserve such punishment.  Providence therefore arranges that he die on the day before the Shabbat.  Obviously, if he was a sinner, these two elements of holiness would not protect him from the agony of the grave.  Rather, the very fact that he died on a Friday indicates that he is a virtuous person.  Our sages taught that there are a number of good habits that can protect a person from the agony of the grave.  These include giving charity, accepting correction, enjoying good works and taking in guests, and saying one's prayers with כַּוָנָה (kavanah - concentration), without any external thoughts.  However, it is not enough to do such things when one has the opportunity; one must make an effort to create opportunities.  He must keep them with heart and soul, and not merely as an obligation, since heartless observance cannot protect one from the agony of the grave.  A man once died on Thursday. His relatives gave instructions that he should not be buried until late Friday afternoon to avoid the agony of the grave.  This was done, but the sages said that they had done wrong.  They had violated the mitzvah, "His body shall not remain out overnight" (Devarim 21:23).  Obviously, such delay will not help the individual avoid the agony of the grave at all.
  5. When a person is buried outside Eretz Yisrael, his flesh decays and becomes maggoty.  Our sages say, "A worm in the flesh of the dead is like a needle in the flesh of the living." (Berachot 18b; Shabbat 13b, 152a.)  Since the soil of Eretz Yisrael is like lime, one's flesh does not become maggoty. (Yad Yosef:  Mevakesh HaShem)
  6. Outside the Holy Land a person dies twice.  At the time of Techiyat HaMetim (the Resurrection), the soul cannot return to the body unless it is in Eretz Yisrael.  At the time of the Resurrection, G-d will personally open the graves; it will not be done by any angel (cf. Yechezkiel 37:13).  This cannot take place outside Eretz Yisrael, since other places are considered unclean. (Bereishit Rabbah; Yafeh Toar)  Of course, this does not mean that people buried outside Eretz Yisrael will not be resurrected.  Obviously, many great tzaddikim are buried in other lands.  The meaning, however, is as follows:  There is a small bone in man, at the base of the neck, known as the לוּז (Luz). This bone does not decay in the ground.   This bone is like the yeast in a batch of dough; from it the body is reconstructed.  The soul, however, cannot be returned to the body except in Eretz Yisrael.  After the bodies are reconstructed, G-d will provide underground passages through which they can be transported to Eretz Yisrael.  Until they reach Eretz Yisrael, they will remain bodies without souls.  Only there will G-d grant them souls so that they can come to life.  This is alluded to in the verse, "[G-d] gives a soul to the people in [the land]" (Yeshayahu 42:5).  This indicates that G-d will provide a soul for the resurrected dead when they are in the Holy Land. (Ketubot 111a)  According to another opinion, the archangel Gavriel will bring the bones of the dead to Eretz Yisrael and there they will be resurrected. (Zohar, Chayei Sarah; Ketubot, loc. cit.)  Furthermore, people buried in Eretz Yisrael will be resurrected before those buried elsewhere.  Others will have to be brought to Eretz Yisrael, and their resurrection will therefore be delayed.  This is alluded to in the verse, "Your dead shall live, my corpses shall rise, [awake and sing you who live in the dust]" (Yeshayahu 26:19).  "Your dead shall live" refers to the dead buried in Eretz Yisrael, while "your corpses shall rise" refers to those buried elsewhere.  They will merely rise and have their bodies reconstructed; then they will be brought to Eretz Yisrael, where they will be given souls that will bring them back to life. (Zohar; Ketubot)  There is a tradition that people buried in Eretz Yisrael will be resurrected 40 years before the dead buried elsewhere.  If a person buried outside Eretz Yisrael has been concerned with and has supported (to the best of his ability) a relative - either male or female - who is buried in Eretz Yisrael, that relative can see to it that he is resurrected at the same time as the dead in Eretz Yisrael.  All reward is measure for measure.  This person supported his relative so that he could live in the Eretz Yisrael, which is considered the same as ransoming captives (discussed in Lech Lecha).  Such a person therefore has very great merit, and he will partake in the resurrection long before the other people buried outside Eretz Yisrael.  This shows us that someone buried in Eretz Yisrael has two advantages with regard to the Resurrection.  First, he will be brought to life before people buried elsewhere. Second, he avoids the agony of having to travel through the underground passages, which involves great anguish.  Our sages say that all these advantages are accrued only by one who lives in Eretz Yisrael for a while and is then worthy of dying there.  However, if a person dies elsewhere and is brought to Eretz Yisrael, it is not proper to bring him there for burial.  Regarding those who do this it is written, "You came and defiled My land" (Yirmeyahu 2:7).  G-d complained because people came only after they were dead, and a dead body defiles, as it is ritually unclean (BaMidbar 19:14) (Yerushalmi, Ketubot 12:3; Zohar, Terumah, Achrei Mot)  

Yaakov blesses Efrayim and Menashe
48:1 Vayehi acharei hadevarim ha'eleh vayomer le-Yosef hineh avicha choleh vayikach et-shnei vanav imo et-Menashshe ve'et-Efrayim
And it came to pass after these things that someone said to Yosef, "Behold! - your father is ill." So he took his two sons, Menashshe and Efrayim, with him.
When the royal house heard that Yaakov was sick and that he had called his sons to give them his last will and testament, they were very surprised.  Never had anyone seen anything like this before. (Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer, loc. cit.)  From the time of Adam until the time of Yaakov, people were never sick.  A person would merely sneeze, and he would immediately die, even in the middle of the street.  Yaakov finally prayed to G-d and said, "It is not right for a man to die so suddenly.  Give a person a chance to make a last will and testament for his wife and children, and to right any wrongs that he has done during his lifetime."  G-d accepted his prayer, and Yaakov was the first one to suffer a terminal illness. (Tosafot, Bava Batra 16b)  This gave Yaakov time to speak to his children and teach them.

Since sneezing was once a sign of instant death, it is a custom for those who hear a person sneeze to say to him:

"Chayim tovim" (a good life).  He should respond: "Baruch mechayeh hametim" (Blessed is He Who brings the dead to life). "Lishuatecha kiviti Hashem" (For Your help I hope HaShem).

This is to thank G-d for allowing him to avoid death.  He should then respond to the ones who blessed him:

[Due to illness, there was not time to finish this parsha.]

Parashat VaYigash

Parashat VaYigash
Bereishit 44:18 - 47:27

Parsha Summary

Yosef reveals himself to his brothers
Yaakov brings his family to Egypt
Yisrael settles in Goshen
Effects of the famine on Egypt

Dialogue Between Yehudah and Yosef

44:18 Vayigash elav Yehudah vayomer bi adoni yedaber-na avdecha davar be'oznei adoni ve'al-yichar apkha be'avdecha ki chamocha kePar'oh
Then Yehudah approached him and said, "If you please, my lord, may your servant speak a word in my master's ears and let not your anger flare up at your servant - for you are like Pharaoh.
 The dialogue between Yehudah and Yosef, leading to Yosef's revealing himself to his brothers.  It is a very beautiful story, so much so that our sages say that angels descended from heaven to listen in on the dialogue. (Tanchuma)  In this story we get the idea of the strength of Yehudah and the other brothers.

When the brothers saw that Benyamin had been caught red-handed, they all stood aside.  Yehudah was the only one ready to risk his life opposing Yosef, since it was he who had guaranteed his safety (43:9).  He threw himself down at Yosef's feet and begged him to free Benyamin. (Bereishit Rabbah)

Yehudah was prepared for three possible courses of action.  First, he would present well-reasoned defense. Taken literally, his words were a plea; he asked Yosef to have mercy and free Benyamin.  If one analyzes his statement carefully, however, he will see in it a veiled threat that Yehudah would engage Yosef in battle if he refused to release Benyamin.  Yehudah was obviously ready to kill Yosef and all his men.

If neither of these two courses of action were successful, Yehudah was ready to use his ultimate weapon - prayer.  He would pray that G-d would help them and let them find a way out of their predicament.

yedaber-na avdecha davar - may your servant speak a word

RaMBaN notes that he does not know why Yehudah spoke at such length to recount what had previously taken place between them.  Nor does Rashi's answer seem to satisfy him.  It makes mention of Yehudah's criticism of Yosef: "You act like Par'oh, you promise something and do not keep your word.  You had told us that you wanted 'to set an eye upon Binyamin.'  Is this what you call 'setting eyes upon' someone?"  Yehudah's lengthy speech was then just the development of this criticism.  RaMBaN holds, on the other hand, that Yehudah was only endeavoring to stir up pity for Binyamin by playing on Yosef's "fear of G-d" as revealed by his words (42:18) and deeds (43:23).  And so he pointed out that Binyamin's coming to Egypt was only due to Yosef's exaggerated demand and it had taken place against the will of their broke-hearted father.  Was it right to seize Binyamin and keep him as a slave just because of a trick?  "You have tried to pick a quarrel with us.  Why did you ask us all these questions (which you did not ask any of the other buyers)?  Were we asking for your daughter, or did you want our sister?"  (Rashi).  "Then spare our aged father," says Yehudah, "and enslave me instead of Binyamin, and you will have acted fairly."  Thus, pursuing his previously mentioned aim, Yehudah goes with consummate skill from sentimental arguments to scarcely concealed reproach, from appeals to Yosef's sense of justice and his piety right to veiled threats which thunder in the furious tone of his voice (Midrash).

ve'al-yichar apkha - and let not your anger flare up

From this you can conclude that he spoke to him harshly. (Rashi)  To the verbal duel being fought here between the lion (referring to Yehudah - Bereishit 49:9) and the ox (Yosef - Devarim 33:17), the Zohar applies the verse of Tehillim 48:5: "For behold the kings assembled, they came together."  It interprets it thus: "Here are the kings meeting face to face (Yehudah and Yosef were the two principal leaders among the brothers): they both enraged; the others see them and are struck with perplexity, dread seizes them, anguish takes hold of them.  They tremble with fear, continues the Zohar, that they will have to kill or be killed.  But the confrontation of the two gieants turned out for the best.  For the establishment of harmony within the family and in society is conditioned by the union of temporal power (represented by Yehudah, the father of the royal tribe) and spiritual power (represented by the righteous Yosef.

45:1 Velo-yachol Yosef lehit'apek lechol hanitzavim alav vayikra hotzi'u chol-ish me'alai velo-amad ish ito behitvada Yosef el-echav
Now Yosef could not restrain himself in the presence of all who stood before him, so he called out, "Remove everyone from before me!" Thus no one remained with him when Yosef made himself known to his brothers.
Until this moment, Yosef did not want to reveal his identity to his brothers.  He was afraid that they would kill him rather than suffer embarrassment..   Now, however, when he saw that they were planning to destroy the city, Yosef said to himself, "Better that I be killed than an entire metropolis destroyed. They are so worked up, they will not be satisfied if I give them Binyamin." (Bereishit Rabbah)

Furthermore, Yosef did not worry his brothers in order to tease them or take revenge.  His entire motive was to test them, to see if they loved him.  From their feelings towards Binymain, he would take a cue as to how they felt about himself.  Now when he saw the measures that Yehudah was willing to take to rescue Binyamin, risking his life, he realized that the brothers had good feelings toward Rachel's sons.  He therefore decided to reveal his identity at this point. (Yafeh Toar, p. 507)

Yosef announced, "Remove everyone from before me!"  There were many Egyptians present, along with Par'oh's men.  All of them were asking Yosef to have mercy on Binyamin after hearing Yehudah explain that his father was likely to die of grief if he was not released.  Even the Egyptians fell at Yosef's feet; and each one urged him in a different manner.  Yosef could not tolerate the men who were there, and he angrily ordered his servants to clear everyone out of his presence.  The only ones allowed to remain were his brothers. (RaMBaN; Bachya; Yafeh Eynayim)

Yosef also cleared the room because he did not want to embarrass his brothers. (Rashi)  He also did not want to spring the news that he was Yosef on them suddenly, since the shock could kill them.

The Talmud similarly warns that if a person has been away from home for a long time, he should not suddenly enter his house without warning.  Such sock can even kill. (Niddah 16b)

Yosef therefore began to prepare his brothes for his revelation.  He said, "You told me that Binyamin's brother is dead (44:20).  Is that certain or not?"

"Yes, your excellency, we are sure.  He is dead."

"How can you lie like that?  You sold him as a slave.  How can you know for sure that he is dead? I purchased him as a slave, and I can call him right now."

With that, Yosef began caling, "Yosef! Yosef! Yosef son of Yaakov, come here immediately!  Come and speak to your brothers!"

The brothers began looking all around to see if Yosef was coming.  When Yosef saw that they were adequately prepared he said, "What are you looking for? I'm Yosef!  Is my father still alive?" (Yafeh Toar)

45:2 Vayiten et-kolo bivechi vayishme'u Mitzrayim vayishma beit Par'oh
He cried in a loud voice. Egypt heard, and Pharaoh's household heard.
Yosef cried in such a loud voice that he could be heard all through the capital of Egypt, as well as in Par'oh's palace.

45:3 Vayomer Yosef el-echav ani Yosef ha'od avi chai velo-yachlu echav la'anot oto ki nivhalu mipanav
And Yosef said to his brothers, "I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him because they were left disconcerted before him.
The brothers were so startled they groveled at Yosef's feet.  Our sages teach us an important lesson from this incident, saying "Woe is to us on the Day of Judgment!  Woe is to us on the day of reprimanding!"  Yosef was the youngest of the brothers, and still they were too confused to answer him when he revealed his identity.  What shall we do when the King of Kings, Master of the Universe, reveals himself and demands that a person be presented before him for judgment and reckoning? (Tanchuma; Bereishit Rabbah)

G-d will call the individual and ask, "Why did you not set aside time for Torah study each day?  Why were you not careful to wear the Tallit Katan (arba kanfot) every day?  Why did you converse in synagogue, a holy place where the Divine Presence rests?  How did you dare swear by the name of G-d and HIs holy Torah?  How could you spread slander, destroy people's reputations, steal and cheat, or take someone's clothes off his back as security for a loan and torment him until he paid?"  The questioning will go on and on; including all the many sins that people usually commit without thinking.  How will a person be able to stand before G-d at such a time?

45:4 Vayomer Yosef el-echav gshu-na elay vayigashu vayomer ani Yosef achichem asher-mechartem oti Mitzrayim
Then Yosef said to his brothers, "Come close to me, if you please," and they came close. And he said, "I am Yosef your brother - it is me, whom you sold into Egypt.
5 Ve'atah al-te'atzevu ve'al-yichar be'eineichem ki-mechartem oti henah ki lemichyah shlachani Elokim lifneichem
And now, be not distressed, nor reproach yourselves for having sold me here, for it was to be a provider that G-d sent me ahead of you.
6 Ki-zeh shnatayim hara'av bekerev ha'aretz ve'od chamesh shanim asher ein-charish vekatzir
For this has been two of the hunger yers in the midst of the land, and there are yet five years in which there shall be neither plowing nor harvest.
7 Vayishlacheni Elokim lifneichem lasum lachem she'erit ba'aretz ulehachayot lachem lifleitah gedolah
Thus G-d has sent me ahead of you to insure your survival in the land and to sustain you for a momentous deliverance.
8 Ve'atah lo-atem shlachtem oti henah ki ha'Elokim vayesimeni le'av le-Par'oh ule'adon lechol-beito umoshel bechol-eretz Mitzrayim
And now: It was not you who sent me here, but G-d; He has made me father to Pharaoh, master of his entire household, and ruler throughout the entire land of Egypt.
9 Maharu va'alu el-avi va'amartem elav koh amar bincha Yosef samani Elokim le'adon lechol-Mitzrayim redah elai al-ta'amod
Hurry - go up to my father and say to him, 'So said your son Yosef: "G-d has made me master of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not delay.
10 Veyashavta ve'eretz-Goshen vehayita karov elai atah uvaneicha uvnei vaneicha vetzoncha uvekarcha vechol-asher-lach
You will reside in the land of Goshen and you will be near to me - you, your sons, your grandchildren, your flock and your cattle, and all that is yours.
11 Vechilkalti otcha sham ki-od chamesh shanim ra'av pen-tivaresh atah uveytcha vechol-asher-lach.
And I will provide for you there - for there will be five more years of famine - so you do not become destitute, you, your household, and all that is yours."'
12 Vehineh eyneychem ro'ot ve'einei achi Vinyamin ki-fi hamedaber aleichem
"Behold! Your eyes see as do the eyes of my brother Binyamin that it is my mouth that is speaking to you.
13 Vehigadetem le-avi et-kol-kvodi beMitzrayim ve'et kol-asher re'item umihartem vehoradetem et-avi henah
Therefore, tell my father of all my glory in Egypt and all that you saw; but you must hurry, and bring my father down here."
 Upon hearing Yosef's announcement, the brothers were so ashamed that they hid their faces.  They were embarrassed even to look at him.  Yosef spoke to them gently, and said, "Come close to me, if you please." (Rashi)

When the brothers came close, Yosef whispered to them, "I am Yosef your brother - it is me, whom you sold into Egypt."  He told it to them quietly, so that Binyamin would not hear.  He also promised them that he would not tell their father that they had sold him as a slave. (Tzeror HaMor)

Yosef saw that his brothers were truly contrite, and he began speaking to them gently and trying to comfort them.  He said, "Don't blame yourselves and don't be upset because you sold me here. It was really G-d who sent me here ahead of you to save people's lives (45:5).  You know of the decree that G-d made to Avraham at the Pact between Halves (15:13). (Tzedah HaDerekh)  Providence directed that I should gladly go to Shechem and place myself at your mercy.  Obviously, this was not a natural occurrence, since people do not normally wander through the fields.  This is only the second year of the famine in the land.  There will still be another five years where neither sowing or reaping will bear any fruit.  G-d sent me ahead of you to rescue you in this extraordinary manner, and to make sure that you and your children survive.  It was really G-d who sent me here, not you.  G-d has made me the king's highest advisor.  I am in charge of his whole country - ruler of all Egypt.  This should also tell you that G-d has forgiven me for my sin of slandering you.  We have a tradition that G-d forgives three people for all their sins: one who becomes a proselyte, one who marries, and one who gains high position. (Tzeror HaMor)  Tell father to come to me without delay.  He and his family will be able to settle near me in the Goshen district.  This is an undefiled area.  When Par'oh took Sarah, he gave her the Goshen district as a gift, and since then, there has been a spirit of holiness in that area because of Sarah's merit.  The corrupt influence of Egypt's guardian angel has no effect in this area.  When father comes here, I will be able to support him completely during hte five remaining years of famine (45:11). If he remains in Kenaan, I cannot send him food.  The Egyptians may think that I am selling grain on the black market, and making money without the king's permission. (RaMBaN)  With your own eyes you can see that I am Yosef (45:12).  I am circumcised just as you are, Furthermore, you can hear my mouth speaking to you. What language am I speaking, if not Lashon HaKodesh (the Holy Tongue), i.e. Hebrew, a language now spoke only by our family? (Rashi)  I realize that circumcision alone is not a positive sign that I am Yosef.  You might suspect that I am a descendant of Keturah or Yishmael, who are also circumcised.  They are also Avraham's descendants.  The fact that I speak Hebrew might not convince you either, since many rulers speak seventy languages.  As you have seen, Menashe also speaks Hebrew; he was the interpreter for us.  But you see that I am circumcised and also speak Hebrew.  Besides, I know all about your lives and families.  I can tell you in which year you sold me, as well as which month and day.  You should no longer have any question that I am Yosef and none other.  I mentioned Binyamin for a very important reason (45:12).  Since Binyamin did not take part in your act of selling me as a slave, I obviously bear no hatred toward him.  I equate you with Binyamin.  Just as I bear no hatred toward Binyamin, so I bear no grudge against you. (Rashi)  I fully realize that it was all directed by G-d." (Yafeh Toar)

45:14 Vayipol al-tzavrei Vinyamin-achiv vayevk uVinyamin bacha al-tzavarav
Then he fell upon his brother Binyamin's neck and wept; and Binyamin wept upon his neck.
Both Yosef and Binyamin wept for the future.  This was because they both knew that they had come to Egypt to fulfill G-d's decree to Avraham, made at the Pact between Halves (15:13).  They therefore were aware of all the future exiles that would befall Yisrael.

They also knew that the Holy of Holies in the Holy Temple would be built in Binyamin's portion in the Holy Land.  Binyamin was worthy of this more than all the other brothers, since he had no part in the selling of Yosef.  Since this misdeed involved Yosef himself, it would also not be fitting for the Temple to be built in Yosef's portion. (Zera Berakh, pt. 1)

Besides this, the hoy of Yosef and Binyamin was so great, that they would have died of ecstasy.  In order to temper their joy, they were shown their destruction of the Holy Temple.  Similarly, a goblet is smashed when the Seven Blessings are recited at a wedding, to make the people assembled for the wedding also experience some sadness.

It is an allusion to the Temple that the Torah says, "[Yosef] fell upon his brother Binyamin's neck and wept."  The Holy Temple is called a "neck" as it is written, "Your neck is like an ivory tower" (Shir HaShirim 7:5). As long as the Temple stood, Yisrael was prosperous and at ease, and could walk with an erect head and straight neck.  When the Temple was destroyed  Yisrael became degraded and persecuted.  The necks of Jews became bent; they can no longer raise their heads among the nations.

The Temple is also liked to the neck for another reason.  Unlike other parts of the body, if the neck is cut, a person can die.  The neck is a human being's lifeline.  The Temple is, similarly, the life channel of Yisrael.

This was particularly true because when the Temple stood, if a person sinned inadvertently, he would offer a sacrifice and be atoned.  Our sages thus taught that in the time of the Temple no one in Yerushalayim went to sleep with an unatoned sin. (BaMidbar Rabbah 21:19)  Two daily sacrifices would be offered in the Temple, one in the morning, and another in the evening (BaMidbar 28:4).  The morning sacrifice would atone for sins committed during the night, while the evening sacrifice wold atone for sins committed during the day.  People were therefore pure and cleased of sin.  Today, unfortunately, we have no such means of purifying ourselves. (Yafeh Toar)

45:16 Vehakol nishma beit Par'oh lemor ba'u achei Yosef vayitav be'einei Par'oh uve'einei avadav
The news was heard in Pharaoh's palace saying, "Yosef's brothers have come!" And it was pleasing in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants.
Until now Par'oh had assumed that Yosef was a nameless foundling who had been sold as slave.  It was a great humiliation for the Egyptians to give such authority to someone who was a stranger, a foreigner and a slave.  But now, Par'oh saw that Yosef had important borthers, who came from a great family since Avraham's fame had spread all over the civilized world.  Par'oh and his advisers were therefore very happy at the news. (RaMBaN; Sifetei Kohen)

45:17 Vayomer Par'oh el-Yosef emor el-acheicha zot asu ta'anu et-be'irchem ulchu-vo'u artzah Kenaan
Pharaoh said to Yosef, "Say to your brothers, 'Do this: Load up your animals and go directly to the land of Kenaan.
18 Ukechu et-avichem ve'et-bateichem uvo'u elai ve'etnah lachem et-tuv eretz Mitzrayim ve'ichlu et-chelev ha'aretz
Bring your father and your households and come to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you will eat the fat of the land.'
19 Ve'atah tzuveitah zot asu kchu-lachem me'eretz Mitzrayim agalot letapchem velinsheichem unsatem et-avichem uvatem
And you are commanded [to say], 'Do this: Take for yourselves from the land of Egypt wagons for your small children and for your wives; transport your father and come.
20 Ve'einechem al-tachos al-kleichem ki-tuv kol-eretz Mitzrayim lachem hu
And let your eyes not take pity on your belongings, for the best of all the land of Egypt- it is yours.'"
 Discovering that Yosef was a great-grandson of Avraham, Par'oh said to himself, "Since he comes from such a great family, he will go home with his brothers, and leave us without anyone to run the government.  We have no one who can run things as he does."  He therefore told Yosef to move his family to Egypt. (Yalkut Reuveni)

45:22 Lechulam natan la'ish chalifot smalot ule-Binyamin natan shlosh me'ot kesef vechamesh chalifot smalot
To each of them he gave changes of clothing; but to Binyamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of clothing.
 Yosef gave Binyamin this money because he had tormented him by saying, "The one in whose hand the chalice was found shall be my slave" (44:17).  According to the law, when a Jew sells his slave to a gentile, he is fined ten times the slave's value. (Gittin 44a)  The value of a slave, however is 30 Selas (Shemot 21:32).  Yosef therefore gave Binyamin precisely ten times this much, 300 Selas. (Alshikh; Cf. Bachya)

Yosef gave each one of his brotehrs a fresh suit of clothes.  He did this because they had stripped him bare when they threw him into the pit (37:23).  He therefore gave them new suits to demonstrate that he no longer bore any of them a grudge.

Binyamin's five suites were no more value than the ones that he gave his brothers.  Yosef merely gave him the five garments as a symbolic gesture, to indicate that one of Binyamin's descendants would be Mordechai (Ester 2:5), who would become a great ruler and wear the five royal garments.  It is thus written that "Mordechai went forth from the king's presence in royal apparel of blue (1) and white (2), with a great gold crown (3), and a robe of fine linen (4) and purple (5)" (Ester 8:15) (Megillah 16b; Binah LeIttim, drush 62)

47:1 Vayavo Yosef vayaged le-Par'oh vayomer avi ve'achai vetzonam uvekaram vechol-asher lahem ba'u me'eretz Kenaan vehinam be'eretz Goshen
Then Yosef came and told Pharaoh, and he said, "My father and my brothers, their flocks, their cattle, and everything they own, have arrived from the land of Kenaan and they are now in the region of Goshen."
2 Umiktzeh echav lakach chamishah anashim vayatzigem lifnei Par'oh
From the least of his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh.
Yosef took the weakest of his brothers: Gad, Naftali, Dan, Asher and Zevulun.  He did not want to present his other brothers, Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehudah and Yissachar, because they were storng and powerful, and Yosef was concerned lest Par'oh draft them into his army for battle when he saw their strength.

47:7 Vayave Yosef et-Yaakov aviv vaya'amidehu lifnei Par-oh vayevarech Yaakov et-Par'oh
Then Yosef brought Yaakov, his father, and presented him to Pharaoh, and Yaakov blessed Pharaoh.
8 Vayomer Par'oh el-Yaakov kamah yemei shnei chayeicha
Pharaoh said to Yaakov, "How many are the days of the years of your life?"
9 Vayomer Yaakov el-Par'oh yemei shney megurai shloshim ume'at shanah me'at vera'im hayu yemei shnei chayai velo hisigu et-yemei shnei chayei avotai bimei megureihem.
Yaakov answered Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my sojourns have been a hundred and thirty years. Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not reached the life spans of my forefathers in the days of their sojourns."
10 Vayevarech Yaakov et-Par'oh vayetze milifnei Par'oh
Then Yaakov blessed Pharaoh, and left Pharaoh's presence.
From Yaakov's age here, it is simple to calculate when he came to Egypt.  As we saw, Yaakov was born in 2108 (1653 b.c.e.).   Since now he was 130, this was the year 2238 (1523 b.c.e.)  This was the second year of famine following seven years of plenty.  The seven years of plenty therefore began in 2229 (1532 b.c.e.) and the years of famine began in 2236 (1525 b.c.e.)

One might wonder why Par'oh first question to Yaakov involved his age.  The Egyptians knew about Avraham and Yaakov seemed even older than Avraham.  Even in those days, the extreme longevity of the early generations no longer existed, and people's lives were no longer than they are today. (RaMBaN; Tzeror HaMor)

47:11 Vayoshev Yosef et-aviv ve'et-echav vayiten lahem achuzah be'eretz Mitzrayim bemeitav ha'aretz be'eretz Ra'meses ka'asher tzivah Par'oh
So Yosef settled his father and his brothers and he gave them a possession in the land of Egypt in the best part of the land, in the region of Ra'meses, as Pharaoh had commanded.
12 Vayechalkel Yosef et-aviv ve'et-echav ve'et kol-beit aviv lechem lefi hataf
Yosef sustained his father and his brothers and all of his father's household with food according to the children.
Yosef settled his father and brothers in Egypt, giving them property in the best part of the land, near the city of Rameses, just as Pharaoh had ordered.  He provided food for his father, his brothers and the rest of their family, making sure that there was enough for even the youngest children.

47:13 Velechem eyn bechol-ha'aretz ki-chaved hara'av me'od vatelah eretz Mitzrayim ve'eretz Kenaan mipenei hara'av
Now there was no bread in all the earth for the famine was very severe; the land of Egypt and the land of Kenaan became weary from hunger.
14 Vayelaket Yosef et-kol-hakesef hanimtza ve'eretz Mitzrayim uve'eretz Kenaan bashever asher-hem shovrim vayave Yosef et-hakesef beitah Par'oh
Yosef gathered all the money that was to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Kenaan through the provisions that they were purchasing, and Yosef brought the money into Pharaoh's palace.
All the people became exhausted because of the severe famine. (Targum Yonatan)  All the silver and gold in the civilized world was brought to Egypt to buy food.  Yosef assembled four treasuries of gold, each one containing 70 quintles of the precious metal.  One was hidden in the desert near the Red Sea, the second near the Euphrates, the third in the Persian desert, and the fourth in the Median desert. (Pesachim 119a; Yalkut Shimoni; Sefer HaYashar)  This was in addition to the 20 quintles of gold that Par'oh had given him.

It is taught that Korach found one of these treasuries, and thus became very wealthy.  The second treasury was found by Antoninus.  Both these men were famed for their wealth.  The rest has been put aside for the tzaddikim in the Messianic Age. (Pesachim 119a)

47:15 Vayitom hakesef me'eretz Mitzrayim ume'eretz Kenaan vayavo'u chol-Mitzrim el-Yosef lemor havah-lanu lechem velamah namut negdecha ki afes kasef
And when the money was exhausted from the land of Egypt and from the land of Kenaan, all the Egyptians came to Yosef, saying, "Give us bread; why should we die in your presence? - for the money is gone!"
16 Vayomer Yosef havu mikneichem ve'etnah lachem bemikneichem im-afes kasef
And Yosef said, "Bring your livestock and I will provide for you in return for your livestock if the money is gone."
17 Vayavi'u et-mikneihem el-Yosef vayiten lahem Yosef lechem basusim uvemikneh hatzon uvemikneh habakar uvachamorim vayenahalem balechem bechol-miknehem bashanah hahi
So they brought their livestock to Yosef, and Yosef gave them bread in return for the horses, for the flocks of sheep, for the herds of cattle, and for the donkeys; thus he provided them with bread for all their livestock during that year.
Yosef suspected that many of the people had money hidden, and that the were pleading poverty in order to obtain the grain for nothing.  He therefore said, "Bring your livestock and I will provide for you in return for your livestock if the money is goine."  Livestock cannot be hidden.

47:18 Vatitom hashanah hahi vayavo'u elav bashanah hashenit vayomru lo lo-nechached me'adoni ki im-tam hakesef umikneh habehemah el-adoni lo nish'ar lifnei adoni bilti im-gviyatenu ve'admatenu
And when that year ended, they came to him in the next year and said to him, "We will not withhold from my master that with the money and flocks of cattle having been exhausted to my master, nothing is left before my master but our bodies and our land.
19 Lamah namut le'eyneicha gam-anachnu gam-admatenu kneh-otanu ve'et-admatenu balachem venihyeh anachnu ve'admatenu avadim le-Par'oh veten-zera venichyeh velo namut veha'adamah lo tesham
Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Acquire us and our land for bread; and we - with our land - will become serfs to Pharaoh; and provide seed so that we may live and not die, and the land will not become desolate."
Although Yosef had said that there would still be another five years of famine, without sowing nor harvest, as soon as Yaakov came to Egypt, a blessing occurred, and people were able to begin to plant.  They therefore needed seed grain. (Rashi)

47:20 Vayiken Yosef et-kol-admat Mitzrayim le-Par'oh ki-makhru Mitzrayim ish sadehu ki-chazak alehem hara'av vatehi ha'aretz le-Par'oh
Thus Yosef acquired all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egypt sold his field because the famine had overwhelmed them; and the land became Pharaoh's.
21 Ve'et-ha'am he'evir oto le'arim miktzeh gvul-Mitzrayim ve'ad-katzehu
As for the nation, he resettled it by cities, from one end of Egypt's borders to the other.
Yosef intended, by uprooting the Egyptians, that they would not lord it over Yisrael, saying that they were foreigners and newcomers. (Targum Yonatan; Rashi)

According to one opinion, the famine lasted the full seven years in Kenaan, just as Yosef had predicted.  It ended after two years only in Egypt, because of Yaakov's merit.  When people saw that as soon as Yaakov came the Nile overflowed, they knew that it was in his merit. (RaMBaN)

47:22 Rak admat hakohanim lo kanah ki chok lakohanim me'et Par'oh ve'achlu et-chukam asher natan lahem Par'oh al-ken lo machru et-admatam
Only the land of the priests he did not buy, since the priests had a stipend from Pharaoh, and they lived off their stipend that Pharaoh had given them; therefore they did not sell their land.
Yosef did them his favor because of the good they did for him when Potifar wanted to kill him because of the slander brought against him by Potifar's wife. (Targum Yonatan)

This teaches that a person should not be in-appreciative when someone does him a good turn.  He should show gratitude and thank the other, trying to return the favor and prevent the other from suffering harm.

47:26 Vayasem otah Yosef lechok ad-hayom hazeh al-admat Mitzrayim le-Par'oh lachomesh rak admat hakohanim levadam lo hayetah le-Par'oh
So Yosef imposed it as a statute till this day regarding the land of Egypt: It was Pharaoh's for the fifth; only the priests' land alone did not become Pharaoh's.
27 Vayeshev Yisra'el be'eretz Mitzrayim be'eretz Goshen vaye'achazu vah vayifru vayirbu me'od
Thus Yisrael settled in the land of Egypt in the region of Goshen; they acquired property in it and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly.
The Benei Yisrael built themselves mansions and academies, and they acquired fields and vineyards.  Meanwhile, their population increased greatly. (Targum Yonatan)

Sources:   MeAm Lo'ez; Rashi; Bachya; Midrash; Zohar

Parashat MiKetz

Friday, December 14, 2012 · Posted in , ,

Parashat MiKetz
Bereishit 41:1 - 44:17; BaMidbar 7:30-35

[Yosef Interprets Paro's Dreams]

Yosef interprets Pharaoh's dreams
Yosef becomes the viceroy
Famine strikes
Yosef's brothers are accused as spies
Binyamin arrested

41:1 Vayehi miketz shnatayim yamim upar'oh cholem vehineh omed al-haYe'or
It happened at the end of two years to the day: Pharaoh was dreaming that behold! - he was standing over the River.
The Torah now tells us the climax of the Yosef story.  He was sold 4 times and spent 12 years in prison.  Now he was to become the viceroy of all Egypt.

קֵץ שָׂם לַחֹשֶׁךְ (He sets an end to darkness) - with these words from Sefer Iyov (28:3) the Midrash begins it comments on this chapter.  Everything, it continues, has an end, including the trials inflicted on man.  Yosef had to suffer in prison, forgotten by everyone, for 12 seemingly interminable years.  His situation must have appeared almost hopeless.  Only his belief and faith in G-d could help him bear such a cruel ordeal.  But the turning point of destiny is being readied in the silence of the absolute and it intervenes when the time comes, at the right moment for it in the Divine plan.

The Jewish calendar is set up so that the sidrah (weekly Torah portion) is always read on Chanukah, when the days start to get short and the nights longer.  This turning point in the year is accompanied by the Chanukah lights, which symbolically represent the triumph of light over darkness.  Thus we see a coincidence, which is not at all fortuitous, with the motif of the history of Yosef.

קֵץ שָׂם לַחֹשֶׁךְ (He sets an end to darkness).  The connection here, and in many other instances, between the cycle of our holidays and the Torah readings on one hand, and the yearly cycle in nature on the other, makes us aware of the profound harmony between the laws governing the destiny of the Jewish people and those establishing the Divine order of creation.  Jewry is the second Divine creation (Tehillim 102:19) and its destiny echoes that of nature:  the G-d of nature is also the G-d of history.

Par'oh was dreaming - "I will heal you with your [own] wounds," declares the prophet Yirmeyahu in the name of G-d (30:17).  Dreams were at the root of Yosef's misfortunes; and again dreams bring about his salvation.  His life thus unfolds marked by dreams.

41:2 Vehineh min-haYe'or olot sheva parot yefot mar'eh uvri'ot basar vatir'eynah ba'achu
When behold! out of the River there emerged seven cows, of beautiful appearance and robust flesh, and they were grazing in the marshland.
3 Vehineh sheva parot acherot olot achareyhen min-haYe'or ra'ot mar'eh vedakot basar vata'amodnah etzel haparot al-sfat haYe'or
Then behold! - seven other cows emerged after them out of the River - of ugly appearance and gaunt flesh; and they stood next to the cows on the bank of the River.
4 Vatochalnah haparot ra'ot hamar'eh vedakot habasar et sheva haparot yefot hamar'eh vehabri'ot vayikatz Par'oh
The cows of ugly appearance and gaunt flesh ate the seven cows of beautiful appearance and robust, and Pharaoh awoke.
5 Vayishan vayachalom shenit vehineh sheva shibolim olot bekaneh echad bri'ot vetovot
He fell asleep and dreamt a second time, and behold! seven ears of grain were sprouting on a single stalk - healthy and good.
6 Vehineh sheva shibolim dakot ushdufot kadim tzomchot achareyhen
And behold! seven ears, thin, and scorched by the east wind, were growing after them.
7 Vativlanah hashibolim hadakot et sheva hashibolim habri'ot vehamele'ot vayikatz Par'oh vehineh chalom
Then the seven thin ears swallowed up the seven healthy and full ears; Pharaoh awoke and behold! - it had been a dream.
The 7 thin ears of grain did not literally swallow the healthy ones.  This would be impossible and unrealistic.  Even in dreams, one does not see a elephant crawl through an eye of a needle.  The thin ears of grain grew up over the healthy ears, covering them completely.  They could not be seen, as if they had been swallowed up.

When the second dream was over, Par'oh remained in bed, waiting for a third dream. When he saw that he did not dream any more, he realized that both visions were a single dream.  The Torah therefore says, "It had been a dream."  Although Par'oh had seen two visions, he realized that they were both parts of a single dream.  The only thing that he did not know was its meaning. (Bachya)

41:8 Vayehi vaboker vatipa'em rucho vayishlach vayikra et-kol-chartumei Mitzrayim ve'et-kol-chachameyha vayesaper Par'oh lahem et-chalomo ve'ein poter otam le-Par'oh
And it was in the morning: His spirit was agitated, so he sent and summoned all the necromancers of Egypt and all its wise men; Pharaoh related his dream to them, but none could interpret them for Pharaoh.
Par'oh summoned all the necromancers of Egypt.  These were wizards who knew how to interpret mysterious events using human bones. (Rashi)

Par'oh became very angry at his savants and astrologers for not being able to provide a satisfactory interpretation, and he sentenced them to death.

41:14 Vayishlach Par'oh vayikra et-Yosef vayeritzuhu min-habor vayegalach vayechalef simlotav vayavo el-Par'oh
So Pharaoh sent and summoned Yosef, and they rushed him from the dungeon. He shaved and changed his clothes, and he came to Pharaoh.
"and they rushed him from the dungeon"  - When the time for freedom has come, it happens without delay, at the very moment willed by Providence.  So it was with Yosef, "a youth, poor but wise...he came forth out of prison in order to rule (Kohelet 4:14)

So it was with the Exodus from Egypt, which was made in great haste.

And so it will be for the coming of the Mashiach: "Suddenly he will enter His Temple, the Master whom you have waited for, the messenger of the covenant whom you call with your prayers... (Malachi 3:1; Sforno)

Every providential act which leads to rescuing someone miraculously from the depths of the abyss comes by surprise, at the moment when one least expects it (Sanhedrin 97a), when G-d sees "His servants with their strength spent, without support and without resources" (Devarim 32:36)

Yosef left the dungeon on Rosh HaShanah.  It was 1Tishrei, 2230 (Sept. 24, 1532 b.c.e.).  The king of Egypt in the time of Yosef was most probably Amenhotep I of the eighteenth dynasty, who ruled 1545-1525 b.c.e.  It was at the beginning of the eighteenth dynasty in 1570 b.c.e. (2191) that the Hyksos were defeated and driven out of Egypt; around the same time, Yaakov had left for Charan.  The Hyksos were "shephard kings," and were mentioned by Josephus, Contra Apion 1:14. (Rosh HaShanah, Chapter 1)

Although the Patriarchs kept the entire Torah and it is forbidden to shave or cut one's hair on Rosh HaShanah, Yosef did so out of respect for Par'oh.  If a person shows disrespect toward a king, he can be put to death.  Yosef therefore could not appear before Par'oh disheveled and unshaven.  This was no place for unnecessary strictness; since the Torah had not yet been given, it was actually permissible.

If one must dress well in the presence of a mortal king, one must certainly do so when he addresses the Divine King.  It is permissible to recite such prayers as the Shema' when one is wearing only pants, but when reciting the Amidah in the morning (Shacharit), afternoon (Minchah) and evening services (Maariv), one must be fully dressed.  When saying the Shema', one is merely praising the King.  In the Amidah, on the other hand, we are petitioning G-d, and we must show the same respect that we would if were trying to present a petition to a mortal king. (Orach Chayim 91)

When we stand in prayer, we are standing before the King of Kings, the Almighty Himself.  How can one have the audacity to ask G-d to have mercy on him and act charitably towards him when he is dressed as casually as if he were addressing his inferiors.

In a way, this is almost like idol worship since it is a sign of gross disrespect to G-d.  It shows that one has less respect for G-d than for his mortal superior.

The Torah therefore goes to the trouble to tell us that Yosef "changed his clothes" when he appeared before Par'oh.  Among other things, this teaches us that we must dress well when we worship.

Included in this is the obligation to clean one's body before worshiping.   We can learn this from Yosef.  Although it was Rosh HaShanah, he cut his hair and shaved before appearing before Par'oh.  He wanted to be clean and neat, as a sign of respect.  One should be all the more careful when appearing before G-d in worship.

41:15 Vayomer Par'oh el-Yosef chalom chalamti ufoter ein oto va'ani shamati aleicha lemor tishma chalom liftor oto
And Pharaoh said to Yosef, "I dreamt a dream, but no one can interpret it. Now I heard it said of you that you comprehend a dream to interpret it."
16 Vaya'an Yosef et-Par'oh lemor bil'adai Elokim ya'aneh et-shlom Par'oh
Yosef answered Pharaoh, saying, "That is beyond me; it is G-d Who will respond with Pharaoh's welfare."
Since Yosef was a tzaddik, he openly told Par'oh that his ability was nothing more than a gift from G-d.  He said, "I shouldn't take any credit from myself.  It is not my own power.  Only G-d can make a dream come true." (Rashi)

41:26 Sheva parot hatovot sheva shanim henah vesheva hashibolim hatovot sheva shanim henah chalom echad hu
The seven good cows are seven years, and the good ears are seven years; it is a single dream.
27 Vesheva haparot harakot vehara'ot ha'olot achareyhen sheva shanim henah vesheva hashibolim harekot shdufot hakadim yihyu sheva shney ra'av
Now, the seven emaciated and bad cows who emerged after them - they are seven years; as are the seven emaciated ears scorched by the east wind. There shall be seven years of famine.
28 Hu hadavar asher dibarti el-Par'oh asher ha'Elokim oseh her'ah et-Par'oh
It is this matter that I have spoken to Pharaoh: What G-d is about to do He has shown to Pharaoh.
29 Hineh sheva shanim ba'ot sava gadol bechol-eretz Mitzrayim
Behold! - seven years are coming - a great abundance throughout all the land of Egypt.
30 Vekamu sheva shnei ra'av achareyhen venishkach kol-hasava be'eretz Mitzrayim vechilah hara'av et-ha'aretz
Then seven years of famine will arise afer them and all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten; the famine will ravage the land.
31 Velo yivada hasava ba'aretz mipenei hara'av hahu acharei-chen ki-chaved hu me'od
And the abundance will be unknown in the land in the face of the subsequent famine - for it will be terribly severe.
32 Ve'al hishanot hachalom el-Par'oh pa'amayim ki-nachon hadavar me'im ha'Elokim umemaher ha'Elokim la'asoto
As for the repetition of the dream to Pharaoh - two times - it is because the matter stands ready before G-d, and G-d is hastening to accomplish it.
Par'oh had not told Yosef that he had had the dream in the morning, just before getting up.  This would have told Yosef that the dream would come true.  Yosef therefore had to determine the veracity and imminency of the dream from the fact that it was repeated. (Yafeh Toar, p. 484)

41:37 Vayitav hadavar be'eynei Par'oh uve'eynei kol-avadav
The matter appeared good in Pharaoh's eyes and in the eyes of all his servants.
38 Vayomer Par'oh el-avadav hanimtza kazeh ish asher ruach Elokim bo
Pharaoh said to his servants, "Could we find another like him - a man in whom is the spirit of G-d?"
The Egyptian savants never thought of interpreting Par'oh's dream in terms of years of famine and abundance.  They knew that such matters are determined on Pesach, since the world is judged with regard to grain at this time. (Rosh HaShanah 16a)  Therefore, the dream could not begin to come true until 15 Nissan (April 3, 1531 b.c.e.).  Par'oh's dream, however, occurred in Tishrei (September).  They therefore did not even consider that the dream related to crops.

Yosef, however, did not pay attention to this.  He knew that all things are judged on Rosh HaShanah, including grain, but that the decree is not announced on high until Pesach.  He therefore told Par'oh, "G-d has shown Par'oh what He is about to do" (41:25).  Although the dream took place on Tishrei, G-d was showing Par'oh what would happen six months later in Nissan, at which time the decree of famine would be announced on high. (Tosafot, Rosh HaShanah, Chapter 1)

Actually, it had been decreed that Egypt would suffer 14 years of famine.  Others say that the decree was for 28, and still others say 42 years. Yosef, however, prayed that there should not be more than seven years of famine.  The rest was reserved for the time foreseen by the prophet Yechezkel (29:9). (Tanchuma; Bereishit Rabbah)

G-d had an important reason to bring this famine.  In a way He was bringing the cure before the disease.  He had already decreed that Yisrael would be enslaved in Egypt, promising Avraham, "Afterward they will leave with great wealth" (15:14).  When Yosef arrived in Egypt, however, it was a very poor country, and the wealth that Yisrael would be able to take would be small indeed.  Providence therefore decreed that there should be a severe famine all over the world, and that everyone would have to come to Egypt to buy grain.  As a result, Egypt would become an extremely wealthy nation.  Only then would Yaakov and his sons come to Egypt, to fulfill Avraham's decree. (Zohar)

This also teaches us that whatever Benei Yisrael took from Egypt was justified.  It was none other than Yosef who was responsible for the accumlating all the wealth in Egypt.  If not for him, one of the Egyptians would have known what to do, and they would have died of starvation. (Kli Chemdah)

41:39 Vayomer Par'oh el-Yosef acharei hodia Elokim otcha et-kol-zot ein-navon vechacham kamocha
Then Pharaoh said to Yosef, "Since G-d has informed you of all this, there can be no one so discerning and wise as you.
40 Atah tihyeh al-beyti ve'al-picha yishak kol-ami rak hakise egdal mimeka
You shall be in charge of my palace and by your command shall all my people be sustained; only by the throne shall I outrank you."
Soon after Par'oh had given Yosef such authority, his astrologers sought an audience with him.  "We've investigated Yosef's background," they said.  "He was a slave, sold for twenty pieces of silver.  Now you're making him our king!  How can you possibly do such a thing?"

"I have observed him carefully," replied Par'oh.  "He has a royal bearing.  He must have been kidnapped from an aristocratic family and sold as a slave."

"But is he educated?" they asked.  "For him to be elevated to such a position, he must know all seventy languages."

G-d was watching over Yosef, and He sent the archangel Gavri'el to teach him the seventy languages.  It was too much, however, to learn in such a short time, and Yosef found himself unable to remember everything.  G-d then added the letter ה (heh) from His great name YKVK, calling him יְהוֹסֵף (Yehosef) (Sotah 36b, from the verse, "He appointed it in Yehosef for a testimony when he went forth on the land of Egypt; the speech of one that I knew not, I heard" (Tehillim 81:6) )  With the additional spiritual power, he was able to learn the seventy languages in a single night.

The next morning, Par'oh summoned Yosef for a private audience to test his knowledge.  Whatever language Par'oh spoke to him, Yosef was able to reply fluently.  After Par'oh had gone through all seventy pagan languages, Yosef began to speak to him in Hebrew, and Par'oh could not understand a word.  He virtually begged Yosef to teach him this new language, but try as he would, he could not master it.

Realizing what was happening, Par'oh got down on his knees and begged Yosef to not reveal his ignorance to anyone.  If people found out that Yosef knew a language of which Par'oh was ignorant, they would impeach Par'oh and crown Yosef in his place.  He begged Yosef to swear not to reveal this, and Yosef acquiesced. (Sotah 36b. Yosef later used this oath to enforce the one he made with his father (50:5) )

In those days, the king of Egypt would sit on a high throne that was reached by seventy steps.  If a person knew seventy languages, he could climb up to the top and speak to the king on the throne.  If not, he would be allowed to ascend one step for every language that he knew. Thus, for example, if a man knew 31 languages, he would be able to ascend to the 31st step.  Everyone would be allowed to ascend at least to the third step when addressing Par'oh.

When Yosef first appeared before Par'oh to interpret his dream, he stood on the third step, like any other commoner.  It was here that he interpreted Par'oh's dream and offered him advice.  After he was finished, he was taken back to the prison.  Par'oh then had Yosef investigated, and discovered that Yosef possessed a unique intellect, and that his equal did not exist in all the land.  Ordering him from prison, Par'oh began to converse with him.  With each language in which they conversed, Yosef ascended another step, until he was standing right next to Par'oh himself. (Sefer HaYashar.  Since Yosef was right next to Par'oh, he was "only greater by the throne" (41:40) )

41:41 Vayomer Par'oh el-Yosef re'eh natati otcha al kol-eretz Mitzrayim
Then Pharaoh said to Yosef, "See! I have placed you in charge of all the land of Egypt."
42 Vayasar Par'oh et-tabato me'al yado vayiten otah al-yad Yosef vayalbesh oto bigdei-shesh vayasem revid hazahav al-tzavaro
And Pharaoh removed his ring from his hand and put it on Yosef's hand. He then had him dressed in garments of fine linen and he placed a gold chain upon his neck.
By taking off his ring and giving it to Yosef, Par'oh invested him with the authority as viceroy over Egypt.

He also had Yosef dressed in linen robes, since linen was the cloth worn by the aristocracy. (Rashi)

Par'oh also had Yosef dressed in an outfit of pure linen to protect him from evil eye, from sorcery and from the forces of evil.  If one wears a pure white linen garment, without even a stitch of any other material, it serves as protection from such powers.

As is well known, ten measures of sorcery were given to the world, and nine of these were taken by Egypt. (Kiddushin 49b)  Par'oh therefore gave Yosef pure linen robes to protect him from black magic.  The Egyptian sorcerers and wizards were very jealous of Yosef and wanted to harm him with their magic powers.  Wearing the white linen robes, Yosef would be able to stand before them, and they would not be able to harm him at all. (Yalkut Reuveni. Cf. Imrey Shefer)

41:43 Vayarkev oto bemirkevet hamishneh asher-lo vayikre'u lefanav avrech venaton oto al kol-eretz Mitzrayim
He also had him ride in his second royal chariot and they proclaimed before him: "Avrech!" Thus, he appointed him over all the land of Egypt.
The "second royal chariot" מִרְכֶּבֶח הַמִשְׁנֶה (mirkevet hamishneh) was the chariot that usually rode alongside the king without a passenger. (Rashi; RaMBaN; Ralbag)

According to another opinion, this expression  מִרְכֶּבֶח הַמִשְׁנֶה denotes the "chariot of the viceroy."  It was a special carriage designated for the second to the king. (Targum Yonatan)

The royal criers walked in front of Yosef and announced, אַבְרֵךְ (Avrech) There are a number of opinions as to themeaning of this word.  Some say that it comes from the two words, the Hebrew אַב  (av) meaning "father" or "master," and the Aramaic רַךְ (rach) or רֵיכָא (recha) meaning a king or aristocrat.  Therefore, the announcement was, "The king's master!" This indicated that Yosef was the "master" appointed by the king. (Targum; Bava Batra 4a; Rashi.  Cf. Radak on 2Shmuel 3:39)

Others say that it comes from the Hebrew אַב  (av), and רַךְ (rach), meaning "tender."  The announcement was therefore, "The tender master!"  This indicated that although Yosef was tender in years, he was a master of all wisdom. (Targum Yonatan; Bereishit Rabbah; Rashi, Sifri, Devarim)  Yosef was merely 30 years old at the time, yet, he had been appointed viceroy of all Egypt.

According to another opinion, the word אַבְרֵךְ (Avrech), comes from the root בֶּרֶךְ (berech), meaning "knee."  The announcement was therefore, "kneel!"  As an indication that Yosef was now ruler of all Egypt, everyone had to bend his knee and kneel down before him. (Bachya; Abarbanel.  This was a supreme irony, since the brothers had asked, "shall we bow down to you?" (37:10).  Some say that avrach is the Egyptian word 'ib-r.k, meaning "attention!"  Others say that it is an Akkadian title, abarakhu, denoting the chief steward in a royal house)

Besides all the personal treasures Par'oh had given to Yosef, he had a personal bodyguard consisting of 40,600 troops.  This was in addition to the armies of Egypt, which were also under his command.

Around this time, a great was broke out between Tarshish and the Yishmaelim.  Since the Yishmaelim were outnumbered, they were bound to be defeated by Tarshish.  They sent an urgent message to Par'oh, pleading that he send them reinforcements to prevent them from being annihilated.

Par'oh sent Yosef with his army to Chavilah to come to the aid of the Yishmaelim. Yosef was vitorious, and succeeded in defeating the troops of Tarshish, taking all their spoils.  He then settled the Yishmaelim in the Chavilah area.  Yosef fought the entire battle without suffering any losses, and when he returned to Egypt, he was given a hero's welcome.

45 Vayikra Par'oh shem-Yosef Tzafenat-pa'neach vayiten-lo et-Asenat bat Poti-fera kohen On le'ishah vayetze Yosef al-eretz Mitzrayim
Pharaoh called Yosef's name Tzafenat-pa'neach and he gave him Asenat daughter of Poti-fera, Chief of On, for a wife. Thus, Yosef emerged in charge of the land of Egypt.
The name  צָפְנַת פַעְנֵחַ (Tzafenat-pa'neach) is derived from the word צָפוּן (tzafun) meaning hidden, and the two words יָפַע נָח (yafa nach), meaning "easily reveals."  The name therefore means, "He-who-easily-reveals-the-hidden." (Targum. Cf. Bereishit Rabbah; Rashi; RaMBaN. Ibn Ezra states that Tzafanat Paaneach is an Egyptian word.  In Egyptian it actually means "Lord of Life," or "God Speaks Life."  The word paaneach is pa-anch, where pa means "the," and Anch is the symbol of life)

Poti-fera (פּוֹטִי פֶרַע) is none other than Yosef's original master Potifar (פּוֹטִיפַר). He was one of the rulers of the city of On (Heliopolis). (In Egyptian, Poti-fera means "He whom Ra gave," where Ra is an Egyptian god.  On is the same as Heliopolis, a city seven miles northeast of the modern Cairo, site of the chief temple of the sun god.  The sacred name of Heliopolis was Per-Ra, literally, the "city of Ra."  It is also mentioned in 41:5046:20; Radak on Yechezkel 30:17)

Our sages teach that Asenat was the daughter of Dinah, whom Shechem son of Chamor had fathered.  Yaakov had to hide the infant outside of his house, since Dinah's brothers wanted to kill her.  He kept her hidden under a bush סְנֶה (seneh), and for that reason, she was given the name אָסְנַת (Asenat).  Praying for her safety, Yaakov hung a gold medallion around her neck, inscribed with the words: "Whoever marries this girl should know that his children will be descendants of Yaakov."

the archangel Gavri'el (and some say Micha'el) brought Asenat to Egypt to the house of Potifar. There she grew up and was raised as a stepdaughter. (Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer; Tzedah LaDerech; Bachya.  In Egyptian, Asenat means "belonging to Neit," where Neit is an Egyptian goddess.)

When Yosef was being led throughout the capital, all the Egyptians women stood on the roofs where they could see his beauty.  Each one threw him the finest gifts she could afford in an attempt to attract his attention.  Since Asenat had nothing else, she threw Yosef her medallion.  Reading it and seeing that she was a descendant of Yaakov, Yosef asked for her hand in marriage. (Bereishit Rabbah)

41:46 VeYosef ben-shloshim shanah be'omdo lifnei Par'oh melech-Mitzrayim vayetze Yosef milifnei Par'oh vaya'avor bechol eretz Mitzrayim
Now Yosef was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt; Yosef left Pharaoh's presence and he passed through the entire land of Egypt.
47 Vata'as ha'aretz besheva shnei hasava likmatzim
The earth produced during the seven years of abundance by the handfuls.
Every ear produced a handful of grain.  The farmers produced so much that grain houses were brimming to the top.

The grain that grew during those years was clean and free of any blight.  It was so clean that one could simply take a handful and grind it, without inspecting it or removing the bad grains. (Bereishit Rabbah)

41:48 Vayikbotz et-kol-ochel sheva shanim asher hayu be'eretz Mitzrayim vayiten-ochel be'arim ochel sdeh-ha'ir asher svivoteyha natan betochah
He gathered all food of the seven years that came to pass in Egypt, and he placed food in the cities; the food of the field around each city he placed within it.
49 Vayitzbor Yosef bar kechol hayam harbeh me'od ad ki-chadal lispor ki-eyn mispar
Yosef amassed grain like the sand of the sea in great abundance until he ceased counting, for there was no number.
All the food that could be kept was gathered, not just grain.  The stores also included fruit that could be dried and stored, such as figs and raisins.

Since food was overabundant, Yosef was able to buy it very cheaply.  Later, when the famine came, this same food was sold for a very high price.

In each city, Yosef stored grain from the fields around it.  These fields were under the jurisdiction of their central city.  Yosef did not want to bring all the grain to one central location in the capital, since that might cause grain to spoil.  Instead, he stored it in the city nearest the place where it was harvested.

In general, when grain is stored near where it grows, it keeps well.  When it is transported elsewhere, it is not as well preserved. (Bereishit Rabbah)

Some say that packets of soil from the fields in which the grain grew were placed in the grain vaults along with the grain itself.  These packets of soil prevented the grain from becoming wormy. (Taanit)

41:51 Vayikra Yosef et-shem habechor Menasheh ki-nashani Elokim et-kol-amali ve'et kol-beit avi
Yosef called the name of the firstborn Menasheh for, "G-d has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's household."
52 Ve'et shem hasheni kara Efrayim ki-hifrani Elokim be'eretz oni'i
And the name of the second son he called Efrayim for, "G-d has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."
Yosef named his firstborn מְנַשֶׁה (Menasheh) saying, "Now that I have risen to high position, I have forgotten נשה (nashah) all my troubles and everything that I have suffered."

It was customary for tzaddikim to name their children according to the events of their lives.  Then, whenever they mentioned the child's name, they would remember the miracles and wonders that G-d had done for them.  If the name recalls an untoward incident, it reminds them to praise G-d for letting them escape the evil and giving them tranquility. (Shemot Rabbah 40)

Yosef also called his son Menasheh because he had forgotten all the Torah (that he had learned in his "father's house.")  He was now so busy running the government that he had not time to review his studies.  The name Menasheh would remind him of his misfortune, and would prod him to study all the more when he got the opportunity. (Bereishit Rabbah, Vayeshev)

Menasheh was born in Iyar (May) and Efrayim was born in Shevat (December).  Looking at the birthdates of the twelve tribes, one sees that none of them were born during these months.  These two months were therefore reserved for Menasheh and Efrayim. (Yalkut Shemoni, Shemot)

41:56 Vehara'av hayah al kol-penei ha'aretz vayiftach Yosef et-kol-asher bahem vayishbor le-Mitzrayim vayechezak hara'av be'eretz Mitzrayim
When the famine spread over all the face of the earth, Yosef opened all the containers and sold provisions to Egypt; and the famine became severe in the land of Egypt.
57 Vechol-ha'aretz ba'u Mitzrayim lishbor el-Yosef ki-chazak hara'av bechol-ha'aretz
All the earth came to Egypt to Yosef to buy provisions, for the famine had become severe in all the earth. And all countries came to Egypt to Yosef to buy grain; because the famine was so severe in all the earth.
The famine spread and struck the wealthy with particular force. (Tanchuma; Rashi)

Yosef opened the largest storehouses, containing the best grain. (Yafeh Toar, p. 491)  As the famine began to become severe, he began selling grain to all the Egyptians.

The famine spread to the three lands boarding on Egypt: Kenaan, Arabia and Libya.  In more distant lands, however, the famine did not spread, although those lands had no surplus to sell.  It had been so decreed by Providence.

There was another miracle. The grain that people had stored privately became rotten and moldy.  Yosef announced that he was willing to buy all the spoiled grain, and the people eagerly sold it for almost nothing.  While the grain had appeared moldy and wormy when it was sold, as soon as it came into Yosef's possession, it was seen to be perfect.  This was also arranged by Providence so that Yosef would be able to sell it and thus earn untold fortunes of silver and gold. (Siftei Cohen)

42:1 Vayar Ya'akov ki yesh-shever beMitzrayim vayomer Ya'akov levanav lamah titra'u
Yaakov perceived that there were provisions in Egypt; so Yaakov said to his sons, "Why do you make yourselves conspicuous?"
2 Vayomer hineh shamati ki yesh-shever beMitzrayim redu-shamah veshivru-lanu misham venichyeh velo namut
And he said, "Behold, I have heard that there are provisions in Egypt; go down there and purchase for us from there, that we may live and not die."
Although Yaakov was not in Egypt, the Torah says that, "Yaakov perceived that there were provisions in Egypt." This indicates that Yaakov had a glimmering of a prophetic experience, and saw that in Egypt there would be a means to gain some good.  Still, he did not know that Yosef was actually alive. (Yafeh Toar, p. 491; Rashi)

There was also another purpose in Yaakov words, "go down (redu) there."  Normally, a person such as Yaakov would have been very careful not to use an expression that had an untoward meaning.  He could just as easily have said, " go (לְכוּ - lechu) to Egypt."  But the word רְדוּ (redu) has a special significance, since its numerical value is 210.  Yaakov was indicating that from the time that he emigrated to Egypt until the Exodus there would be 210 years.  G-d's promise to Avraham at the Pact between Halves would thus be fulfilled. (Yafeh Toar, p. 492; Zohar.  G-d had told Avraham that his children would be in exile for 400 years (15:13) and this 400 year period began with Yitzchak's birth.  Yitzchak wa 60 years old when Yaakov was born (25:26), and Yaakov was 130 when he came to Egypt (47:9), making a total of 190 years.  This left 210 years of exile.)

This is one of many cases where a prophet made a statement without realizing its full impact.

42:3 Vayirdu achei-Yosef asarah lishbor bar mi-Mitzrayim
So Yosef's brothers - ten of them - went down to buy grain from Egypt.
4 Ve'et-Binyamin achi Yosef lo-shalach Ya'akov et-echav ki amar pen-yikra'enu ason
But Binyamin, Yosef's brother, Yaakov did not send along with his brothers, for he said, "Lest disaster befall him."
In a time of calamity, ha-satan is out dancing, and all roads are considered dangerous.  Yaakov was therefore particularly apprehensive about sending Binyamin during the famine. (Rashi; a good reason for this is found in Zera Berach, Part 2)

Although any one of the brothers would have gone alone to buy provisions in Egypt, Yaakov sent them all.  He did not want his sons to be separated from each other.  Furthermore, food was very scarce, and if only one brother went, robbers might seize the provisions that he had bought. (RaMBaN)

Yaakov also wanted to have his ten sons together so that they would be able to worship as a congregation (with a minyan).  He particularly wanted them to pray that they would find Yosef.  The Torah therefore refers to them as "Yosef's brothers - ten of them." (Bachya)

42:5 Vayavo'u benei Yisra'el lishbor betoch haba'im ki-hayah hara'av be'eretz Kena'an
So the sons of Yisrael came to buy provisions among the arrivals, for the famine was in the land of Kenaan.
 As they traveled, Yaakov's sons concealed themselves among the others who came to Egypt.  Many people were coming because of the famine in the land of Kenaan.  They did not go together, as their father had ordered them. (Rashi)

42:6 VeYosef hu hashalit al-ha'aretz hu hamashbir lechol-am ha'aretz vayavo'u achei Yosef vayishtachavu-lo apayim artzah
Now Yosef - he was the viceroy over the land, he ws the provider to all the people of the land.
Yosef had made three regulations (Bereishit Rabbah; Yafeh Toar, p. 493):

  1. No slave could come to Egypt to buy food.  Each household would have to send one of its own members to buy food.  No agents could be sent.
  2. One man could not come with many donkeys to carry grain.  Only one donkey per man was allowed. No one was permitted to buy grain in wholesale quantities for sale elsewhere.  Egyptian grain could only be sold in Egypt and not elsewhere.  Everyone would thus have to come to Egypt for supplies. (Siftei Cohen)
  3. Before any person was allowed to purchase grain, he must register, giving his name, as well as the names of his father and paternal grandfather.
Yosef placed his son Menasheh in charge of this.  Menasheh appointed men to oversee this, and they would keep a daily record of all who came.  In the evening, the records would be brought to Yosef, who would examine them.

Yosef explained that his reason for this regulation was that people should not be able to hoard commodities. "G-d does not want one person to hoard a surplus in his house while the poor starve to death."  Therefore, whoever came was questioned as to how many people there were in his household; and he would be given a ration precisely according to his needs.

In order that people not misrepresent themselves, all these facts were recorded.  The record would state the number of people in each household, the amount required, and the amount purchased.  Since a permanent record was kept, people would be careful not to lie. (Kohelet Rabbah)

Yosef did not want to rely on a bureaucracy for such an important function, since all sorts of inequities were bound to result.  They would not function properly, and would give one person too much and another too little.  He therefore wanted to have direct control of all the proceedings.

Hearing of Yosef's reputation, Yaakov decided to send his sons to Egypt.

This was actually Yosef's intent.  He wanted his brothers to come to him without knowing his identity.  If he had not centralized all sales, his brothers would have been able to come to Egypt and buy grain without his ever finding out about it.  Even if he made rounds of all the markets, it would be quite possible that he would not recognize them.  He therefore issued a regulation that every purchaser would have to register, and that he registry would be reviewed by him personally.  There would then be no way that they would escape his detection. (Yafeh Toar, p. 493)

When Yosef's brothers came to Egypt, each entered the capital through a different gate and registered there. In the evening, when the registers were brought to Yosef, he immediately noticed the name "Reuven son of Yaakov" in one.  In another, he found "Shimon son of Yaakov." It did not take long for him to discover that ten of his brothers had come to Egypt to purchase grain.

Orders were immediately given that all the commissaries be closed, with the exception of one.  Anyone who wished to purchase grain or other supplies would have to go to that one commissary and register.  Yosef gave the manager a list of his brothers' names with orders that they be arrested on sight, and brought immediately to his palace. (Bereishit Rabbah, p. 494. This is the "nakedness of the land" that they were accused of coming to see (42:9).)

Meanwhile, the brothers made it their first point of business to try to find Yosef.  The first place they looked was in the brothel district.  They feared that since he was so unusually handsome, he might have been sold as a male prostitute.  No matter how much it would cost, they would by his freedom.  

Three days passed, and Yosef received no news about his brothers.  He summoned seventy men from his personal guard, gave them as accurate a description as he could of his brothers, and told them to search for them all over the city, and wherever they were found, to place them under arrest and bring them to him.  They were caught in the brothel district, in the middle of their inquiry.

The brothers were brought to Yosef's palace in the evening and held under guard.  They said to each other, "Maybe we have been arrested on the suspicion of smuggling.  When we see the ruler, we will be able to explain the truth to him.  If we have been framed for something else, we will have to wait until tomorrow to find out." 

Finally, they were brought to Yosef, and they prostrated themselves to him, with their faces on the ground.  In those days, it was the custom to prostrate oneself in such a manner before a king. (Rashi)

42:7 Vayar Yosef et-echav vayakirem vayitnaker aleyhem vayedaber itam kashot vayomer alehem me'ayin batem vayomeru me'eretz Kena'an lishbor-ochel
Yosef saw his brothers and he recognized them, but he acted like a stranger toward them and spoke with them harshly. He asked them, "From where do you come?" And they said, "From the land of Kenaan to buy food."
8 Vayaker Yosef et-echav vehem lo hikiruhu
Yosef recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.
 Yosef spoke to his brothers coldly, as a ruler would normally address an inferior. (RaMBaN)   The only reason that Yosef spoke so sternly and coldly to his brothers was so that they would not recognize him.  He also wanted to arrange things so that they would bring Binyamin to him.

42:9 Vayizkor Yosef et hachalomot asher chalam lahem vayomer alehem meraglim atem lir'ot et-ervat ha'aretz batem
Yosef recalled the dreams that he dreamed about them, so he said to them, "You are spies! To see the land's nakedness have you come!"
Yosef recalled his dreams (37:5-9), and saw that they were being fulfilled, since his brothers were all bowing down to him. (Rashi)

This teaches that when a person has a good dream, he must constantly keep it in mind.  If he forgets it, the dream will not come true. (Zohar)

In calling his brothers spies, Yosef used a term that in Hebrew would be translated מְרַגְלִים (meraglim).  He was not falsely accusing them, but hinting at the truth.  The Hebrew word MeRaGLYM is an acronym of the phrase "Me-imi Rachel Genavtem, Le-Midianim Yishmaelim Mekhartem" - "From my mother Rachel you stole me; to Midianim, Yishmaelim, you sold me."

To be continued...

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