Last week’s Parasha ended with Yoseph instructing his servant to place food and money in the sacks of all his brothers apart from Benyamin. He tells the servant to hide his Silver Goblet in Benyamin’s sack instead, and then seal all the sacks.
Yoseph sends his son Menashe to chase after the brothers and say to them: "Why do you repay evil for good"? Of course the brothers deny the accusation that they stole anything, and they all willingly lower their bags to be searched. They start with the eldest and end with the youngest, and so the Goblet is found in Binyamin's sack.
The brothers are in shock and rip their garments. The Midrash explains that they now realize that they are being punished "Midah Keneged Midah" – measure for measure – because by bringing Yoseph's blood-stained coat to their father Yaakov twenty-two years earlier, they caused their father to rip his garment in grief. Now it is their own garments that they are tearing.
Menashe then brings the brothers back to Yoseph's palace to face the consequences and now all eleven brothers bow down to Yoseph and according to Tanchuma, Yoseph's dream of the eleven bowing stars is hereby fulfilled. Yehuda speaks up and says, "What can we say, how can we justify ourselves? G-d has uncovered our sin, so we are all ready to be your slaves, both we and the one in whose hand the Goblet has been found." Yoseph replies, "It would be sacrilegious for me to do this. Only the one in whose possession the Goblet was found shall be my slave and as for the rest of you, go up in peace to your father".
Now in this week’s Parasha, the story continues. Yehuda approaches Yoseph and says..."Vayigash Elav Yehudah"..."Please, my lord, let now your servant speak something into my lord's ears, and let not your wrath be kindled against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh.” Yehuda tells Yoseph the whole story in private: How they have an old father who lost one son and they cannot return without Benyamin, his youngest son, because this will bring him to his grave. So Yehuda begs Yoseph to let him stay as a slave instead of Binyamin!
After listening to Yehuda's plight, Yoseph finally makes the decision to reveal his identity. He sees that his brothers are about to make a sincere Teshuvah by not abandoning Binyamin as they abandoned Yoseph. True and sincere Teshuvah occurs when someone is in the same situation they were in when they committed a sin previously and are able to avoid falling into the same sin again.
Yoseph reveals himself and speaks the famous words to his brothers: ani Yoseph ha’od avi hai? “I am Yoseph. Is my father still alive?" What is Yoseph asking them? Didn't he just hear Yehuda saying that he can't take Binyamin away from their father Yaakov because the shock would kill him?
What Yoseph is really doing here is rebuking his brothers, as if to say, "Oh, now you're worried about my father? What about twenty two years ago, when you sold me to the Ismaelites and for all that time, you let my father believe that I was dead?” Yehuda and his brothers incriminated themselves through their anxiety about how their father would respond to the possibility of losing his youngest son.
The midrash on this Passuk comments: oy lanu yom ha’din, oy lanu yom ha’tochacha. "Woe is me for the day of judgment, Woe is me for the day of rebuke!" Similarly, in Masekhet Hagigah (4b), we are told that when Rav Eliezer came to this Passuk, he wept and said "Now if the rebuke of flesh and blood is such[that it causes so much embarrassment], how much more so will be the rebuke of Hashem!”
In other words, what will we say when Hashem will ask of us, Did you spend your days learning Torah? What will we answer? I couldn't get up so early? And then Hashem will ask us, Oh, but what about the time when you had to wake up at 5 a.m. to catch a plane for your business meeting? How were you able to wake up for that?
Or maybe the Yetzer Harah will make us say, "I'll wait until I'm older, when I'll have more time to learn," and this will stop us from learning because when we are old we will be too weak to concentrate. Let us instead make a commitment now while we're young. Once we commit ourselves to learning, we will begin to taste the sweetness of Torah, and it will become the most enjoyable experience, especially as we age and have more time to learn. Learning Torah will be great Chinuch (training) for us for our older years.
Immediately after Yoseph reveals who he is in Passuk 4, he says to his brothers: "I am Yoseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt, and now, do not be distressed and let it not trouble you that you sold me here for it was to preserve life that G-d sent me before you." The Or HaHayyim Hakadosh asks the obvious question: Why does Yoseph repeat himself and why does he add "I am Yoseph your brother whom you sold?". Does he want to make his brothers feel bad for what they did to him?
On the contrary, the Or HaHayyim continues, Yoseph did not harbor any resentment or hold a grudge towards his brothers for selling him as a slave, and even at the time he was being sold, Yoseph still loved his brothers. This is a very important lesson that Yoseph is teaching us, because in life we may feel sometimes that we have been dealt a bad hand when we are slighted or taken advantage of, but we have to know that everything that happens to us is part of Hashem's master plan.
According to the Hafetz Hayyim, just as when Yoseph revealed himself to his brothers, everything became clear to them in an instant, so too will it be in the time when Hashem will reveal himself to the world through the coming of the Mashiah! Then the blinders will be lifted from our eyes and all our questions will be answered! Not until then, will we comprehend everything that transpired throughout our history.
There's a story that took place over 150 years ago in Aleppo. An Arab walked over to one of the walls in his home, then, using a small knife, began to chip at the cement surrounding a small stone in one corner. After a few minutes’ work he pried out the stone and stuck his fingers into the hole he’d made. He pulled out a bag, opened it, and gazed in wondering satisfaction at the contents. Quickly he pulled off his turban and put the object deep within its folds. He then replaced the turban firmly on his head.
The next morning a jeweler by the name of Aharon in Aram Soba, began his day first after a slow, careful Shaharit, followed by his daily learning of Hok L’Yisrael: an in-depth study of the mishnayot, gemara, and Zohar of the day. Then a light breakfast, a long and careful Birkat Hamazon, and then Aharon was finally ready to go to work by noon.
The people of Aram Soba appreciated Aharon’s piety, and he had customers who came from long distances to deal with him. Only one person didn’t appreciate Aharon as much as she should have: his wife. “If only you would begin work earlier,” she often complained, “you would have a much bigger income.” But Aharon was adamant and he would not change his learning schedule. “It is in the merit of my Torah learning that I earn my living,” he assured her again and again.
One day, as he was sitting in his small store, he noticed an Arab standing outside peering in. “May I help you?”Aharon asked. “Let me come into your office and we will speak there,” the Arab replied. Aharon led the Arab into his office, away from the prying eyes of bystanders. He served him a cup of hot Turkish coffee and looked at him inquiringly.
Before Aharon’s shocked eyes the Arab pulled off his turban and thrust his hand inside its many wrappings. Then he pulled out a large, sparkling jewel, obviously of great worth. “How much can you give me for this?” the Arab demanded. Stifling his surprise Aharon pulled out his jeweler’s loupe and gazed carefully at the gem. Finally he spoke. “This is worth at least 50,000 lira,” he said.
“Do you want it? I have been here in the city for some time and I must sell it.” “I wish I could afford it, but it is far too expensive for me to buy. If you want, I will check with other dealers and see who is interested in purchasing such a jewel.” The Arab took the gem and carefully wrapped it back into his turban. He then told Aharon what hotel he was staying at, thanked him for his help, and said goodbye. Aharon put the strange encounter out of his mind and continued to work.
The next morning, Aharon, thankful for another day of life to serve his Creator, jumped out of bed. As always, he took time over his prayers and his studies. It was almost one o’clock before he began walking to his shop.
As he passed the hotel where the Arab was staying, Aharon noticed a small crowd of people standing nearby. “Has something happened?” he asked a passerby. “An Arab staying at the hotel had a heart attack last night and died. Apparently he’d run up quite a bill at the hotel. When the hotel owners searched his belongings they found very little money, and so they were given government permission to auction off his belongings to help pay the debt.”
As he heard these words Aharon saw the next item to be auctioned. It was a turban, a turban that he recognized well. “Ten lira,” Aharon said, in a voice that shook slightly. Aharon quickly turned back to his home. His wife was shocked to see him, but he headed her off. “Look I have something to show you,” he said. He slowly unraveled the turban, layer by layer, until he revealed the precious gem. “You see,” he told his astonished wife. “Hashem takes care of us. Just imagine: if I’d gone to work early I wouldn’t have passed the auction.”
Aharon had Emunah in Hashem and didn't skip his learning that day which led him to his good fortune. Just like Yoseph, who understood that being sold to the Ishmaelites is what led him down to Egypt as a slave which eventually through Hashem's guidance brought Yoseph to become the Viceroy of Egypt. Now we know that this was all done for the preparation that was needed for Yaakov's family to end up in Egypt as it was all part of Hashem's master plan!
May we realize that when things in our lives don't work out as we might have planned or wished, it is Hashem setting the stage for something much better for us. May we also listen to the words of our Rabbis and make a commitment today, to start learning more Torah. Also to make time to sit and learn Torah with our children and grandchildren, thereby following in the ways of our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, so that we may see the coming of the Mashiach in our days! Amen!