Rabbi David Kalb, Director of Jewish Education for the Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at 92nd Street Y, continues his series of guest blogs below, with another post on the weekly Torah portion.
See Me, Feel Me - Vayigash
The Yosef (Joseph) story begins in Bereishit (Genesis) Chapter 37 and ends at the conclusion of the book of Bereishit. Yosef, the second youngest of Yaakov’s (Jacob’s) twelve sons, is hated by his ten older brothers. They hate him because their father favors Yosef and because of his dreams of becoming their leader. Eventually the dynamics between the brothers and Yosef become so negative that they throw him in a pit, after which he is sold into slavery and ends up in Egypt.
In Egypt, Yosef eventually rises from slavery to become the second most powerful person in Egypt, the Viceroy to the Pharaoh. In that capacity, he prepares Egypt to survive the impending famine he foretold. The famine reaches the land of Canaan and the brothers have to come to Yosef to get food for their family. The brothers do not know that Yosef is the Viceroy of Egypt. When they come before him they do not recognize him. He of course recognizes them.
Finally in Bereishit Chapter 45 Yosef reveals himself to his brothers. When he does this he says in line 3 “Ani Yosef, Ha’od Avi Chai”, “I am Yosef, is my father still alive?” It seems strange that this would be the first question that Yosef would ask his brothers upon revealing himself.
Yosef has been separated from his family for twenty-two years. For nine of those years he has been the Viceroy of Egypt with almost unlimited power. He had every resource in the world to contact his father and yet he made no effort to do so. Why now upon revealing his identity does he suddenly demonstrate such concern for his father in his opening line, “I am Yosef, is my father still alive?”
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Learn more in a fascinating analysis of the central text of Judaism on January 3. Check out all 92Y Jewish Studies - First Class programs and you might also be interested in An Introduction to Judaism for Adults at Derekh Torah™ classes.
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