Then Yehuda approached him and said…

Yehuda stepped forth to Yosef and pleaded with him to release Binyomin, and allow him to accompany his brothers to Eretz Yisroel.

At the end of Parshas Mikeitz, we find that when Yosef’s goblet was discovered in Binyomin’s sack, and the Shevotim were brought back to Mitzrayim. Yehuda was ready to comply with the laws of Mitzrayim. and told Yosef, “We are ready to be servants to you, all of us, and the one in whose hand the cup was found.” Yosef, however was lenient with them, and responded , “G-d forbid that I should do this; the man in whose hand the cup was found, he will be my slave, and as for you, go up in peace to your father.” (Bereishis 44:16-17) Hearing this, Yehuda objected, and stepped forward to request that Binyomin too, should be freed.

Isn’t this puzzling? Yehuda had agreed that they should all remain enslaved in Mitzrayim, but when Yosef released them all, except Binyomin, he protested?

The Shevotim knew that Hashem said to Avraham Avinu, “Your descendants will be strangers in a land which is not their own.” (Bereishis 15:13) They also knew that the time for Golus Mitzrayim was very imminent. Thus, when the goblet was discovered in Binyomin’s sack, Yehuda submitted himself and his brothers to remain enslaved in Mitzrayim, since he reasoned that Golus Mitzrayim was about to commence.

However, when Yehuda saw that Yosef freed the Shevotim, enslaving only Binyomin, he understood that this was not the beginning of the Golus, and so he objected, and asked for Binyomin to be released.

(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh)


Then Yehuda approached him and said, if you please my lord….for you are like Pharaoh.

Rashi brings various explanations of the words “You are just like Pharaoh.”One of them is, “Just like Pharaoh decrees and doesn’t fulfill, so do you decree and not fulfill.” This interpretation is difficult to understand. Yehuda was standing before Yosef, beseeching him to free Binyomin, despite the punishment coming to him for being accused of stealing the goblet. How did Yehuda dare allow himself to speak to Yosef in such a degrading manner; that he doesn›t fulfill his decrees?The sefer Pnei Mayvin portrays a totally different dimension to Rashi’s words.

The sefer Pnei Mayvin portrays a totally different dimension to Rashi’s words.

In earlier times, when each country was ruled by a monarchy in which the king set the laws of the land, there were two ways to judge a person who violated the laws. Routinely, if a person breached a law, i.e., he was found stealing from another person while doing business, he would be judged to the strict extent of the law, and punished accordingly. Some cases, however, were judged differently. If, for example, a miserable, starving pauper was caught stealing some coins, his case would not be dealt with by the ordinary judges, who would punish him to the full extreme. He would present his case to the king himself, who with his wisdom and understanding would determine how much this pauper could tolerate, and to what extent he should be punished. Since the king himself had set the laws stating which punishment should be meted out to one who steals, he could also take the liberty of altering the punishment, as he understands, and no one could oppose him.

Thus we can explain the words of Rashi. Yehuda told Yosef, “You are the same as Pharoah. Just like Pharaoh could set decrees and then not fulfill them; he can overlook them as he sees fit, you too, can decree and not fulfill. You can disregard the law, and no one will oppose you, and so we beg you to release Binyomin, despite of the law which dictates that he must be enslaved.

And Yosef said to his brothers, I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?

We may wonder; Yosef had already asked his brothers twice about the welfare of their father. Why did he ask again, right after he revealed his identity to his brothers?

Yosef had carried many lengthy conversations with his brothers, and he had dined with them at one table, yet they hadn’t recognized him, and it hadn’t dawned upon them that this is their long-lost brother. All of a sudden, Yosef identified himself, saying, “I am Yosef.” The Shevotim were shocked into silence, and couldn’t believe their ears. When Yosef saw this, he sought to prove to them that he is actually Yosef, thereby he followed his revelation immediately by saying, “Does my father yet live?- Whenever you came I only asked about your father Yaakov. Why did I never ask if your mother is still living? This proves to you that I am Yosef, the son of Rachel, who is no longer among the living, and therefore I inquired only about my father.”

(Imrei Yehuda)

And he sent of his brothers, and they went. He said to them: “Do not become agitated on the way…

Rashi: “Al Tirgezu Badorech”— Yosef cautioned the Shevotim not to become involved in halachic discussion lest the road become “angry” at you. learn on the way, a figurative expression, meaning: lest you become so engrossed, that you lose your way, and he wanted them to reach his father Yaakov as quickly as possible, to inform him of the news that he is still alive.

The words in the posuk seem to be incongruent. First it says that Yosef sent his brothers, and they went, and afterwards it says that he warned them not to learn on the way. How could he have spoken to them after they had already departed?

Also the word “Vayeileichu” is superfluous, since the next verse says that the Shevotim went out of Mitzrayim?

The Gemara (Soteh 46) relates: When a person sets out on a journey, and people of his city accompany him part of the way, it serves as a protection for him from the dangers on the road. The Gemara goes on to say, that if a traveler has no one to escort him, he should learn Torah, and the Torah will accompany him and protect him.

In the Midrash (Yalkut; Bereishis) we learn that the word “Vayeshalach”can also be interpreted as “escorted”. We can thus explain the sequence in the posuk. “Vayeshalach Es Echov”—Yosef Hatzaddik escorted his brothers, “Vayeileichu”—And they went together part of the way. Afterwards, before he parted from them, Yosef told them, “Al Tirgezu Baderech—Now you don’t have to learn on the way for protection, since by my accompanying will shield you from the dangers that may come upon. So hurry home and inform my father that I am still living.” When Yosef concluded and bade them farewell, “Vaya’alu MiMitzrayim”— Then the Shevotim continued on their journey up from Mitzrayim.

(Ma’aseh Rokeach)