Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Parshat Miektz

Why Yospeh did not Phone Home

One question that bothers many people about the whole Joseph narrative is the fact that he does not contact his father to let him know that he was alive.

We can understand why Yoseph dif not contact Yaakov in his earlier years, for first he was a slave, albeit, an important slave, in the household of Potiphar, and after that he was held in incarceration for two years. However once He was freed, he became a powerful leader: "Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I am Pharaoh, and besides you, no one may lift his hand or his foot in the entire land of Egypt'" (Bereshit 41:44).

From that point onwards, Yoseph lived for nine years before he let Yaakov know that he was still alive. Why did he not contact him sooner?

Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun suggests that Yoseph believed that his father was part of the plot to be rid of him. After all, he mocked his dream: "Will we come I, your mother, and your brothers to prostrate ourselves to you to the ground?" (ibid 37:10) and he then sent him to find his brothers when he knew that deeply disliked him. Rav Bin Num takes into account that Yoseph appreciated that in each generation one of the patriarch's sons was chosen and another was rejected (Yishmael and Esav).

So too, Yoseph named his eldest son, Menashe, because "God has caused me to forget all my toil and all my father's house" (ibid 41:51) and it was only once Yehuda said that Yaakov sorely missed him, (see 44:27-29), that Yospeh realized that his father deeply mourned him and that his analysis was incorrect. It was at that point that he revealed himself.

I would, however, like to suggest an alternative explanation.

We must remember that Yoseph was betrayed by his family and that so much time had passed. He was seventeen when he was sold into slavery and thirty when he stood before Pharaoh. Was he still the same person who left his father's home thirteen years earlier?

He now had a new name, Tsafnat Paneach, his wife was the daughter of an Egyptian priest and Menashe's name testifies that he was tying to forget his bitter past.

When his brothers stood before him, "they did not recognize him" (ibid 42:8). He was simply a different person, with a new life, totally unrecognizable from the self-centered shepherd boy that he had been thirteen years previously.

And he could have carried with on with that lifestyle, but something happened when he saw his brothers: "Yoseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed" (ibid 9).

Until this point, he had forgotten his dreams, he had forgotten his previous life. Yet, upon seeing his brothers he suddenly remembered who he was and that he had a destiny. It was suddenly the time for him to contact his father again. He just needed to find the way to do it.

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat Miketz entitled: "The Silence of God" appears at

Another Sedra Short on Parshat Miketz entitled: "Measure for Measure" appears at

A further Sedra Short on Parshat Miketz entitled "One Dream or Two?" appears at:

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