Rabbi's Message

  • December 25, 2015


    The following is a beautiful reading of the end of Sefer Bereishis, by my colleague and friend, Rav Rephael Willig shlita. Rav Willig is a Shana Bet rebbe at Yeshivat Reishit, and Mashgiach Ruchani at the Mesivta high school in Beit Shemesh. Enjoy and have a great Shabbos!

    This weekís parsha ends Sefer Bereishis with the conclusion of the saga between Yosef and his brothers. There is one piece of information which is never revealed to us in the words of the Torah - Did Yaakov ever really know what happened to Yosef? Did he ever get the real story? 

    After Yosefís death, the brothers approach Yosef apprehensively and give him a message from Yaakov that he should forgive his brothers and not take revenge against them. Yosef hears this and starts to cry and he reassures his brothers that he wonít harm them. The Gemara (Yevamos 65) states that the brothers were lying because Yaakov had not said this at all. They made it up to convince Yosef not to hurt them. From this story it emerges that Yaakov knew the whole story because they assumed Yosef must have told him and indeed, Rashi assumes this way as well.

    However, perhaps it can be explained differently. We can suggest that Yaakov never knew the story because no one ever told him. The brothers certainly didnít and it is possible that Yosef didnít either. Yosef decided to let go of his grudge and move on, and Yaakov, although he might have suspected foul play, never got the whole ugly truth. 

    With this approach in mind, we can get a new insight into the entire story and truly see how the book of Bereishis ends with a nice conclusion. When the brothers approached Yosef with this fictitious message from Yaakov, Yosef started to cry. Why was Yosef crying? On one level he cried because his brothers suspected that he would hurt them. That revealed their fear of Yosef and this made him sad. On a deeper level, Yosef cried because his brothers had suspected him of telling Yaakov the entire story of them selling him into slavery which he had not done.

    Why is it so important for us to realize that Yosef never told his father what the brothers had done? The original enmity between Yosef and his brothers started when Yosef told Yaakov about his brothersí alleged sins. Now, when the brothers really did something wrong and Yosef didnít tell, Yosef is doing teshuva for his earlier sin of lashon hara. Yosef's repentance comes through his redeeming himself when he could have lapsed into the same practice which got him into trouble in the first place.

    This perspective makes this story a fitting conclusion to the whole saga of Yosef and his brothers. These parshiyos are a depiction of teshuva, how people can improve their behavior and do the right thing. The brothers learned this lesson, Yosef learned it, and it would serve us well to internalize it and learn it as well.