Vayigash: Doing Away With The Trappings II
We posited that Joseph used the moment of revealing himself to teach his brothers about looking for externals for solutions. Let’s examine his strategy:
“Now Joseph could not restrain himself in the presence of all who stood before him, so he called out, ‘Remove everyone from before me!’ Thus no one remained with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He cried in a loud voice. Egypt heard, and Pharaoh’s household heard.” (Genesis 45:1-2)
Although Rashi explains that Joseph emptied the room to save his brothers from embarrassment, we have to wonder why the verse says that he “could not restrain himself,” rather than, ‘he could not reveal himself.’ If Joseph was so concerned for his brothers’ dignity, why did he cry so loud that all of Egypt “heard, and Pharaoh’s household heard?” Why does the verse describe all of Egypt hearing Joseph before Pharaoh’s household? Would not the King’s household be the first to hear?
Among the last words Joseph heard his brothers speak before they threw him into the pit were, “Then we shall see what will become of his dreams.” (37:20) They threw him in without killing him, waiting to see what would happen. They chose to “Shed no blood.” (Verse 22) They waited for something to happen and then follow along. “A caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead,” and they said, “let our hand not be upon him for he is or brother, our own flesh.” (Verse 27) They sold him; an interesting thing to do to “ a brother, our own flesh!” They waited for something outside of themselves to happen, and were therefore able to disconnect from their actions.
“Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.” (42:8) The brothers continued to look only at externals.
Joseph remembered their words at the pit. He understood they were still looking at externals, and he formulated his strategy. He would push them until they stopped looking outside of themselves to only look within.
His strategy soon began to work: “They said to one another, “Indeed we are guilty concerning our brother inasmuch as we saw his heartfelt anguish when he pleaded with us and we paid no heed.” (42:21) They took their first tentative steps to looking within, but quickly faltered, “That is why this anguish has come upon us,” from the outside.
Joseph understands their words and turns aside to weep, (Verse 23) as he does each time he notices progress.
The brothers find money in their sacks and immediately ask, “What has God done to us?” They continue to look outside of themselves. Yes, even turning to say, “It is in God’s Hands,” can be to look outside rather than inside of us!
Joseph’s goblet is found in Benjamin’s sack, “So Judah said, ‘What can we say to my lord? How can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has uncovered the sins of your servants.’” (44:16) They are victims of God’s justice.
That is, until the beginning of Vayigash, “Then Judah approached him,” (Verse 18) and took responsibility. No more externals. No more victimhood. Nothing external. The Midrash describes Judah’s “approach” as a form of prayer. Judah’s acceptance of immediate responsibility is a powerful prayer.
The moment arrived for Joseph to reveal himself, and he emptied the room.
To Be Continued…