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אנכי אערבנו מידי תבקשנו... וחטאתי לך כל הימים

I will personally guarantee him; of my own hand you can demand him… and I will have sinned to you for all time. (43:9)

Rashi explains Yehudah’s statement: “I will have sinned to you for all time” implies that Yehudah’s sin will transcend this world and will be held against him even in Olam Habba, the World to Come. This is a powerful commitment on the part of Yehudah. He is willing to accept banishment from both worlds, should he fail to bring Binyamin back to his father. Why was it necessary for Yehudah to make such a strong promise? Yaakov Avinu would have believed him even had he not promised to relinquish his Olam Habba. Horav Reuven Karlinstein, zl, explains that by accepting…

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ויקרא יוסף את שם הבכור מנשה כי נשני אלקים את כל עמלי ואת כל בית אבי

Yosef called the name of the firstborn Menashe, for “G-d has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s household.” (41:51)

Is it possible that Yosef lauded forgetting his father’s home, the home of Yaakov Avinu, the b’chir haAvos, chosen of the Patriarchs? Certainly not. Yosef HaTzaddik would certainly not be so crass as to name his firstborn with a name that indicated the severance of his relationship with the past. Horav Yisrael Salanter, zl, explains that Yosef lauded his self-imposed amnesia concerning his brothers’ hatred toward him and their consequent selling him to the caravan of Arabs that brought him to Egypt. It was a great challenge to look to the future while ignoring the past. He wanted to remember…

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יעשה פרעה ויפקד פקדים על הרארץ וחמש את ארץ מצרים בשבע שני השבע

Let Pharaoh proceed and let him appoint overseers on the land, and he shall prepare the land of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. (41:34)

Yosef gave Pharaoh sound advice: Prepare during the seven years of abundance for a time in which food would be nothing more than a dream (or a nightmare). We do not focus on the periods of adversity when we are surrounded by plenty. We are unable to imagine what it means to be hungry while we are eating a succulent piece of meat. That is human nature. A chacham, wise person, has the vision to transcend his natural proclivity and see another time, another circumstance, when all will not be good, when every morsel of food will be considered a…

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הם יצאו את העיר לא הרחיקו ויוסף אמר לאשר על ביתו... ואמרת אלהם למה שלמתם רעה תחת טובה

They had left the city, they had not gone far, and Yosef said to the one in charge of his house… “You shall say to them, ‘Why do you repay evil for good?’” (44:4)

Of all of the messages of rebuke that Yosef could have sent to his brothers, “Why did you repay evil for good?” is the last one you would expect. The most pressing question to be asked was, “Why did you steal my cup?” Instead, Yosef seems to be delivering a mussar shmuess, ethical discourse, to his brothers, concerning their jealousy and their turning against him. The Zera Shimshon explains that Yosef was implying, “You were so jealous of me, because our father made me a multicolored coat – jealous enough to sell me as a slave! Is this what I…

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ויקח מאתם את שמעון ויאסר אותו לעיניהם

He took Shimon from them and imprisoned him before their eyes. (42:24)

Chazal (Midrash Tanchuma, 4) teach that after Yosef said that one of the group would be held hostage until Binyamin was brought to Egypt, he selected Shimon to be that family “representative.” The reason for this choice was twofold. First, it was Shimon who had initiated the process of the sale of Yosef, when he called out, “Look, that dreamer is coming!” Later, it was Shimon who threw Yosef into the pit. An alternative explanation is that Yosef was acutely aware that Shimon and Levi did not comprise a good shidduch, match. He feared that the two would conspire to…

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אבל אשמים אנחנו על אחינו אשר ראינו צרת נפשו בהתחננו אלינו ולא שמענו

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)

Twenty-two years had passed from that fateful day on which the brothers had sold Yosef as a slave. During this period, they no doubt saw their father constantly in a state of mourning over the loss of his son, lamenting over what had probably happened to him. What was worse, he did not know whether/how he had died. Yaakov Avinu could not get closure to the tragedy of his son’s disappearance. The brothers saw this daily – for twenty-one years, but they were not moved. Never once did they even question the veracity of their deed. Had they done the…

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ויקרא פרעה שם יוסף צפנת פענח ויתן לו את אסנת בת פוטיפרע כהן און לאשה ויצא יוסף על ארץ מצרים

Pharaoh called Yosef’s name Tzafnas-Paneach and he gave him Osnas bas Potiphera, chief of On, as a wife. Thus, Yosef emerged in charge of the land of Egypt. (41:45)

Pharaoh was confronted with a major policy decision. A brilliant young man stood before him, who had the ability not only to save the country, but also to fill Pharaoh’s coffers with enormous wealth. The problem was that not only was he a slave – he was also a Hebrew. This would not sit well with his pagan populace. While they thought little of their slave population – they reviled Jews! What was Pharaoh to do? How was he to concoct an extreme makeover of Yosef and transform him into an “acceptable” Egyptian? The Torah gives us the answer when…

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אתה תהיה על ביתי ועל פיך ישק כל עמי

You shall be in charge of my palace, and by your command shall all my people be sustained. (41:40)

In Parashas Shemos (1:8), the Torah writes, Vayakam melech chadash al Mitzrayim, “A new king arose over Egypt.” Chazal debate the meaning of “a new king.” Was he actually a new king? Or was he the same Pharaoh that had coroneted Yosef as a viceroy over Egypt? He suffered from “memory loss,” quickly forgetting the benefits he had accrued as a result of Yosef’s wise counsel. Horav David Povarsky, zl, asks that if he was indeed the same Pharaoh who was so impressed with Yosef, why was it that the miracles and wonders of Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen did…

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ויהי מקץ שנתים ימים

It happened at the end of two years to the day. (41:1)

So begins the salvation of Yosef HaTzaddik, which would have commenced two years earlier had Yosef not shown a deficiency in his bitachon, trust in Hashem. After all has been said and done, Yosef truly suffered as a slave and a prisoner. He spent a good portion of his formative adult life away from family, alone in a pagan, immoral world. How did he do it? How was he able to maintain his extraordinary fidelity to Hashem amidst the multitude of tzaros, troubles, that accompanied him for thirteen years. This was followed by nine more years during which he was…

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יאמר פרעה אל יוסף ראה נתתי אתך על כל ארץ מצרים

Then Pharaoh said to Yosef. “See! I have placed you in charge of all the land of Egypt.” (41:41)

Hakoras hatov, recognizing a favor and paying gratitude, is a defining middah, character trait. One who is an ingrate is not a mentch, decent human being. Nonetheless, some individuals who, although not by nature ingrates, find themselves hard-pressed to recognize that (a) they owe something to someone, (b) that they have sufficient reason to show their appreciation. In other words, they seek every excuse to justify their lack of gratitude. They owe no one for anything. We all know people who seek excuses not to show their gratitude. We observe another form of character deficiency. A person helps; he is…

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