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ויאמר אליהם מרגלים אתם לראות את ערות הארץ באתם

You are spies! To see the land’s nakedness you have come. (42:9)

Why did Yosef choose to accuse them of spying, rather than any other trumped-up charge? Ten men appearing and dressed in a like-manner all arriving in Egypt at exactly the same time do not quite present the modus operandi of spies. A spy attempts to blend into the community. He certainly does not call attention to himself. When ten men who have similar appearances and manner of dress enter a country from different points of entry, they are declaring, “Look at me!” This is certainly not the handiwork of spies who live by stealth. The brothers were certainly not acting…

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ויכר יוסף את אחיו והם לא הכירוהו

Yosef recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. (42:8)

Horav Tzvi Hirsch Ferber, zl, explains this pasuk practically. Yosef always viewed his brothers through the lens of filial love – as brothers. Indeed, whenever the Torah mentions Yosef’s relationship toward his brothers, it always uses the word ach, brother: Es achai anochi mevakeish, “I am searching for my brothers” (Bereishis 37:16); Va’yehi kaasher ba Yosef el echav, “And it was when Yosef came to his brothers” (Ibid. 37:23); Va’yeilech Yosef achar echav, “And Yosef went after his brothers” (Ibid. 37:17). Yosef never once lost his relationship with his brothers, but – v’heim lo hikiruhu, “They (however) did not recognize…

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רק הכסא אגדל ממך

Only by the throne shall I outrank you. (41:40)

Was Pharaoh protecting his throne, or was he underscoring the elevated position that he was giving to Yosef? In his commentary to the Torah, the Shach (cited in Kerem HaTzvi) employs an anecdote to explain Pharaoh’s demand that he maintain a higher status than Yosef. Without doubt, Pharaoh was not about to relinquish his monarchy to Yosef. Pharaoh added a caveat to his contingency concerning Yosef’s appointment. A distinguished gaon, Torah giant, was as humble as he was erudite. He did everything possible to conceal his saintly character and scholarship. He was required to travel to a large Jewish community,…

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ויאמר פרעה אל יוסף... אין נבון וחכם כמוך אתה תהיה על ביתי ועל פיך ישק כל עמי

Pharaoh said to Yosef… “There can be no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and by your command shall all my people be sustained.” (41:39,40)

In Shemos 1:8, the Torah records, “A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Yosef.” The Talmud (Sotah 11a) contains a debate between Rav and Shmuel concerning the “new” Pharaoh: Was he truly a new monarch who had now ascended to the throne? Or was he the same Pharaoh of Yosef’s time who conveniently forgot who it was that had benefited Egypt in their time of national need? If, indeed, it was the same Pharaoh whose benevolence to Yosef now donned a cloak of despotism concerning the Jews, how is it that he was not impacted by the…

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ויהי מקץ שנתים ימים

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

Chazal (Midrash Rabbah 89:3) quote a pasuk in Sefer Tehillim (40:5) which they feel relates to Yosef’s still being incarcerated two years after the release of the chamberlain: Ashrei ha’gever asher sam Hashem mivtacho;“Praiseworthy is the man who has made Hashem his trust.” This alludes to Yosef, who as a result of asking the chamberlain twice to remember him, had two years added to his imprisonment.” Chazal’s statement begs elucidation. It begins by intimating that Yosef was the exemplar of bitachon, trust, in the Almighty, then concludes that Yosef was punished precisely for relying on the chamberlain. Not only was…

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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)

People hardly want to accept the blame for their failings in life, for missed opportunities, misadventures and bad decisions. It is so much more convenient to lay the blame at someone else’s doorstep. It is our parents, spouse, children, principal, friends, teacher, doctor, etc. everyone but ourselves. Veritably, no one can prevent an individual from achieving his goal, other than himself. It is easier, however, to rationalize and find an excuse than to take responsibility. The one who blames others is himself a loser. Successful people take their obligations seriously and accept responsibility for their failures. Then they dig in…

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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)

After years of overcoming challenges and adversity, pain and enslavement, Yosef is freed and overnight catapulted to undreamed of leadership, luxury and dignity. He marries and is blessed with his firstborn son whom he names Menashe. He chooses this name because of its relationship with nashoh, forget. Thus, Yosef declares: “This name (which implies forgetting) is my declaration of gratitude to Hashem for allowing me to be able to forget my hardship and my father’s household (which was, for Yosef, the beginning of his hardship). A cursory reading of the name and its implications leaves the reader perplexed. Is this…

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וקמו שבע שני רעב ואחריהן ונשכח כל השבע בארץ מצרים

The seven years of famine will arise after them, and all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten. (41:30)

When Yosef described the sorry state of affairs during the years of hunger, he said that the hunger would be so devastating that no one would be able to recollect the previous wonderful years of abundance. This was represented by the seven lean cows swallowing up the seven healthy cows in such a manner that the presence of the seven healthy cows would not even be a memory. They would be gone, disappeared, as if they had never existed. Ramban suggests that Yosef was alluding to Pharaoh that the years of famine would be no ordinary famine, where one can…

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ויריצוהו מן הבור

And they rushed him from the dungeon. (41:14)

Yosef is imprisoned in an Egyptian dungeon – with no realistic hope of being released. He needs Hashem to provide him with a miracle. Suddenly the door is opened, guards enter and lift him off the floor. The people quickly give him a haircut and a new set of clothes. He does not have a moment to comprehend what is occurring. Before he realizes what is happening, he is presented to Pharaoh. Yosef had no preparation whatsoever for that moment in which Pharaoh said to him, “I hear that you are good at interpreting dreams. I want you to listen…

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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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