Thursday, December 16, 2010

On the Trail of Blessings: Yosef's Communique

[This is part 7 1/2 of the series. Begin the Trail here.]

After revealing his identity, Yosef is eager to send word to his father. He instructs his brothers:
Hurry! Go up to my father and tell him: "Your son Yosef says, 'God [אלוהים] has installed me as the master of all of Egypt...'" (45:9)
Did Yosef really think his brothers would forget to mention that?! Why the need for this communique? Compounding the mystery, the brothers don't deliver the message accurately. They return home and say this to Yaakov:
Yosef is still alive! And he is governor [מושל] of all of Egypt. (45:26)
They switched "master" for "governor" and left God out of the message altogether. If the brothers were trying to make the news more believable, their plan failed: "[Yaakov's] heart skipped a beat, for he could not believe them" (45:26). Seeing that that didn't work, they decided to follow Yosef's orders: "They told him all the words that Yosef had spoken to them, and he saw the wagons that Yosef had sent to carry him" (45:27). That worked: "The spirit of their father Yaakov was then revived."

What happened here? What was the significance of Yosef's choice of words? And how do the wagons factor in?

There is a basic difference between a master and a governor. A governor may have wide ranging powers, but no slaves. Masters have slaves. Yosef was telling Yaakov that אלוהים had made him master of all Egypt; i.e., Egypt served him. Yosef was confident that these words would trigger a flashback.

Many years earlier, Yaakov stood before his blind father Yitzchok wearing Eisav's clothes. Yitzchok began to speak:
אלוהים will give you from the dew of the heaven and from the fat of the earth; much grain and wine. Nations will serve you...
This is Yosef's message for his father: Yitzchok's blessing for Eisav, the blessing you were forced to steal and the blessing I dreamed about - it flows through my veins! Much grain, indeed! Nations serve me! It is nothing other than the blessing of אלוהים.

Yaakov heard these words and then saw "the wagons that Yosef had sent to carry him" (45:27). Just a few verses later those very same wagons are called "the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him" (46:5) for these were royal chariots which could only leave the country by the king's order. But Yosef had sent them! Proof positive that the Nation of Egypt really did serve Yosef.

Governorship Yaakov did not recognize, but a divinely orchestrated Master of Nations - that was something he could believe. "The spirit of their father Yaakov was then revived."

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