Monday, January 9, 2017

On the Trail of Blessings: What Did Yosef Want?

I had a short and sweet insight just this morning and Jeff Rohatiner encouraged me to share it on the blog. Torah has a life of its own and the little insight has grown into part 7.25 of the Trail Series

Yosef was unable to control his emotions... "I am Yosef! Is my father still alive?" (45:1,3)
Apparently, Yosef was not finished with his brothers. His plan was as yet incomplete, but he was unable to follow through. Compassion for his brothers forced him to reveal his identity prematurely.

What more did Yosef want to do? What was his plan? According to some (Hakesav V'HaKabala; Meshech Chochma) Yosef wanted his father Yaakov to come down to Egypt and bow before him in fulfillment of his second dream. Whatever Yosef's intentions were, it is clear that he miscalculated. He was too weak to bring his plan to fruition.

Strange. Why would Yosef make a plan that he could not carry out? The answer is that Yosef failed to account for something. When Yaakov sent the brothers back to Egypt, he gave them a blessing.
Yaakov their father said to them, ... "The Almighty God - אל שדי - should grant you compassion before that man." (43:14)
Yosef was strong, but he could not withstand the blessing of Yaakov. A divine wave of compassion forced Yosef to abandon his plan and reveal his identity. 

A Father's Blessing

On second thought, Yosef was a very wise man and he should have anticipated this. Yaakov's blessing was not an oversight. On the contrary, it was exactly what Yosef wanted. 

Hashem granted Avrohom the power to bless (12:2) and the power to curse (12:3). Yosef knew that his father Yaakov inherited these powers, and Yosef also knew that blessings and curses function well even when the recipient is unknown. Yitzchok unknowingly blessed Yaakov and Yaakov unknowingly cursed Rachel. Nonetheless, ignorance did not mitigate the effect of their words.

Yosef wanted a Beracha from his father, a Beracha that God should grant him compassion for his brothers. As a teenager, Yosef would speak Lashon HaRa about them, but as a mature adult, he would do no such thing. Unwilling to tell his father that the brothers sold him into slavery, the only way Yosef could get the Beracha he so desperately needed was to orchestrate a ruse. And it worked! Yaakov asks God to grant "that man" compassion and we watch as Yosef's heart melts

A Blessing and a Curse

Blessings and curses play yet another role in our story. When Yosef first set his eyes on Binyomin, he blesses him. אלוהים יחנך בני - "May God have pity on you, my son" (43:29). That's a surprising thing to say. Why would Binyomin need divine pity?

Yosef was planning ahead. He intended to frame his brothers and he correctly predicted their reaction. When accused of stealing Yosef's goblet, the brothers say, "He among your servants with whom it is found should die!" (44:9). The brothers unwittingly curse Binyomin and this is why Yosef preemptively blessed Binyomin with divine pity. 

Now we have a faceoff. It's the brother's curse against Yosef's blessing. Who wins? Yosef! Unlike Rachel who was killed by Yaakov's curse, Binyomin survives his brother's curse and does not die. What Yosef is demonstrating is that the family legacy, the power to bless and the power to curse, belongs not to the brothers, but to him! Yosef is the inheritor of the legacy of Avroham, Yitzchok and Yaakov! 

This is exactly what the brothers were afraid of. As they understood it, Yosef's dreams foretold that he would seize the family blessings and rule over them. That is why they hated him and now Yosef shows them that they were right. Yosef could seize power, but he doesn't. Instead, Yosef shares the destiny of the nation with all of his eleven brothers. 

In the end, the brothers were right about the dreams, but wrong about Yosef.

[Continue the series with part 7.5 by clicking here.]

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