Parashas Vayiggash

This week’s parashah begins with the showdown between Yosef, as Viceroy of Egypt, and his brothers, and follows with Yosef’s disclosing his identity to them. The Torah relates (Bereishis 45:3-4): “And Yosef said to his brothers, ‘I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him because they were taken aback before him.” The Midrash remarks (Bereishis Rabbah 93:10):
Woe to us over the day of judgment! Woe to us over the day of rebuke! Bilaam, who was the wisest of the gentiles, could not stand up to the rebuke of his donkey. … Yosef was the the least among the sons of Yaakov [involved in the debate], yet the others could not stand up to his rebuke. … All the more so when the Holy One Blessed Be He rebukes each and every person according to his nature, as it is written (Tehillim 50:21): “I shall judge you before your eyes and rebuke you.”
The Maggid explains this Midrash as follows. Everyone does what he thinks is right; as Shlomo HaMelech say (Mishlei 21:2): “All a man’s ways are proper in his eyes.” The problem is that the evil inclination tricks a person into thinking that a bad course of action is good. In effect, the evil inclination casts a person under a spell of delusion; as the Gemara in Sotah 3a says, a person sins only when a spirit of madness comes upon him. When he regains his senses, he regrets what he did. Rebuke blows away the smokescreen created by the evil inclination. Sometimes this effect is due mainly to the logic of the rebuke. On other occasions, it is due mainly to the identity of the one delivering it.
The Maggid gives a parable about a person who owed a sum of money to the local baron, and decided he would try to get away with paying less than the full amount. He devised various arguments for why he should pay less. When practicing his spiel at home, he felt very confident, and brusquely pushed aside any criticisms of his arguments from his family. But when came before the baron himself, and beheld the majesty of the baron and his court, he froze from fear and was unable to even begin his spiel.
When the brothers sold Yosef to the Egyptians, they surely did not do so with deliberate evil intent. They had various reasons, misguided but seemingly compelling, for believing that getting Yosef out of the way was a proper, essentially necessary, course of action. But when they were confronted with Yosef himself, all their reasons fell by the wayside. And it will be same with each of us when we come before Hashem’s throne of glory to be judged.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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