Parashas Vayechi

After Yaakov’s death, Yosef’s brothers said to themselves (Bereishis 50:15): “Perhaps Yosef will harbor a grudge against us, and then he will repay us all the evil we did him.” To clarify what the brothers were afraid of, the Maggid turns to a Gemara in Yoma 22b-23a: “Any Torah scholar who does not harbor a grudge and take revenge like a snake [for an affront to his honor, which is an affront to the Torah itself] is not a [true] Torah scholar.” The Gemara explains that the revenge referred to is not active retaliation; rather, it is refraining from protecting the offender from retribution carried out by others, or by Hashem. Similarly, the brothers’ fear was not that Yosef would actively launch an attack on them, but rather that he would not protect them from a threat they saw looming ahead. The brothers felt that, with Yaakov having passed away, the Egyptians’ attitude toward them was taking a negative turn. They feared that the Egyptians would move against them, and that Yosef would not take steps to save them. He would then be indirectly repaying him for the evil they did him.
The Maggid draws a parallel between this episode and a verse concerning our relationship with Hashem (Tehillim 44:10): “[We were loyal to You] even when You ignored us and disgraced us, and You did not go forth with our legions.” On occasion Hashem punishes us by witholding His providential care from us, and, so to speak, ignoring us. When He does so, He exposes us to attack from evildoers, and thus, by “standing aside,” causes us to fall to disgrace. Elsewhere, Dovid HaMelech exclaims (Tehillim 28:1): “Unto You, Hashem, I cry out – My Rock, be not deaf to me, for should You be silent toward me I would be like those who descend to the grave.” Here, Dovid notes that a halt in Divine protection automatically leads to doom, and pleads with Hashem not to consign him to this fate.
The brothers seek forgiveness from Yosef, and Yosef responds (Bereishis 50:19-20): “Fear not, for am I in place of God? And although You meant to harm me, Hashem meant it for good – in order to cause, as is clear as day, a vast people to be sustained.” The Maggid explains this response through an analogy. Suppose a bit of black ink splashes onto a white garment. If the owner tries to clean it using an amount of cleanser comparable to the amount of ink that hit the garment, the black stain will remain. But if the owner uses a large amount of cleanser, much more than the amount of offending ink, he then will be able to make the garment like new. Similarly, Yosef told the brothers that the good that sprung from their act of selling him was much greater than the bad intent they had when they committed the act. They meant harm only to him, but their act brought salvation to a vast people. This tremendous benefit totally purged the negative aspect of what they did. 
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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