Shabbos Parashas Mikeitz

Yosef’s brothers were on their way back to Canaan after buying grain in Egypt, and they discovered that their money had been put back in their sacks. They asked (Bereishis 42:28): “What is this that God has done to us?” The Maggid notes that the word this in this question is superfluous; they could simply have asked: “What has God done to us?” He sets out to explain the import of this added word and the manner in which Hashem acted toward the brothers.
Hashem uses different modes in dealing with us: Sometimes He acts toward us in a way we understand and sometimes He acts toward us in a way we do not understand. When Hashem blesses the righteous or afflicts the wicked, we understand how He is acting, whereas when He afflicts the righteous or blesses the wicked we do not understand. Now, Yosef’s brothers were righteous, but ever since they sold Yosef they were worried about being punished for doing so. Accordingly, whatever came their way, be it good or bad, they understood the reason: If they received blessing, it was on account of their righteousness, and if they received misfortune, it was on account of selling Yosef. But having their money put back in their sacks baffled them – this this event could not be categorized definitely as good or bad, for it had both a good side and a bad side. The good side was that they received a nice sum of money. The bad side was that they were led to worry that perhaps the Egyptians had placed the money back in their sacks in order to frame them – to make it appear that they had committed a crime and then punish them by taking them as slaves. In their bafflement they exclaimed: “What is this that God has done to us?” If Hashem wanted to bless them, He could have brought them pure good without any negative overtones. And if Hashem had wanted to punish them, He could have done so straightforwardly rather than taking an oblique approach. What was Hashem’s intent?
On the brothers’ return trip to Egypt, they approached Yosef’s attendant, his son Menashe, to give back the money. Menashe said (ibid. 43:23): “Peace be with you, do not fear. Your God, and the God of your father, gave you a treasure in your sacks. Your money got to me.” This was an astute reply, aptly calculated to dispel their bafflement, as we will explain. On the surface, the phrase “and the God of your father,” seems superfluous. The Midrash interprets (Bereishis Rabbah 92:4): “Either in your merit or in the merit of your father – in any event, your money got to me.” Let us consider what prompted Menashe to raise the issue of whose merit caused the brothers to receive a treasure. We turn to the following Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 2:11):
One verse says (Tehillim 94:14): “For Hashem will not cast off His people, and His heritage He will not abandon.” The second verse reads as follows (Shmuel Alef 12:22): “For Hashem will not cast off His people, on account of His great Name.” … R. Aivi said: “When the Jewish People are worthy, then it is on account of His people and His heritage, and when they are not worthy, it is on account of His great Name.” The Rabbis say: “In Eretz Yisrael it is on account of His people and His heritage; outside Eretz Yisrael it is on account of His great Name.”
This Midrash describes different modes Hashem employs in caring for the Jewish People. One may ask what difference it makes which mode Hashem uses, given that in any event Hashem provides for us. We can explain the matter as follows. The relationship between Hashem and the Jewish People is like that between a father and son. When the son behaves properly, the father seats him at the table next to him to enjoy his company, and serves him a nice portion with great love. It is different with a son who has angered his father. In this case, while the father will continue providing food for his son, he will not serve to him congenially, but rather will throw the food at him – with the food sometimes falling on ground and getting soiled – so that eating will not be an enjoyable experience. Hashem deals similarly with us. When we were well settled in our holy land, our Father provided for us generously and with a full heart, serving us directly from His hand to ours, out of the great satisfaction He got from us. Regarding this state of affairs, the Torah states (Devarim 28:2): “And all these blessings will come upon you and overtake you.” But now, because of our sins, it is different. Although Hashem still shows us compassion and provides for us, He arranges that we gain our sustenance only in a remote fashion, with great toil and grief. Regarding this state of affairs, it is written (Yechezkel 12:18): “They will eat their bread with worry.” The way Hashem deals with us shows that it is not because He is pleased with us that He provides for us, but rather it is out of His great compassion and His adherence to the oath that He swore to our forefathers. This discussion is reflected in the following verse (Tehillim 67:2): “May God be gracious toward us and bless us; may He shine His countenance upon us, Selah.” Here, we are asking Hashem to provide for us generously, in a congenial manner, with a shining and happy countenance, and not with an angry countenance.
We now return to Menashe’s statement: “Peace be with you, do not fear. Your God, and the God of your father, gave you a treasure in your sacks. Your money got to me – either in your merit or in the merit of your father – in any event, your money got to me.” Menashe had two goals here. First, he wanted to tell the brothers that Hashem had granted them a treasure. Second, he wanted the brothers not to be baffled over Hashem’s having conveyed the treasure to them in a manner that caused them consternation. He therefore suggested to them the possibility that Hashem’s gift to them was only on account of their father’s merit, and not on account of their righteousness, and therefore Hashem conveyed it to them in an uncongenial manner.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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