Miketz-Regesh: Showing Emotion or Caring

This dvar Torah is taken from a shmuz I heard in Chofetz Chaim Yerushalayim by Rav Moshe Chait of blessed memory.

Now, for some food for thought:

According to Rav Yisrael Salanter, one of the major foundations of mussar [character development] is the natural response of people to their surroundings. There are many mitzvos in the Torah that touch our souls, such as: “And you shall love the Lord your G-D” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

An excellent illustration of regesh [caring] is found in this week’s Torah portion of Miketz, in the confrontation between Yosef and his brothers. The Rambansays that the original argument between Yosef and his brothers was regarding a matter of Jewish Law. The brothers convened a bais din [rabbinic court] and concluded that Yosef was attempting to kill them spiritually. The brothers believed that Yosef was giving reports to their father Yaakov, telling him that the brothers didn’t deserve to continue the line of Torah, just as Yishmael and Esav lost that privilege. If this was the argument, then it must have been a very harsh claim; on the other hand, we see the sensitive feelings demonstrated by the brothers. They couldn’t bring themselves to physically kill him Yosef; rather, they threw him into a pit filled with snakes and scorpions. Only after they saw that he was not being touched by these lethal creatures did they decide he was not deserving of death, and instead sold him into slavery.

In Breishis [Genesis] Chapter 42, verse 3 it says: “Ten of the brothers of Yosef went down to Egypt to get provisions.” Rashi points out that it says the “brothers of Yosef” and not the “sons of Yaakov” to indicate that the brothers regretted selling Yosef, even after 22 years. They were prepared, as brothers, to find him and bring him home.

The Ramban observes that in verses 10-18 Yosef, in disguise, proclaims to his brothers that they are spies, and places them under arrest. He then says that he will only detain one of them, and that the rest can return home, with food, because “I fear G-D.” Yosef’s demonstration of fearing G-D was demonstrated in that people being accused of spying would normally be punished with the death penalty; but since he claimed to be G-D fearing, he shows that he cared about their family. That is why he sent them home with provisions; a true G-D fearing individual is willing to perform acts of kindness, even at his own expense.

Rashi again points out that Yosef jailed the one brother, Shimon, “in front of their face” to show his seriousness. But when they had departed he freed Shimon and treated him well, out of feelings of brotherhood.

When the brothers came back with Binyamin, Yosef asked: “Is this your little brother?” and proceeded to bless him. The Ramban says that Yosef was still ready to put them in jail, but was testing his brothers to see if they still had hatred for him due to the fact that he was not from the same mother as them. In this same scene he subsequently broke down and had to run to  another room to cry.

The Yalkut Shimone (paragraph 150) says that when Yosef blessed Binyamin he got close to him and asked him if he had a brother. Binyamin said: “I had a brother but I have missed him for 22 years.” Yosef asked: “Do you have a wife?” Binyamin replied: “Yes with ten children and all the children were named after the anguish of being without my brother.” That was why Yosef broke down crying; he saw the love that Binyamin had for his lost brother, even after 22 years.

We cannot develop our character without being in tune to our emotions. One must have feelings of caring and love for one’s fellow man. The true sign of love is sacrifice; the problem is that people are like logs: numb and without feeling.

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