The bulk of this week’s Torah portion of Miketz depicts the confrontation between Yosef and his brothers once Yosef became viceroy of Egypt. One of the lessons the Ralbag learns from this episode is that it is inappropriate for a complete person to take revenge for the bad that was done to him, even if he has the chance. We therefore find that when the brothers of Yosef “fell into his lap” and he had the opportunity to do something bad to them for what they did to him, he didn’t, but rather he watched over them and sustained them. Indeed, even though he pained their hearts in the beginning, this was in order to find out how his father and brother, Binyamin, were doing. It was also to see how they treated Binyamin, for if they hated him and wanted to kill him, like they did Yosef, he would have figured out a way to separate Binyamin from them and save him. For this reason, if he would not have accused them of being spies or some other bad deed, then Yosef would not have been able to investigate and find out if they still had a father or brother, because they were not willing to be so open with him. And when Yosef knew his brother was alive, he put in the effort to at least bring him to Egypt. He made it difficult for the brothers in the beginning and easy in the end. He also said to them that he fears Hashem, for in this way they were appeased, and he removed their very apparent fear. Another reason for Yosef telling the brothers that he was G-D fearing was so that it would not pain their father Yaakov so much at sending Binyamin down to Egypt, since it was known that the master of the land feared Hashem. He jailed Shimon in front of the brothers’ eyes so that they would be forced to bring Binyamin along, and if they would kill Binyamin on the way out of hatred, Shimon would stay under the control of Yosef for the rest of his life, and he would have no means of escape from there. For this reason, Shimon was released from prison immediately upon seeing Binyamin, and he welcomed all of them into his house for them to eat bread with him, in order to appease their hearts even more and also so that he could accuse Binyamin of stealing the silver goblet. He also wanted to show them through this abundant pity for Binyamin and his pardoning of him when Yosef blessed Binyamin and gave him a bigger package more than all the other brothers, in order to appease their hearts so that they won’t be too petrified when he accuses them about this robbery, by entrusting them that the ruler of this land is a kind person, and they are innocent. If not for this Yosef would have been very fearful lest they kill themselves when all these accusations arose, out of much worry, guilt, and loss. Behold, Yosef put in much effort to direct accusations at Binyamin, in order to test his brothers and see how they would treat him; meaning if they hated him they would abandon Binyamin and go their merry way, and if they loved him, they would put all their efforts in to saving him as best as they could. For this reason, we find that when it was clear to Yosef that the brothers were treating Binyamin as a brother, only then did he reveal himself and put in efforts for all of them to move near him, for him to sustain them, so they would not go into poverty. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
It would seem that Yosef, in disguise, really forgave the brothers, and in the end saw that they changed their ways, cared more about Binyamin and were dedicated to do the right thing. For this reason, Yosef was ready and did take care of them. Yet when Binyamin was caught with Yosef’s goblet in his bag and they were all brought back to Egypt, Yosef, it would seem seriously, and not just as a test, said to them, “What is this deed that you have done? Do you not realize that a man like me practices divination” (Breishis 44:15)?
The lesson the Ralbag learns from this pasuk is that it is appropriate for a person to protect his household when any person enters his house and treat everyone in one’s eyes as if they are bandits and burglars. And if there are many people coming to the house, in a fashion that it becomes impossible to guard from each and every one of them, behold it is appropriate to test the one who is not trusted, and be careful of only him. For this reason, Yosef said to his brother ‘Don’t you know that I know divination and there is no one like me.’ (Click Here for Hebrew text.)
Yosef was teaching us a lesson to never trust guests that might come through your house, and to suspect them like thieves; but what happened to judging people favorably? Where is one’s emuna [faith] and bitachon [trust] in Hashem? Especially if a person has an opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah, as Hashem guarantees that one will not be hurt while fulfilling a mitzvah (unless being flagrantly dangerous). Especially for this mitzvah of hospitality to guests which the gemara in Shabbos 127a (which we read every day after Birkas HaTorah) lists as a precept whose fruits a person enjoys in this world and whose principal remains intact for him in the World to Come; meaning though one is rewarded for these mitzvos in this world his reward is not diminished in the World to Come. If that’s the case, then why the nervousness and worry? Wouldn’t treating them as bandits and burglars diminish one’s will to properly perform such an important mitzvah?
It is true that the mitzvah of having guests is very important, and as we see in this Ralbag, even the number of guests does not have to be limited. There can be people going in and out of your house constantly if this is the lifestyle you live. However, Hashem expects you to use common sense when performing His mitzvos, and there must be a balance to ensure that one’s household is safe. Therefore, precautions must be taken, security systems set up to ensure nothing goes wrong in the house, or anything is taken. This shouldn’t diminish from the quality of taking care of one’s guests or the quantity of how many guests, but a balance can be made to take care of one’s household and treat their guests with the utmost respect at the same time. And even if one’s guest seems to be suspicious, that does not mean one has to limit his guests. It just means one must take extra precautions to ensure the safety of everyone and everything around him.
Performing mitzvos and protecting ourselves, possessions and our families could be a juggling act which Hashem expects us to master and excel in on all fronts.