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Parshas Miketz/VaYigash

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Vayigash

Dec 9, 2010

Yosef’s brothers descend to Mitzrayim to find sustenance for their families. 

They are apprehended and accused of spying. Protesting their innocence, they tell of their family in Eretz Canaan. They were once twelve. One of their brothers has departed this world, another, the youngest, remained with their father.

Yosef, in his guise of the leader of Egypt, challenges them to support their story by bringing the youngest brother to Mitzrayim. Shimon would remain in Mitzrayim as a security for their return.

They return to their father. In their grain sacks, they discover the money they used to purchase the grain. They trembled and said, “What is this that G-d has done to us.1

Descending to Mitzrayim a second time, this time with Binyamin, the youngest, they are reunited with Shimon and treated royally. They inform Yosef’s chamberlain of the money that they found in their grain sacks. He replies, “Your G-d and the G-d of your father placed a treasure inside of your sacks.” 2 

Yosef arranges for their money, again, to be placed inside of their sacks. In addition, the royal goblet is to be placed in Binyamin’s sack. 

The brothers depart in peace, only to be set upon by the chamberlain. He accuses one of them of stealing the goblet. They respond, “G-d forbid! He who is found to possess the goblet shall be put to death and the remainder of the brethren will be doomed to servitude.” 

The goblet was found in Binyamin’s sack, and they docilely returned to Egypt. They accept upon themselves the burden of slavery. 

In a show of benevolence, Yosef commutes the death sentence of Binyamin to servitude. The rest of the brothers may go free.  

Yehuda reacts mightily. He approaches Yosef and compares him to Pharaoh. He tells him, “First I will kill you, then I will finish off your master.3 He threatens to destroy Mitzrayim and fill it with blood. 4


The brothers were aware that the Egyptians had tampered with their grain sacks on a prior occasion. Why were they so certain that a search through their sacks would produce nothing? 

Why were they willing to submit the culprit to death upon discovering the goblet?  

Wouldn’t it have been prudent for them to search their sacks before departing Mitzrayim? 

When the goblet was found, why did they submit to the chamberlain? Why did they not resist? 

They accepted that all would be slaves, including Binyamin. Only when Yosef mitigated their punishment, did Yehudah come forth and violently challenge him. What was it that provoked this reaction? 

Background/Deeper Understanding 

One must understand the happenings in Mitzrayim when held up to the light of mechiras Yosef. 

The sons of Yaakov Avenu did not believe in coincidence. Hashem supervises over His world with divine providence. No sin goes unpunished. No meritorious deed goes unrewarded. At the point where they sold Yosef into slavery, they were convinced of the merits of their act.  

Upon entering Mitzrayim, their confidence was shaken. They were immediately seized and lost their liberty, in Mitzrayim, just as Yosef had been seized. They stood falsely accused, as Yosef had been. Of all the brothers Shimon was chosen to stay behind in captivity. Our sages reveal that it was Shimon who plotted the death of Yosef. 5 He was the initiator. Shimon was bound up before their eyes, just as Yosef had been bound. 

Shimon said to Levi 6, “We are guilty. Our brother begged us, he beseeched us. We did not hearken to his cries. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 

And the money that was given in exchange for the grain was found in their sacks. Just like the illegal gains from the sale of Yosef.  

They trembled, and they said, “What is this that G-d has done to us.” They understood quite well the web that was being woven around them to entrap them. 

They repented for the sin of their cruelty. Upon entering Mitzrayim the second time, they fully expected to suffer some sort of retribution for their sin of selling their brother. They would be accused of the theft. And they were willing to bear any punishment that G-d would bring upon them, so long as it would cleanse them of their sins. 

To their surprise, the Egyptian chamberlain informs them that he checked their account and there is no shortfall in the total. Their money entered the coffers of Pharaoh. The money found in their sacks is a present from their G-d. These highly uncharacteristic words sounded strange coming from the lips of the idolatrous chamberlain. They understood it as a message from G-d that their repentance had been accepted. 

They were honored and treated with respect. Shimon was restored to them. Binyamin came to no danger. With their grain-filled sacks, they leave Mitzrayim in high spirits. Their sin is no more. 


When one is free of sin, no force in the world can place one in harm’s way. They feared G-d and G-d alone. And one must fear G-d’s retribution only when mired in sin. There was no need to check their sacks for signs of tampering. When challenged by the chamberlain, they were able to respond with bold confidence, “Nothing is to be found.” Their collective honesty was beyond reproach. Only through supernatural means could evidence be produced of “pilfering”, and this evidence was not to be forthcoming. They were cleansed, they were pure.

And it was found. 

They were mistaken. The process of repentance was incomplete. There was something missing. They ripped their garments, and they said to Yosef, “Elokim has uncovered the sin of your servants.”7 This is not from you, it is from Hashem. They were all willing to accept upon themselves the atonement of slavery, even if Binyamin is to be included in this arrangement. When calamity strikes, Tzadikim who find themselves amongst the wicked cannot hope to escape.8

There would be nothing gained in resistance. One cannot resist the will of G-d. 

Yosef responded with seeming lenience and compassion, “No, only Binyamin is to remain here. The goblet was found in his sack. The rest of you may return to your father.” It became crystal clear to them that they had made another mistake. Of all the brothers, Binyamin was the one devoid of any involvement in the sale. He alone should be enslaved while the rest should remain free? This cannot have anything to do with the sale of Yosef.  This is a product of the designs of a wicked ruler who manipulated events for his own self-serving interests. This is not the will of G-d. 

Thus, Yehuda girded himself for the battle of all battles. 

But, unbeknownst to the brothers … they were mistaken again …

1 Perek 42, posuk 28

2 Perek 43, posuk 23

3 Rashi, Perek 44, posuk 18


4 Midrash Rabbah, parsha 93, piska 8

5 Rashi, perek 42, posuk 24

6 HaEmek Davar, perek 42, posuk 21

7 Perek 44, posuk 16

8 Meseches Shabbos, daf 33b

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