Turning Away from Evil
Away from Evil
this week’s D'var Torah we explain the story of Yoseph and his brothers.
did Yoseph’s brothers initially want to kill him?
see that the written and oral law do not whitewash the stories of our ancestors.
If Yehudah and his brothers had simply wanted Yoseph out of the picture for
malicious reasons, there is no way they would have been worthy in the eyes of
G-d to be the progenitors of the Jewish nation. So there must be more to the
12 tribes represented a unified Clal Yisroel—nation of Israel, with each
brother taking a different role. Yehudah, as leader of the brothers, felt there
was something in Yoseph which would lead to the ultimate disintegration of the
tribes. These ideas were not produced out of thin air. When he saw Yoseph coming
forward with dreams proclaiming that the brothers would eventually bow down to
him, and when Yoseph would report anything that he perceived as negative back to
Yaakov, Yehudah seriously worried for the future of the 12 tribes. He, along
with the brothers, deemed it necessary for Yoseph to be out of the picture.
Their first thought was to kill him. Later, they decided to sell him, and they
told Yaakov he had been killed by a wild animal.
did Yoseph do these things that created such acrimony between him and his
brothers? It says in Psalms: “Turn away from evil and do good.” This is
manifest in the two types of commandments: positive commandments such as
praying, tefilin, etc., and negative commandments such as not to steal, not to
eat non-kosher animals, etc. Yoseph saw it as his responsibility to rebuke his
brothers, to persuade them to turn away from evil (For this reason Yoseph
“told” on his brothers to Yaakov. In reality he had judged them wrongly). In
fact, when the Jewish people are redeemed, there will be two steps: first there
will be the Messiah from the house of Joseph. His job will be to turn the Jews
away from evil. Then shall come the Messiah from the house of David, who will
lead them in doing good. So although Yehudah's fears
of the disunity that Yoseph would cause were not unfounded (in fact, some 700
years later, when 10 tribes broke off, they were led by Yeravam, the leader of
the tribe of Ephraim, who was the son of Yoseph)
he misunderstood Yoseph’s motivation. And Yoseph was too impetuous in
being sold, Yoseph ended up in Egypt where many miraculous events occurred to
his benefit (see D'Var Torah Parshas Miketz).
Eventually Yoseph ended up as Prime Minister. The brothers, who did not know he
was their brother Yoseph, came to him to procure food, as a terrible famine was
raging throughout the region.
Yoseph gave them a very hard time. He went so far as to plant a goblet in his brother Binyamin’s bag, accused him of stealing it, and told the brothers Binyamin must remain in an Egyptian prison. Only after Yehudah confronted him did he admit that he is their long lost brother Yoseph.
Why did he do this? Yoseph, now a man, still understood that it was his role to rebuke the brothers. Not rebuke them needlessly, but to improve them. The greatest test to see if a person regrets an action taken is to put him in the exact same situation. So Yoseph took Binyamin, who like Yoseph was the son of Rachel (they were the only two children Rachel had) and put him in a situation where he would be torn away from the family. It was the same situation as 22 years earlier, when Yoseph was torn away from his father. Would they stand up for him? This time the brothers got it right and fought for their brother. When Yoseph saw this, he realized they had truly atoned for their earlier actions.