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Friday, December 18

RE: The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.


When the brothers return from Mitzrayim after their first encounter with Yoseif, they are forced to explain to their father the turn of events that occurred and the grave dilemma they now faced regarding their youngest brother. When asked why they let it be known that they have yet another brother, the brothers defend themselves by stating, (43:7) “The man asked about us and our birthplaces saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ and we answered accordingly. How were we to know that he would ask us to bring him down?” However, a simple investigation of the dialogue between Yoseif and his brothers (42:9-13) shows that the brothers were never asked to divulge this information. They seemed to have offered it of their own accord.


This discrepancy is dealt with by Ramban a few pesukim earlier (42:34). He offers two possible explanations which seem to be polar opposites. First, he suggests that in fact, it never happened. He explains that the brothers were determined to convince Yaakov to allow them to bring Binyomin back with them. Thus, they twisted the story slightly to make it sound better and increase their chances of convincing their father. This was done ultimately with the interests of preserving the peace with their father and thus, it was permissible to stretch the truth.


The second explanation offered by Ramban is that it did happen. After being charged as spies, the brothers told Yoseif that they were all part of one family. Yoseif answered that this was not a satisfactory defense and asked about the other members of the family so that he may corroborate their alibi. Ramban asserts that just because this dialogue was not written initially, that does not mean that it didn’t happen. It is not uncommon for the Torah to leave out a certain piece of information which will be revealed in another context. Another instance in which such an interpretation is required is when Yaakov complains to his wives that their father has switched the rules on him a hundred times (31:7). The Torah certainly did not record one hundred instances of Lavan’s chicanery. But by no means does that mean that it didn’t happen.


Rashbam, (42:9) assuming Ramban’s second approach, explains how the question would have fit into the dialogue. The brothers exhibited suspicious behaviour as ten, burly men who always stuck together. This warranted the charge of espionage. They defended themselves by maintaining that the reason they stuck together was because they were brothers, not because they were spies. Yoseif’s retort (had he seriously believed them to be spies) was that if they were all brothers, shouldn’t one of them have stayed behind with their father. This strong argument forced the brothers to confirm that their father was alive and that there was indeed another brother who had stayed behind.


Have a good Shabbos and a Chanukah Samei'ach!

Eliezer Bulka

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