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Friday, January 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash

Before sending his brothers off to inform their father that he was still alive, Yoseif hands out gifts to each of his brothers (45:22). Each one received clothing but to Binyomin, he gave 5 times the amount of clothes and three hundred silver coins. The gemara (Megillah 16a-b) is puzzled by this gesture: "Can it be that Yoseif would stumble over the very same misjudgement that caused his father so much grief? After all, it was the extra garment that Yaakov gave Yoseif which caused the jealousy amongst the brothers and lead to the current predicament." The gemara goes on to explain that Yoseif was alluding to the story of Purim.

I have always found this gemara difficult to understand. There is a very distinct difference between Yaakov's treatment of Yoseif's and Yoseif's treatment of Binyomin. All of the brothers were equally Yaakov's sons. There was no reason for him to favour one over the other. That is why Yoseif's preferential treatment caused jealousy. But the other brothers were only half brothers to Yoseif. Binyomin was the only brother with whom Yoseif shared both a mother and a father. Surely his favouritism towards him is understood.

Sure enough, Maharsha on this gemara is bothered by the very same issue. He explains that Yoseif's doling out of gifts was meant to reassure the brothers that he harboured no resentment against them for selling him. Although the intentions behind the extra gifts to Binyomin were certainly legitimate, they could have easily been misconstrued. Binyomin also happened to be the only brother with absolutely no involvement in the sale of Yoseif. Had the brothers seen this as the reason behind Yoseif's actions, it would have completely defeated the purpose.

The lesson here is clear. It is not sufficient to consider whether one's actions are right or wrong. One must carefully consider how those actions may be perceived by others.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


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