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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Miketz

Yosef vs His Brothers – Round 1

Various Rabbis27 kislev 5769
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In our parasha, Yosef’s ascendance to power was accomplished, as described by the rising of his sheaf in his first dream (Bereishit 37:7). At the brothers’ first meeting with him in Egypt, the second element, their bowing down to him, also seemed to have taken place (Bereishit 42:6). The Torah reports that Yosef recognized his brothers but that they did not recognize him (ibid.:8). It also points out that Yosef remembered the dreams that he had dreamt (ibid.:9), one would think with satisfaction that they had been fulfilled (as Rashi says). A logical explanation of the juxtaposition could be that just as Yosef knew who they were and not vice versa, so too was he acutely aware that the dreams were fulfilled, while the brothers lacked the foggiest idea that the dreams were being (or would ever be) fulfilled.
However, the Ramban says that when Yosef remembered the dreams, he actually was concerned that they were not being fulfilled… properly. He infers from the first dream that all of Yosef’s brothers were supposed to bow down, while at that time, only ten out of eleven were doing so. Yosef felt so strongly that the dream had to be carried out fully, that he continued the mystery play by forcing Binyamin down to Egypt. He would not have done so if he did not feel a requirement to actively ensure the dreams’ fulfillment. The Ramban understands that Yosef was even convinced that the dreams had to be carried out in order, with all of the brothers first bowing down to him and only then Yaakov joining in doing so.

Let us return to the dreams and try to guess what Yosef understood the significance of the two stages was. In the first dream, the brothers’ sheaves of wheat were bowing down to Yosef’s sheaf. It was Yosef who had control over the region’s supply of grain and they whose grain supply was quickly drying up. It was not to Yosef as Yosef they were bowing down but to the role the disguised Yosef was playing. This explains the Torah’s repetition of the fact that the brothers did not recognize him, which was indeed in line with the first dream, except that it did not include Binyamin.

In the second dream and its fulfillment there were to be two major differences. On one hand, even Yaakov would take part in the bowing and it would be to the revealed Yosef himself (Bereishit 37:9), as we pointed out last week. However, they would bow down from above, from the position of luminaries. In other words, just as Yosef would not subjugate his father to a bowing down of belittlement, once the brothers knew it was Yosef, they too would not belittled but respected as the (less prominent) brothers of the powerful Tzufnat Pa’aneiach. After previously experiencing how helpless this powerful leader could make them feel, they would understand that Yosef’s interest was not to enjoy their weakness but to rise to the historical call of leadership that had been decreed upon him.
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