Home Subscribe Services Support Us
Print Version

Email this article to a friend


By Rabbi Daniel Travis

Yosef said to his brothers, “I am Yosef! Is my father still alive?” His brothers were so startled that they could not respond. (Bereshith 45:3)

From the time the brothers returned to Egypt with Binyamin, all their conversation with Yosef had focused upon their father Yaakov. There could have been no doubt in Yosef’s mind that Yaakov was alive. Why then did Yosef ask the question again? And why were the brothers unable to answer him? On another level, the Midrash comments on this verse that if the sons of Yaakov found it impossible to answer their younger brother, how much more will we be dumbstruck when it comes to answering God on the final Day of Judgment (1). How does the Midrash derive this? What is the connection between these two events?

Yosef’s brothers had made a powerful appeal to him to release Binyamin because of the pain that his captivity would cause their father. When Yosef revealed himself with the words, “I am Yosef; is my father still alive?” he conveyed to them that if they were really concerned about their father’s welfare, they should have taken his pain into consideration when they sold Yosef into slavery many years earlier. As soon as they heard Yosef’s words, the brothers realized the extreme inconsistency of their actions, and so were unable to respond to Yosef.

God effectuates His judgment in a similar manner. Thus when life ends, as a person appears before God to be judged, if he attempts to defend his paltry philanthropic activity by claiming that he lacked financial resources to cover his basic expenditures, God will show him all the times in his life he spent money frivolously. Confronted with his own actions, he will find himself unable to respond (2).

Rav Meshulem Faivish from Zebriz, author of “The Way of Truth,” writes that he once felt a strong desire to fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin in a way that surpassed anyone else’s fulfillment of that mitzvah. In addition to wearing the tefillin accepted by most halachic opinions, he wanted to don another set considered a hiddur mitzvah (an enhancement of the mitzvah) according to some opinions. After extensive thought he decided to abandon this idea. He reasoned, had his intentions been true, his desire to wear the standard tefillin should have been equally strong. Since he felt no exceptionally strong drive to perform the standard mitzvah of tefillin, he concluded that reasons other than the truth were pushing him to wear the additional set (3).

1. Bereshith Rabba 93:10.
2. From the commentary of the Beis HaLevi on Bereshith 45:3.
3. MiDevar Sheker Tirchak p. 101.

Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



View Complete List

Heart To Heart
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5760

Chanukah and Mechiras Yosef: The Hidden Connection
Shlomo Katz - 5764

A Good Name Forfeited in a Moment
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Perspective on Possessions
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759

The Master Plan
Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig - 5763

Waning or Waxing
Rabbi Label Lam - 5774


Analyzing The Imagery of A Familiar Chanukah Poem
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765

Behind the Gray Blur
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5768

Light Up Right
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770

> A New Perspective
Shlomo Katz - 5768

Sadly Released from Prison
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

A Name: The Definition of an Essence
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5756

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Horns and Hedonism
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

Chanukah: A Postscript
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Yaakov Did Not Rely Solely on Prayer
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5772

Darkness and Light
Shlomo Katz - 5773

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information