The Great Impasse

Kislev 22, 5783
December 16, 2022
Candlelighting Time 4:18 PM

            The disagreement between Yosef and his brothers created a tremendous rift amongst the family. Indeed, their hatred for Yosef was so vindictive that they ruled that he should be put to death. Certainly,  an indictment against them for such a spiteful attitude towards their brother. On the other hand, we know that the sons of Yaakov were tremendously righteous people so how could they have erred in such a massive way? Did Yosef mistakenly add to their fire of animosity when he went to their father and complained to him about their behavior? Could that have been avoided?

            In order to have some degree of comprehension of this episode it is vital to appreciate the stature of Yosef. Our Sages refer to him as Yosef the Righteous One. However, bear in mind that he was the youngest of the sons. Nonetheless, he was imbued with leadership qualities that the brothers did not recognize. Therefore, when he approached their father with complaints about his brothers, instead of appreciating that he meant it for their welfare, they assumed he was attempting to distance Yaakov from them. Truth be told, his intent was pure and wholesome. He wanted their father to rebuke them for their ill conduct thereby creating an atmosphere of change in their lives. Yosef understood their misconception and therefore when he literally dreamt of his future leadership ambitions as foretold in those dreams, he actually thought that they would grasp the reality that would eventually unfold. Again, their misunderstanding of his intentions led them to assume otherwise which unfortunately generated tremendous friction and enmity within their ranks. 

            Yaakov also attempted to subtly support Yosef with the special coat that he gifted him. Essentially, it was a confirmation of his status as a future leader amongst the brothers which could have quelled the confrontation between them. Alas, this was also received with less than a favorable audience. Their postulation was that Yosef had duped Yaakov into believing that they were indeed rogues and not maintaining the discipline required of such a noble family.

             However, there is a caveat that needs some degree of explanation. Rashi explains that Yosef acted somewhat inordinate with his brothers. He seemed to be engrossed in his physical appearance which gave them the impression that he was not as virtuous and moral as perceived by their father. Why did Yosef indeed conduct himself this way since he certainly could have realized that this manner of behavior might draw some fire from the others?

            The commentators explain that Yosef was very particular about his dress because a Torah scholar must appear in public in such a manner that will display honor of the Torah. When a scholar is not well kempt, then he disgraces the Torah and people will not respect those who toil in Torah and represent the honor of Torah. And the Torah clearly wants us to appreciate this because in the very same verse Yosef lowers himself to show warmth to his brothers that were born from the maid servants of Rochel and Leah. Those brothers were somewhat shamed by the sons of Yaakov that were from Leah, a regular wife while Yosef endeavored to correct that error. This definitely proves the point that he was a humble and unassuming person simply trying to rectify that which was wrong. 


When Yaakov saw the listing of the princes of Eisav he was concerned that how would he be able to defeat them. However, he girded himself with strength and steeled himself to serve Hashem properly and in doing so have the merit to vanquish them.                                                                   S’FAS EMES