Parshas Vayigash Ani Yosef, ha’od Avi chai?

This week’s parsha begins with Yehuda approaching the Prime Minister of Mitzrayim to plead with him to return Binyomin. This Prime Minister happens to be Yosef Hatzadik but Yehuda does not know that. !nd Yehuda says to the Prime Minister "Please you must gi#e us back Binyomin. $e ha#e an old father at home and he lo#es this young boy. !nd if this young boy is not returned this old father might die of anguish.% This is the gist of Yehuda’s presentation to Yosef. Then the Torah records that Yosef can not hold back anymore and he finally re#eals his identity to his brothers. Yosef says "Ani Yosef, Ha’od Avi Chai&%' () am Yosef is my father still ali#e&’ *b#iously this opening +uestion of Yosef is difficult. How could Yosef possibly ask whether Yaako# is ali#e& He knows that Yaako# is ali#e. That was the whole point of Yehuda’s speech, that if Binyomin was not returned then the old father at home Yaako# might die. Hasn’t Yosef been listening to Yehuda’s whole speech&- How could he ask this +uestion& There are se#eral approaches to answer this +uestion. The simplest answer is that of the .li Yakar and others. The .li Yakar writes that Yosef was concerned that maybe Yehuda was lying. Yosef was concerned that maybe Yaako# had actually died a long time ago and maybe Yehuda was trying to con#ince the Prime Minister to gi#e back Binyomin. Yosef thought that maybe Yehuda falsely claimed that Yaako# was still ali#e in order to seek mercy from the Prime Minister so that he would return Binyomin to Yehuda. !ccording to this approach Yosef was saying ") am Yosef is my father really ali#e&% That is one good pshat. There is also another pshat, gi#en by the Beis Hale#i. The Beis Hale#i first presents another +uestion. He +uotes a midrash which compares the brothers’ reaction to Yosef to the reaction of the neshama to Hashem on the yom hadin. /ust like the brothers could not respond to Yosef because they were so stunned by his comments so too a person will ha#e a hard time answering Hashem on the yom hadin. The Beis Hale#i asks what e0actly is the connection between what Yosef says to his brothers and the yom hadin& !pparently this midrash is assuming Yosef was gi#ing his brothers mussar' rebuke. !nd this rebuke is somehow similar to the rebuke from Hashem on the yom hadin. 1o the Beis Hale#i wonders where e0actly is the rebuke& $here is this mussar hinted to in the pesukim& !ll Yosef did was ask a straightforward +uestion-

The Beis Hale#i e0plains that the two +uestions answer each other as follows. Yosef knew that Yaako# was still ali#e. He had heard and belie#ed Yehuda’s speech. Yosef was not asking a +uestion in order to gain knowledge from Yehuda’s response. 2ather Yosef was asking a rhetorical +uestion and this rhetorical +uestion contained tremendous mussar and rebuke for Yehuda and the brothers. The Beis Hale#i continues to e0plain that Yosef was pointing out an inconsistency in the words and actions of his brothers. Yosef was in essence saying to Yehuda as follows, Yehuda, you are so concerned about the welfare of our father that if Binyomin is not returned he might die from the anguish. $hy& Because Binyomin is the most belo#ed son. Yehuda e#erything that you said about Yaako# and Binyomin applied e0actly the same way concerning our father and me 33 years ago. ) was the most fa#ored son4 ) was the son of his most belo#ed wife. )f you are so concerned about the welfare of our father then where were you 33 years ago Yehuda&& Yosef was in essence saying to Yehuda, Ha'od abvi chai? )s it possible that our father is still ali#e after what you did to me 33 years ago Yehuda& This is the message that Yosef was saying to Yehuda. Yosef was gi#ing him tremendous mussar and he had no response. Yehuda could not answer because Yosef was using Yehuda’s o n words and actions against him. This is the most difficult rebuke that a person can recei#e. There is no answer. The Beis Hale#i e0plains the connection of Yosef’s +uestion to the yom hadin. *n the yom hadin the most difficult claim that Hashem will make which a person will ha#e difficult responding to is the claim of hypocrisy the claim of inconsistency. The Beis Hale#i offers the following e0ample. ! person comes up to shamayim and Hashem says ") noticed that you did not gi#e #ery much t!edakah in your lifetime.% !nd the person responds ") had a large family and a lot of bills to pay ) did not ha#e enough money to gi#e t!edakah.% Hashem responds

You did ha#e a large family and a lot of bills to pay but let us also look at your #acations o#er the past se#eral years. *ne winter your family spent eight thousand dollars on a skiing #acation to !spen. *ne summer you spent twel#e thousand dollars on a #acation to the 1wiss !lps. !nd one winter you spent fifteen thousand dollars on a family #acation to 5i6i. 7ow you are telling me that you could not afford to spend a little more money towards t!edakah&That is rebuke that a person will ha#e a hard time answering. ! person has to a#oid that inconsistency in his life. )f a person is fortunate enough to be able to afford e0pensi#e and lu0urious #acations then that person must make sure that his le#el of t!edakah corresponds to the le#el of his lu0urious lifestyle so that there is no inconsistency. !nother good practical e0ample of this is with me!u!os. ! person buys a house that costs a +uarter of a million dollars or maybe e#en a half of a million dollars a beautiful home. Then the person decorates it beautifully with an e0pensi#e chandelier. 7ow it is time to buy me!u!os. The +uestion is will he buy the cheap ones or the more mehudar, more e0pensi#e ones& )f one can afford such an e0pensi#e home with e0pensi#e furnishings he has to make sure to be consistentHe should in#est in the better me!u!os. This is the message of Yosef’s +uestion to Yehuda. Yosef was gi#ing Yehuda and his brothers rebuke by pointing out the inconsistency of their words and actions. That is the e0planation of the midrash that there is a connection between Yosef speaking to his brothers and Hashem’s rebuke on the yom hadin. This is a challenge for all of us. $e ha#e to a#oid any inconsistency in our li#es in our words and in our actions. 8ood 1habbos B. 8insburg