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David Keller
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Parashas Vayigash



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Joseph wanted to make Benjamin his servant, for apparently having stolen his cup.


Since Judah knew that Jacob would hardly be able to bear the sight of the brothers returning without Benjamin he stepped forward and stood up for Benjamin, offering to become Joseph's servant in Benjamin's stead.


Moved by his brothers' display of compassion for their brother Benjamin, Joseph revealed his identity to his brother: "I am Joseph."


The brothers at once understood G'd's plan of sending Joseph down to Egypt to enable all of them to be saved from the famine.


When Pharaoh heard about the developments at Joseph's house, he encouraged Joseph to settle the rest of his family in Egypt, and told Joseph to send wagons back to his father in Canaan to get all their family members and possessions over to Egypt.


Also Pharaoh was relieved to learn that his viceroy Joseph was not just some ex-convict and former slave but a member of an illustrative family.


Jacob and his family travelled down to Egypt where Jacob was happy to be finally reunited with his son Joseph.


Jacob and his family settled in the fertile region of Goshen, where the Jewish people would stay until their redemption from Egypt. They lived and worked there as shepherds, having brought their flock and cattle from Canaan.


The famine increased and people sold all their cattle for food, and once they sold all their cattle they even offered to become serfs to Joseph. Joseph acquired all their property, and claimed one fifth of all the harvest for Pharaoh. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- When the people of Egypt had already sold everything they had to buy grain and food from Joseph, they then offered to sell themselves to Joseph and Pharaoh, preferring to sell their lives instead of losing them to the famine.


It is interesting to note that according to Ramban Joseph refused their offer, showing how much he valued freedom. The sages already mention the importance of freedom in the story of Noach, where his son Japheth is described as symbolizing the value of freedom. Also, the Exodus from Egypt was very much about the Jewish people gaining their freedom from Egypt to be able to serve G'd, and as such, Joseph's decision to not take away the Egyptians freedom can be seen as some foreshadowing to the Exodus.


Also Joseph had experienced first-hand what it means to have one's freedom taken away when his brothers decided to sell him to slave traders, and also later, when he was imprisoned in Egypt.


According to another opinion Joseph did acquire the Egyptians and had them circumcised.



Judah also draws a parallel between Joseph taking captive Benjamin, and a former Pharaoh taking captive his ancestor, Abraham's wife Sarah. Both show the wickedness of the Egyptian rulers and we will also see another wicked rule of Egypt in the second book of the Torah, the Pharaoh that did not want to let the Jewish people go free.



Shepherding, which was the profession much of Jacob's family performed, was considered abominable by the Egyptians who worshipped many animals as idols.


This disdain that the Egyptians felt for the Jewish people's keeping animals would show again later when the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt. During the plague of the firstborn the Jews slaughtered lambs (the Pessach offering) and applied the blood of the slaughtered animals to their doorposts to mark their houses so they would not get targeted during the plague. In preparation for bringing the offering, the Jewish people tied lambs to their bedposts. When the Egyptians found out what the Jewish people were going to do to their idols, they were unable to intervene and prevent the Jews from slaughteiring the lambs.



There is some discussion by the sages who the seventy people were that went down to Egypt. Some say that sixty-nine of the people that went down to Egypt were Jacob's children, and Jacob was the seventieth. Others count Jochebed's miraculous birth on the way to Egypt as the seventieth person. Some say that G'd himself was the seventieth, going into exile with his people.

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