Helping parents, teachers, and students of many faiths pursue Biblical wisdom.

Title: Judah's Plea To The Viceroy

Major Focus: Joseph, relation to brothers

Minor Focus: Judah

Abstract: Judah's impassioned plea to the Viceroy of Egypt caused something intensely dramatic to change inside of Joseph. What was it?

Format: Midrash

Joseph, rule as Viceroy

Joseph, the powerful Viceroy of Egypt, reacted to his brothers' request for food, to save themselves from the famine, angrily. He made them return home and fetch his younger full brother, Benjamin. When the brothers returned to Egypt with Benjamin, Joseph received them cordially and immediately asked about his father:

"When Joseph came home, his brothers presented to him the gifts they had brought with them (from Canaan) into his house...He greeted them and asked, 'How is your aged father of whom you spoke? Is he still in good health?' They replied, 'It is well with your servant, our father; he is still in good health.'"

Genesis 43:26-28

Joseph's brothers answered his question. They told him that their father was in good health. Do we have any reason to believe they lied, or that he did not believe them?

Following a sumptuous feast, Joseph framed his brother Benjamin in a robbery the boy had not committed. Joseph had all of the brothers forcibly returned to the palace shortly after they tried to leave for home. At that point his brother Judah approached him, and pleaded for Benjamin's safe return home. Judah repeated the whole story of how this tragedy had come to pass, reminding the Viceroy of all he had said and done.

Parshat Vayyigash (Genesis 44:18 to 47:27) opens at this point. The desperate Judah approaches the Viceroy and whispers in his ear:

"Judah went up to him and said, 'Please, my lord, let your servant appeal to my lord, and do not be impatient with your servant, you who are the equal of Pharoah. My lord asked his servants if we have a father or another brother? We told my lord that we have an old father, and there is a child of his old age, the youngest; his full brother is dead, so that he alone is left of his mother, and his father dotes on him. Then you said to your servants to bring him down to you that you may see him. We told you, my lord, that the boy cannot leave his father; if he were to leave him, his father would die. But you said to your servants that unless we bring the youngest brother down to you we should never be able to see you again.'"

Genesis 44:18-23

Pleading with the Viceroy for Benjamin's safety, Judah goes on to tell Joseph that if they go home without Benjamin it will kill their aged father:

"Therefore please let me remain as your slave instead of the boy, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father unless the boy is with me? Let me not be witness to the grief that would overtake my father!"

Genesis 44:33-34

On hearing his brother Judah's impassioned plea:

"Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, 'Have everyone leave the room!' So there was no one else about when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached the Pharoah's palace. Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph! Is my father still well?' But his brothers could not answer him, so dumfounded were they on account of him."

Genesis 45:1-3

At this dramatic, climactic, emotional point, why did Joseph ask again if his father was still well? The brothers had only recently returned from Canaan. They had just finished telling him that their father was well. They had not yet been home to know that anything had changed. Did Joseph have some sort of premonition that something had happened to his father? Did he perhaps have an intense daydream or vision of the catastrophe he himself had brought down on his father? Did he realize that he might have killed his father's spirit by his insisting that Benjamin be brought down to Egypt? Did he have overwhelming remorse that he had never written home? You decide!!