Curse Not Circumstances — G-d May Well Be in Them
The climax of the reuniting of Yosef with his father, brothers and kin is reached in this parsha.
I’m not sure how anyone could keep back their tears while reading Chapter 44 verses 18 through 34. The heartfelt anguish and compassionate words and emotion exhibited in the words of Yehuda to the Viceroy of Egypt, his brother Yosef not yet revealed to him. Yosef certainly could no longer hold back the floodgates of emotional pain, longing and loss he had experienced all these years and he no longer tried.
”Yosef could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and cried out, ‘Have everyone withdraw from me!’ So there was no one else about when Yosef made himself known to his brothers. His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace.” (Genesis 45:1-2)
He finally reveals his true identity to his brothers. They are completely dumbfounded. He urges them to come forward so he can embrace them with unfettered joy and kisses of forgiveness.
Yosef immediately puts away any concerns of retribution against them so that his brothers can be at ease.
”Now do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that G-d sent me ahead of you….So, it was not you who sent me here, but G-d; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his household, and ruler over the whole land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:5, 8)
Now that all the subterfuge has been dispelled they can all get down to the business of ensuring the people of Yaakov survive since there remains yet five more years of severe famine and drought and also to fulfill the word of HaShem given to Avraham all those years ago that his offspring would one day have to leave Canaan, the Promised Land, and live in Egypt for a period of time.
”Now hurry back to my father and say to him: Thus says your son Yosef, ‘G-d has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me without delay. You will dwell in the region of Goshen, where you will be near me—you and your children and your grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all that is yours. There I will provide for you—for there are yet five years of famine to come—that you and your household and all that is yours may not suffer want.’” (Genesis 45:9-11)
While not spoken of directly in the Torah it becomes obvious in verse 16 that the weight of Yosef’s separation from his father and brother Benjamin; though it didn’t interfere with his service to Pharaoh or his duties as Viceroy in preparing the empire for the seven years of famine — it may well have played a role in his overall mood and disposition of his command. With the reunion of Yosef’s family there was a very noticeable change in him that greatly pleased Pharaoh and his entire court.
”The news reached Pharaoh’s palace: ‘Yosef’s brothers have come.’ Pharaoh and his courtiers were pleased.’” (Genesis 45:16)
Yaakov’s sons return to him with the great news that Yosef is alive and well and is, in fact, the very Viceroy of Egypt they have been dealing with all this time. Upon receiving this news Yaakov is overwhelmed with indescribable joy and thanksgiving.
”…His heart went numb, for he did not believe them. But when they recounted all that Yosef had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Yosef had sent to transport him, the spirit of their father Yaakov revived. ‘Enough!’ said Israel. ‘My son Yosef is still alive! I must go and see him before I die.’ So Israel set out with all that was his, and he came to Beersheva, where he offered sacrifices to the G-d of his father Yitzhak.” (Genesis 45:26 - 46:1)
Even in the midst of al this joy Yaakov was also feeling some trepidation about leaving the very land given to his grandfather Avraham by a covenant with HaShem, continued as an oath to his father Yitzhak and sealed for all time by the change of his own name from Yaakov to Israel — which the land and its people would be called by for all time. To dispel these troubling thoughts HaShem visits him before departure to Egypt in a night vision.
”G-d called to Israel in a vision by night: ‘Yaakov! Yaakov!’ He answered, ‘Here.’ And He said, ‘I am G-d, the G-d of your father. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I Myself will do down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back; and Yosef’s hand shall close your eyes.’” (Genesis 46:2-4) [SEE *NOTE Below]
Now the prophecy, beginning with HaShem’s revelation to Avraham that his offspring would one day end up in Egypt, has fully begun. All that was Yaakov’s, his sons, daughters, wives, grandsons, granddaughters, servants and his earthly possessions were making their way down to Egypt to settle in Goshen, one of the most fertile and water rich regions of the empire even in the midst of famine.
”Thus Israel settled in the country of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; they acquired holdings in it, and were fertile and increased greatly.” (Genesis 47:27)
Next week the story of Yaakov, Yosef and his brothers comes to an end—but, a new deliverer is about to be revealed.
The importance of this night vision to Yaakov cannot be overlooked or understated. Up to and until this time the idea of a god’s dominion and rule was limited to a peoples or a territory. e.g. the gods of both Sumer (the area of Avraham’s birth) and Egypt (the empire currently in power) only held control of the territory, be it city-states as in Sumer or regions as with Egypt. And even with that the power of the gods could only be exercised if there was a temple or ziggurat present in those areas because they were the literal home of the gods. These gods had no direct control over anything or anyone beyond those limits. That is one of the biggest reasons one area would wage war against another — to expand the control and influence of their regional god (my god is bigger than your god).
This same view was somewhat entrenched in the minds of our fathers Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov — that is, until this vision came to Yaakov. The idea that a god, any god, was able to guard, protect, be with and cause to prosper or deliver a people who were in a land or area controlled by another god or gods — as in the case of the multiple gods in Egypt — was unheard of.
In his vision given by HaShem to Yaakov it is revealed to him that not only is HaShem his G-d, but He is the One and only G-d above all other gods that can go and be with Yaakov and his offspring no matter where they may go — be it in the Land of Promise, or anywhere else in the world. That was a mind-bending revelation that would forever change the people of Israel though it would take several generations to fully set in and weed out that engraved ideological mentality to one in which His people could proclaim daily, faithfully and with great conviction to this very day —
Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheynu — Adonai Echad!