Va Yigash – A family reunion

Yoseph could be confident that the brothers had repented for their sending him down to Egypt when Yehuda asked to stay as a hostage instead of Binyamin. They showed genuine and complete remorse for what they had done, and he felt that the time for reconciliation had arrived.  He could then reveal his true identity to his brothers.


He cried in a loud voice, tears of joy, knowing that the long years of isolation from his family had finally come to an end. When he said “I am Yoseph”, they were speechless. The Zohar is quoted by R’ Eli Munk with the explanation that Yoseph attributed his survival and success to having constantly respected the covenant of Avraham.


Nechama Leibowitz commented on his speech to them, as he at first identified himself as the brother whom they had sold to Egypt. He then explained to them that he considered that the chain of events and his own rise to power were part of G-d’s plan to save the tribe of Israel from a famine which would have destroyed it. On the surface it appeared he had been sold, but at a deeper level, Yoseph’s mission was revealed. There was a double purpose; to ensure survival, and to ensure the possibility of an historic destiny for the people.  He concluded “So it was not you who sent me here but G-d”. Leibowitz quoted from Rambam who explained that “everything must have an immediate cause which produced it, and that cause again a cause, until the First Cause, ie the will of G-d is reached.” She wrote that we imagine that we are carrying out our own set purpose, without realising the workings of Divine Providence, leading each person towards their destiny.


When he heard that his father was still alive, arrangements were made for the whole family to be together again. He embraced Binyamin, and then all his brothers, and afterwards, he conversed with them. Pharaoh and his advisers also rejoiced for now they had proof that Yoseph came from an honourable family, and Pharaoh offered the best of the land for the family on their return with their father.  Yaacov came to meet his son “filled with a joy like none he had ever known”. After offering sacrifices in Beer Sheva, he had a vision in which G-d told him to have no fear of descending to Egypt, “for I shall establish you as a great nation there, I shall descend with you there and shall surely bring you up”.


He went down with all his family, seventy in all, and when he saw Yoseph he wept. All this joy at the family’s reunions, a positive and profound emotion is commented on by George Vaillant in his book Spiritual Evolution. He argued that the joy is an emotion which makes people strive to be reunited with their loved ones, and because it strengthens social groups, it is an emotion of great survival value.

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