So the game is up. Yosef reveals himself to his brothers, they feel ashamed, and they live happily ever after. Well, almost. The Medrash throws us all for a loop stating that when Yosef reveals himself, the brothers were so angry that they sought to kill him. An angel came and flung them against the wall, preventing any bloodshed. How are we to understand this Medrash? The brothers had gone down to Egypt to locate their long lost brother and they were even prepared to die for this cause. Now that they see him in the flesh they are ready to kill him? How are we to understand this?
I would like to suggest few explanations to this enigmatic Medrash:
- Yosef firmly believed that his dreams are a prophecy, and he was determined to see them to fruition. For this reason he forced the brothers and his family to descend to Egypt so that they would be completed to bow down to him, in fulfillment of the dreams. The brothers, too, had rendered a Halachic decision, condemning Yosef to death, and when they saw him alive, they felt the need to “finish the job.” Heaven, obviously, ruled against them.
- The brothers sensed that Yosef symbolized Moshiach ben Yosef and Yehudah was Moshiach ben Dovid, and the Gemara states that Moshiach ben Yosef will die and Moshiach Ben Dovid will fear for his own life. Indeed, the monologue of Yehudah reflects the idea that he fears for his life. The Gemara states that Moshiach ben Dovid requests life from HaShem and HaShem grants it to him. The brothers felt that their job was to kill the Moshiach ben Yosef to herald in the true Messianic Era.
- Perhaps the brothers did not want to actually kill Yosef. Rather, we see that Yosef himself sought to prove to his father Yaakov that he was still “alive and well” in Egypt, i.e. spiritually live. The brothers also shared this concern and they sought to “kill” any vestige of materialism in Yosef, rendering him fit to rejoin the Holy Family of Bnei Yisroel.
Throughout our lives we are faced with temptation, uncertainty and other challenges. Often we just have to “kill” the Evil Inclination within us, and through that act we will be liberated. The Gemara states that Yosef was released from jail on Rosh Hashanah. This, the Sfas Emes explains, means that everyone of us can be liberated from the shackles of materialism and challenges on Rosh Hashanah. Indeed, the word תשרי, is from the root שרי, meaning to loosen the bonds.
HaShem should grant us respite and liberation from all of our challenges and we should merit the arrival of Moshiach ben Dovid, speedily, in our days.
Have an ENLIVENED Shabbos!