Sometimes forgiveness can be cruel in its haste, preventing the sinner from processing and thus moving on from his sin. Letting someone take the easy way out robs them the chance to fully experience the consequence of, and assume responsibility for their actions. This is the offer Yosef extends to the brothers when he suggests they return “in peace” to their father.
Yosef’s invitation is so absurd that the Torah needs to create a physical space in the text in order to digest it. When Yehuda admits that God has discovered their sins, he isn’t only referring to the theft of Yosef’s cup, he’s taking responsibility for their treatment of Yosef and everything that caused. And for anyone with a sense of responsibility, there can clearly be no return, nor any peace so long as Binyamin is a captive.
In his rejection of the easy way out, Yehuda reaches his finest hour, drawing on much of the wisdom gleaned from his experiences and the experiences of his forefathers. His approaching Yosef (“vayigash”) echoes Yitzchak’s attempts at intimate communication with his son in chapter 27 (“gsha na”). His replaying of the dialogue with Yosef reminds us of the dialogues of Avraham and Avimelech in chapter 21. His assumption of a humble stance in relation to Yosef recalls Yaakov’s reconciliation with Esav in chapter 32.
Most of all, Yehuda is inspired by the lesson of areyvut he learned from Tamar in chapter 38. He has completely abandoned the utilitarian calculations which typified his thinking earlier. There is no economic model that can justify insisting on all the brothers being slaves rather than just one. Yehuda has learned to truly be an arev, a person whose connection to the other is based on an intertwining of fates, and thus he finally offers the resolution to Yosef’s quest- “I am in search of my brothers”.
My own little daily 929 insight, in 300 words or less. If you haven’t heard of 929, you can learn more at 929.org.il