Kenneth Cohen

Family Nation

The reaction of Yosef’s brothers, when they saw him coming to greet them, is somewhat puzzling. They felt that the proper way to deal with his annoying behavior, was to kill him.

There is no indication that anything he did to them, was worthy of a death penalty. He did speak badly of them to their father. He also flaunted his coat of many colors, and his dreams were irritating as well. But to think he was worthy of death, seems quite extreme.

An explanation of this behavior, comes from the Kuzari. Its author, Rav Yehuda Halevi,described how the first twenty-two generations from creation, all had problematic offspring. When we are given the lineage from Adam to Noach, to Avraham Avinu, the Torah gives the name of the best of each generation.

This implies that in every family, there was at least one member who was pretty evil. This continued with Avraham and his siblings, Yitzchak and Yishmael, and Yakov and Eisav.

The brothers assumed that Yosef was the “bad apple” of the family. It would probably better to eliminate him, before he ends up doing some terrible things.

The Kuzari explains that not only were the brothers wrong in their assessment of Yosef, but they were the first family to emerge from creation, that all of the family members were righteous.

It was for this reason that Hashem felt that they were worthy to be the “chosen people,” with its special mission. This family became one of seventy members, when they got to Egypt. They left Egypt 210 years later, when they numbered 600,000.

We have witnessed our population in 1948 at 600,000, when we became a state. Miraculously, only seventy-five years later, we are close to seven million Jews in Israel. We are showing the world how to fight real evil, where it is becoming more and more clear how we are bringing decency and goodness to the world.

The brothers were very wrong about Yosef. But that was part of the plan, that would eventually allow us to emerge as the leaders of the world.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at