Kenneth Cohen


The question that we are bothered with each year, when we read the story of Yosef and his brothers, is why didn’t he send word to his father, when he was appointed second to the king. He was in that position for nine years, before he revealed himself to his brothers.

There are many attempted answers to this question, that still leave us puzzled. There is one answer that is somewhat plausible.

There is a real possibility that Yosef misread the entire situation. He may have actually believed that not only did his brothers reject him, but his father did as well. After all, why would he be sent to check on his brothers, when Yakov fully understood that they could not tolerate him.

Perhaps his father also concluded that Yosef was the “bad apple” of the bunch, and it was with his full authority, that he be sold as a slave.

Yosef felt very alone and rejected during those 22 years in Egypt. It was only after the brothers eventually arrived, and told him how broken hearted their father was at his absence, did he realize that he totally misread the situation. He was brought to tears when he heard how badly his brothers felt, when they did not hear his cries.

This is a tremendous lesson in human nature. When there is no communication between individuals, situations can be totally misread. People come to the wrong conclusions, and there is unnecessary grief and bad feelings.

We need to learn how to express ourselves, and not jump to conclusions. This is especially true in marriage, and in relationships between parents and children. We need to let our feelings be known. But we must also remember to do this when we are calm. Things said in anger, almost always have detrimental effects.

If this theory about Yosef is true, we can see the extent of how important it is to communicate, to avoid so much sadness and agony.

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