Shalom Orzach

Wear are You?

It is excruciating, what could he have been thinking? Having disclosed his true identity we are ready for the happy ending to the painful saga of a tragedy of errors. The brothers have made peace, Jacob rediscovers his long lost son Joseph is alive, all appears to be flawless as we eagerly await to witness the family reunited. Yet, as he sends them back to Canaan to bring his father, Joseph provides, 45:22;

לְכֻלָּ֥ם נָתַ֛ן לָאִ֖ישׁ חֲלִפ֣וֹת שְׂמָלֹ֑ת וּלְבִנְיָמִ֤ן נָתַן֙ שְׁלֹ֣שׁ מֵא֣וֹת כֶּ֔סֶף וְחָמֵ֖שׁ חֲלִפֹ֥ת שְׂמָלֹֽת׃

To each of them (his brothers), a change of clothing; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of clothing.

What could have possibly been the motivation? Joseph knew from personal experience what occurs when this overt favoritism is proffered, particularly around cloths. Benjamin was going to return with everyone  else, why would he need so much money, duty free? Additionally, Benjamin himself had been wrongly accused of pilfering an item clearly not belonging to him, with this raw traumatic experience why burden him with this additional baggage? 

The question is asked in the Talmud, Tractate Megillah 16:a and b;

Is it possible that in the very thing from which that righteous man Joseph had suffered, as his father’s show of favoritism toward him aroused the enmity of his brothers, he himself should stumble by showing favoritism to Benjamin?

Rabbi Binyamin ben Yefet, (note the name!) offers the following striking insight; He was not showing favoritism. Rather, he intimated to him that a descendant was destined to issue from him who would go out from the presence of the king wearing five royal garments, as it is stated: “And Mordecai went forth from the presence of the king in royal apparel of sky blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a wrap of fine linen and purple” (Esther 8:15).

The Talmud does not address the equally puzzling issue of the money. The Marsha, Rabbeinu Bachya, the Torah Temimah, and others do offer an explanation which, whilst providing a rationale of sorts, the questions still remain in terms of the timing. If there were particular messages that Joseph wished to relay to his brother Benjamin, why do so in such a public manner?  Why risk the brothers’ potential inability to discern these subtle allusions?

Perhaps Joseph wished to use this opportunity to relay something to all, to (ad)dress very directly the plethora of misunderstandings, conspicuous also in the dreams. They too symbolize something far larger than what we may consider p’shat, the simple meaning. Seek the deeper implications before arriving at conclusions.- Have the conversations! Seeing is believing – meaning I need to believe that ironically I may not be seeing it all! Seeing is believing that I require more information, that humility is necessary. On that rests faith and a relationship with God modeled in our relationships with others where love is (blissfully) blind, we cannot see the faults of those we adore. Naive? But there lies the timing, the reunification meant doing Teshuva, where according to Maimonides, in Hilchot Teshuva, Laws of Repentance, chapter 2:1, you need to be in those same situations, and not only not repeat the transgression, but actually learn from them too. Something for our recently knighted criminals to consider too.

Shabbat shalom 

About the Author
Shalom is a senior educator and consultant for The iCenter and serves as faculty for the Foundation for Jewish Camp . Prior, he served as the AVI CHAI Project Director and Director of Education in the Shlichut and Israel Fellows unit for the Jewish Agency. He has served as a consultant for the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Jewish Peoplehood Committee. Shalom was also a scholar on the prestigious Jerusalem Fellows Program, after which he served as the Executive Director of Jewish Renewal for United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA). Shalom is an acclaimed public speaker on contemporary Israel who brings extensive knowledge, humor and passion. He feels privileged to live in Jerusalem and loves sharing stories about life in the Land of so much Promise.
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