Miketz—Feeling His Way

Then Joseph made haste, for his heart yearned for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there.  (Gen. 43:30)

We know that Joseph, while maintaining an outward composure, is overcome by strong emotions.   His encounter with his older brothers (see previously at 42:24) and now with Benjamin, moves him to tears.   We can put various names to these emotions: regret, loss, loneliness, love, hate, anger, and so on.  He has a superfluity of reasons to weep.

We don’t know what he’s thinking, though.  His decisions to accuse his brothers of espionage, to hold Simeon hostage, to return their money in secret, and to plant the goblet on Benjamin, are all presented without any indication of Joseph’s intent.  Together, they create the conditions for a kind of test which the brothers pass (in next week’s parsha).   Interpreters are therefore free to conclude (and many have) that Joseph knows what he’s doing in all this, that he is orchestrating events to bring this specific test about.

For my part, I’m inclined to attribute less control to Joseph.  He’s not orchestrating, he’s improvising.  In the throes of his strong emotions, he concocts circumstances that both bind the brothers to him and incriminate them, circumstances which mirror his past history with them and his present ambivalence towards them.  Out of this embodiment of their relationship, the reconciliation emerges—because, deep down, that’s what everyone wants.

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