Vayehi–In the Interests of Peace

[After Jacob’s death] Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and  pays us back for all the wrong that we did to him?” So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before his death, your father enjoined us, ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers  and the wrong they did in harming you.’  Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.”  (Gen 50:15-16)

There is no prior description of this injunction by Jacob, leaving many interpreters to suspect that the injunction is the creation of the brothers, born out of fear of a revenge Joseph might still encompass.  If so, the Rabbis of the Talmud had no problem with it.  One ruled that, in view of this text, “it is permitted to modify a statement in the interests of peace”; another added that indeed, it was a sacred responsibility (mitzvah) to do so.  (Yebamot 65b)

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