The Brothers Return to Egypt

Dec 6, 2015

וְהָרָעָב כָּבֵד בָּאָרֶץ׃

But the famine in the land was severe.

Genesis 43:1

וַיִּשָּׂא מַשְׂאֹת מֵאֵת פָּנָיו אֲלֵהֶם וַתֵּרֶב מַשְׂאַת בִּנְיָמִן מִמַּשְׂאֹת כֻּלָּם חָמֵשׁ יָדוֹת וַיִּשְׁתּוּ וַיִּשְׁכְּרוּ עִמּוֹ׃

Portions were served them from his table; but Binyamin's portion was several times that of anyone else. And they drank their fill with him.

Genesis 43:34

Time passes, and again Jacob’s family needs food. Judah reminds his father that they cannot return to Egypt without Benjamin, and persuades him to send his youngest son by promising to take personal responsibility for his safety. Jacob agrees, instructing the brothers to take the viceroy a gift of the best the Land of Israel has to offer, as well as double the money they need, to repay what was found in their sacks when they last returned home.


Joseph instructs his staff to bring the brothers into the house and prepare a feast for them. When the brothers try to return the money they feel they still owe, the servant assures them Joseph already received his pay and clearly their God wished them to have their money.


When Joseph arrives, he asks the brothers after their father, whom they assure him is well. Joseph is also moved to tears by the sight of his younger brother, and excuses himself to cry in private.


Joseph used the banquet prepared as an opportunity to amaze the brothers with his knowledge of their birth order, and lavishes Benjamin with superior portions. The brothers drink and make merry with Joseph, never suspecting who he might really be.


The Israel Bible cites Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who explains the purpose of the gift Jacob urges his sons to take the viceroy. The particular type of gift, a minkha, that he tells them to bring, is typically more for the benefit of the giver than the receiver. Obviously, this gift is intended to curry favor for the brothers in the eyes of the viceroy, but R’ Hirsch says Jacob specifically instructs his sons to bring the fruits of the land so that they might be reminded the whole time of their homeland and its blessings as they travel to Egypt.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think Jacob was willing to accept Judah’s offer to take responsibility for Benjamin, but not Reuben’s in the previous chapter?

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