Thursday, December 11, 2014

Parsha: Why did Yosef Tell His Brothers About His Dreams?

Rav Turetsky

Yosef knew his brothers didn’t like him.[1] Yaakov loved Yosef more than his other chidren, and this led to a divide within the family. Given the situation, one would have expected Yosef to avoid antagonizing his brothers at all costs. Yet, the Torah describes (Breishit 37:5) how Yosef informed his brothers that he had dreams of them eventually bowing down to him. Why would Yosef do that? Didn’t he know that this would only cause further damage to their relationships? Rav Hirsch (ad loc) even emphasizes how the brothers initially made it clear they did not want to hear Yosef’s dreams, but Yosef persisted nonetheless, committed to sharing the dreams with them.

1. Ohr HaChaim (ad loc) suggests that Yosef thought sharing his dreams with his brothers would bring them closer and fix their broken relationships. The brothers were upset that Yosef was separated and treated differently from them. From Yosef’s perspective, the dreams would indicate that this was Hashem’s true plan. He believed the brothers would treat him better if they knew Hashem was behind his elevated status. Though not successful in accomplishing his goal, what motivated Yosef was the belief that sharing his dreams would enhance his relationship with his brothers, something of critical importance to him.[2]

2. Moshav Zekanim (cited in Tosafot HaShalem on the Torah ad loc:4) offers an alternate approach. Yosef knew his brothers would get upset and that informing them of his dreams would only further damage their relationship. Yet, he believed he had no choice but to share them with the brothers, even at the cost of their relationship. As a prophecy, Yosef maintained that remaining silent would be a violation of the halakhic requirement to share one’s prophecy with others.[3] A prophet must tell the Jewish people of the message he received, and Yosef believed he too was required to share his dreams with the brothers, even if it would hinder their relationship.

Each approach highlights an important message. Ohr HaChaim’s idea reminds us that relationships are often complicated. We may try our best to smooth things over, but still fail. Ultimately, our responsibility is to try our best to make sure that which we are doing will improve relationships. Moshav Zekanim reminds us of an additional message. While sensitivity towards others is always important, one’s fidelity to halakha and commitment towards Torah requirements are most critical.

Our ultimate goal is to internalize both ideas. Ohr HaChaim reminds us of the need to always question if our actions will hurt or help our relationships with others, while Moshav Zekanim reminds us of the need to have firm standards in our halakhic observance.

Shabbat Shalom!

[1] See Breishit 37:4 and Rashi (ad loc).
[2] See Ohr HaChaim (ibid) for additional suggestions as to why Yosef would inform his brothers of his dreams.
[3] See Talmud Sanhedrin 89b. For a discussion of this halakha, see Rav Yitzchak Sender’s Mechzeh Elyon chap. 12.

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