During the famine which befell Egypt in this week's Torah portion, droves of people from all over flocked to Egypt where, thanks to Joseph's brilliant idea, ample food was stored away.
During the famine which befell Egypt in this week's Torah portion, droves of people from all over flocked to Egypt where, thanks to Joseph's brilliant idea, ample food was stored away. Verse 42:3 tells of the tribes descent into the Nile valley: "So Joseph's brothers - ten of them - went down to buy grain from Egypt."
Rashi poses two questions on this awkwardly phrased verse. First, why does it call them "Joseph's brothers"? If the Torah would have called them Jacob's sons, as is more common, we would already know that they were also Joseph's brothers. Second, why does the Torah specifically tell us that "ten" brothers went down into Egypt? As a matter of fact, in the very next verse, the Torah mentions that Benjamin did not go, so it must be that only ten brothers went. Clearly, the Torah must be stressing the number ten for a reason, but why?
Rashi responds with two poignantly striking answers. First, by calling them "Joseph's brothers", the Torah wants to emphasize the brotherly affection that they had on their trip down to Egypt. At this point in time, all the brothers regretted selling Joseph into servitude and therefore went with a feeling of brotherly love.
Second, to answer the question concerning the relevance of the number ten, Rashi notes that each brother went with a slightly different attitude. Their sentiments were not totally uniform and some had stronger feelings than others.
Many commentators expound on this idea that the journey for food took a back seat to the search for Joseph. The brothers were on a mission, destined to find their long-lost brother and bring him home. It was a quest driven by brotherly love. All the years apart had evoked feelings of regret and remorse amongst the brothers. Their lives were not complete without Joseph, the missing link. It was because of this attitude that the Torah calls them "Joseph's brothers".
Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan and alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta and Georgia State Univerisyt, is editor of Torah from Dixie.
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