The beginning of this week's parsha, Vayigash, relates the details of how Yosef came to reveal his true identity to his brothers. Previously, Yosef had accused the brothers of stealing from him, the viceroy of Egypt. Searching their packs, Yosef's servant had found that Binyamin was the guilty party. Yosef had subsequently demanded that Binyomin remain imprisoned in Mitzrayim, while the rest of the brothers were free to leave.
Against this background, this week's parsha describes Yehuda's desperate plea on behalf of his youngest brother. Yehuda explained to Yosef that their aged father, Yaakov, was deeply attached to Binyomin; he would suffer incredibly and die if Binyomin would not return. According to Chazal, Yehuda's words contained an implicit threat: If Yosef did not release Binyomin, Yehuda and his brothers, who were all men of great physical prowess, would free Binyomin by force, killing Yosef and Pharaoh if necessary. After hearing Yehuda's sincere argument, it was difficult for Yosef to contain his emotions and refrain from immediately sharing his identity with his brother's. However, before Yosef revealed himself, he dismissed all of his attendants and servants from the room. Rashi explains that Yosef's intent was to avoid causing pain to his brothers by embarrassing them in the presence of the Egyptians. Finally, Yosef wept aloud, and told his eleven brothers who he really was.
Yosef's actions are surprising. The p'sukim stress Yosef's pressing emotional need to reveal himself to his brothers. Presumably, a person under the influence of such powerful feelings could be expected simply to blurt out the truth, ignoring the presence of any bystanders. Furthermore, Yosef's fear that Yehuda and his brothers might kill him before his identity was established would tend to discourage Yosef from secluding himself with his brothers and delaying his announcement. Nonetheless, Yosef was able to restrain himself until he had seen to it that his brothers would not be humiliated by his revelation.
This description of Yosef's conduct teaches us the degree of self control that the Torah expects a Jew to exhibit even while experiencing extreme emotions Yosef HaTzaddik was able to balance his own emotional inclinations with sensitivity to the requirements of Halacha.
Another example of Yosef's unique self-discipline occurs later in the parsha. When Yosef went to greet his father after twenty-two years of separation, the pasuk says that he "appeared before his father." Both Yosef and Yaakov had longed for each other's company throughout the period of separation. Undoubtedly, Yosef was deeply moved by the sight of his father after so many years. However, the pasuk emphasizes that Yosef appeared before his father, and not that he saw his father, because Yosef's only intention was to ensure that his reunification with his father was as enjoyable and meaningful as possible for Yaakov. Once again, Yosef has set aside his personal, emotional considerations to maximize his father's pleasure, as required by the mitzvah of Kibud Av (honoring one's father).
Yosef's exemplary self-control can serve as a model for us in our own lives. We must remember that on many occasions, Yosef HaTzaddik demonstrated supreme self-discipline under nearly impossible circumstances. By emulating Yosef's unconditional commitment to Halacha, as well as his
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