Parshas VaYigash

וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל אֶחָיו גְּשׁוּ נָא אֵלַי וַיִּגָּשׁוּ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲנִי יוֹסֵף אֲחִיכֶם אֲשֶׁר מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי מִצְרָיְמָה: בראשית מה/ד

When Yosef proclaimed to his brothers that he is Yosef and not only the second in command in Mitzrayim they jumped back out of astonishment. The Torah goes on to say what happened next, “And Yosef said to his brothers, “Please come close to me.” And they came close to him. And he said to them, “I am your brother Yosef, who you sold me to Mitzrayim.””(Braishis 45/4)

Rashi comments, “PLEASE COME CLOSE TO ME- He saw that they shied away from him and he said to himself, “Now my brothers feel ashamed.” He therefore called to them in a gentle manner and showed them that he was circumcised”.

Zera Shimshon asks in the name of the mefarshim that Rashi previously explained (41/55) that after the famine began, whoever came to get food from him had to be circumcised. Therefore since all the Mitzriyim were circumcised, how is the fact that Yosef was also circumcised a proof that he is their brother? Maybe he was a regular Mitzri who was circumcised to be able to receive rations?

Secondly, why did Yosef choose specifically this mitzvah for everyone to do to get rations and not some other Mitzvah?

He answers by asking and answering another question. It is written in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dayo 263/5) that one is not permitted to circumcise a gentile if it is not for the purpose of conversion. If so, asks Zera Shimshon, how was Yosef permitted to order all of the Mitzriyim to circumcise themselves? Yosef had no intention to convert them!

He answers this question in the name of the Yeffa Toar that in Mitzrayim at that time, a circumcised man was considered flawed and because Yosef was obviously circumcised he was made fun of by the other Mitzriyim.

He wanted to circumcise everyone in order that they would stop ridiculing him but he had a problem with the aforementioned Shulchan Aruch.

Therefore he came up with a great idea; he circumcised the Mitzriyim in such a way that it looked like a milah but in truth it was not  halachiky valid – he didn’t completely cut off the foreskin (He made chaticha but not preeya).

By doing this Yosef was saved from ridicule (since everyone also looked circumcised) but didn’t do anything against the Shulchan Aruch.


וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה וַיֹּאמֶר בִּי אֲדֹנִי יְדַבֶּר נָא עַבְדְּךָ דָבָר בְּאָזְנֵי אֲדֹנִי וְאַל יִחַר אַפְּךָ בְּעַבְדֶּךָ כִּי כָמוֹךָ כְּפַרְעֹה: בראשית מד/יח

On the opening possuk of our parsha, “And Yehuda approached him (Yosef)…” the Medrash comments that this meeting between Yosef and Yehudah is alluded to in a possuk in Tehilim. It says there (Tehilim 48/5), “Behold the kings assembled, they came together”. “Behold the KINGS (plural) assembled”, the Medrash explains, is referring to Yosef who ruled Mitzrayim like the king and Yehuda who was the king of the Brothers. The second part of the possuk, “they came together” is written in Hebrew “ovru yachdov” which litterally means, “they passed over together”. However, there is another meaning for the word ovru. It can also mean, “they got angry”. The Medrash explains the possuk according to this alternative translation that the possuk is teaching us that Yosef was angry at Yehudah and that Yehudah was angry at Yosef.

Zera Shimshon asks why did they BOTH get angry. It is easy to understand why Yehuda was angry at Yosef. Yosef prevented Binyamin from returning to Yaakov Avinu in Eretz Yisroel. Before they left for Mitzrayim, Yehudah told Yaakov Avinu that he accepts responsibility for Binyamin’s return. Yehudah therefore understandably was angry at Yosef. But why was Yosef angry at Yehuda?

Zera Shimshon explains that we can understand his anger by examining what happened immediately before Yehuda approached him.

In the end of last week’s parsha the head of Yosef’s house “discovered” Yosef’s goblet in Binyamin’s sack. He then told the Brothers that they could all return to their father in Eretz Yisroel and only Binyamin has to stay behind in Mitzrayim and become a slave to Yosef.

The brothers were in agony and returned to the palace of Yosef to protest this verdict. They offered that they will all become slaves. Yosef replied that, G-d forbid, he wouldn’t do something so harsh because he only judges according to the letter of the law and not worse.

Zera Shimshon asks why is immediately enslaving Binyamin “judging according to the letter of the law”? The punishment for stealing is only to pay double (kaiffel). He is sold as a slave only if he doesn’t have the money to pay. Therefore, to straight away take him as a slave is much harsher than the straight law!

However, continues Zera Shimshon, Yosef justified his verdict by saying that only when one steals from a “commoner” does he pay kaiffel is he not sold as a slave. However, when one steals from royalty, a more stringent punishment is appropriate.

After Yosef said this, “And Yehuda approached him” and counter argued that he knows that he came to Mitzrayim as a slave and that according to the law of Mitzrayim a slave cannot become the king! Therefore Binyamin didn’t steal from royalty and there is no reason to be extra harsh on him.

Zera Shimshon concludes that Yehuda’s argument that Yosef wasn’t worthy to become a king is what made Yosef angry at Yehudah!


אמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל אֶחָיו אֲנִי יוֹסֵף הַעוֹד אָבִי חָי וְלֹא יָכְלוּ אֶחָיו לַעֲנוֹת אֹתוֹ כִּי נִבְהֲלוּ מִפָּנָיו: בראשית מה/ג

“And Yosef said to his brothers, “I am Yosef! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him because they were startled in his presence.” (Braishis 45/3)

On this possuk the Medrash comments, “Wow is to us from the Day of Judgement! Wow is to us from the Day of Rebuke! (The proof) If the brothers were so tremendously embarrassed and startled in front of their young brother, how much more so will we be embarrassed and startled from Hashem when Hashem judges and rebukes us!”

Zera Shimshon asks why does the Medrash bring a proof that we will be embarrassed from Hashem when H. judges all that we did? Seemingly this is obvious and there is no need to prove it from the incident of Yosef and his brothers!

He explains that when Yosef wanted to reveal his real identity, he was concerned that his brothers would not recognize that he was really him but rather someone else pretending to be him. After all, based on the interaction between Yosef and his brothers, the Gemorro paskens that  a person is believed that he doesn’t recognize someone who says that he is his brother when the one who made the claim left home when he was young and didn’t yet have a beard and came back many years later with a beard.

Because of this concern the first thing that Yosef asked after he revealed himself was if his father was still alive. It would seem that this question really makes no sense (since a Yehuda already mentioned that Yaakov, their father, was still alive).

Zera Shimshon explains though, that he mentioned his father as if to say, “Even if you don’t recognize me, bring our father here and he will surely verify that I am Yosef.” Yosef reasoned that Yaakov would be able to recognize him more than his brothers for one of two reasons. Either because any father knows his son better than a brother or because Yaakov had  ruach hakodesh.

The truth though was that even though that in the beginning the brothers didn’t recognize that he was Yosef, after he said that he was Yosef they really did realize that it was him  and wanted to acknowledge this but they were so startled and embarrassed of themselves that they didn’t realize the obvious resemblance  sooner, they simply “lost themselves” and were not able to say anything.

Concludes Zera Shimshon, this is exactly what will happen to us on our Day of Judgement. Not only will be scared of the punishment that we deserve for not conducted ourselves properly according to what Hashem wants from us. But we will be embarrassed of ourselves that we didn’t catch and notice the obvious- that we fooled ourselves to think that our actions were pleasing to Hashem when in reality we really did what we wanted to do and ignored Hashem’s demands.


HaRav Shimshon Nachmaini, author of Zera Shimshon lived in Italy about 300 years ago in the time of the Or HaChaim HaKodesh.

The Chida writes that he was a great Mekubal and wrote many sefarim including sefarim about practical kabbolo but asked that all of his sefarim be buried after he passes away except for Zera Shimshon and Niflaos Shimshon on Avos.

He had one child who died in his lifetime (hence the name Zera Shimshon) and in the preface he promises for people who learn his sefarim after he dies ... And your eyes will see children and grandchildren like the offshoots of an olive tree around your tables, wise and understanding with houses filled with all manner of good things... and wealth and honor......

If you are interested in buying your own copy of the Hebrew version of Zera Shimshon

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