This Torah portion is, in my opinion, one of the most climactic moments in Torah. For several chapters, we’ve read of the upbringing of the favored son Josef, loved by his father and hated by his brothers. We read of his being the victim of conniving brothers — an action that would end in slavery for him — then of his rising in favor in Pharaoh’s house, only to be cut down again as a prisoner. Rise and fall, rise and fall, all through his life; and now here we find him as the second most powerful man in Egypt, staring his hungry brothers in the face, his own identity disguised. I can’t imagine the struggles that raged inside of Josef when he first saw his brothers. Though Josef is a righteous man, he is human nonetheless; and I would think that bitterness and anger were among his first emotions at the reunion. Thankfully, he did not act upon his first emotions, whatever they may have been. Instead he would bide his time and plan.
He sets up his younger brother, Benjamin, to take the fall for a crime he didn’t commit; and I believe he did this to test his brothers, to see if they had truly changed from the people who had thrown him in a pit. His plan comes to fruition, but he could only conceal who he was for so long:
At last Yosef could no longer control his feelings... He said ‘I am Yosef, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t be sad that you sold me into slavery here or be angry at yourselves, because it was God who sent me ahead of you to preserve life.’ (Gen. 45:1-5)
So why go through all of this? Why didn’t Josef just reveal himself to begin with and save all the trouble and heartache, especially if he wasn’t even mad at them in the end? As I mentioned earlier, I believe that God gave him wisdom to know when the time was right to reveal himself, for there to be a fuller restoration between the brothers. Josef brought the thought of loss freshly into their minds before showing them that their long lost brother still lived. God does something similar with us:
What is more, their minds were made stonelike; for to this day the same veil remains over them when they read the Torah; it has not been unveiled, because only by the Messiah is the veil taken away... ‘But,’ says the Torah, ‘whenever someone turns to Adonai, the veil is taken away.’ (2 Corinthians 3:14-16)
I acknowledge that I could be making a loose connection here, and possibly taking this passage to something it wasn’t meant to mean, but the concept that I pull from it is this: That in all of our lives, there are veils over certain things, placed there by the Father. I’m sure that all of you at sometime or another have thought, “I wish I could just understand what was going on right now,” or, “Why can’t I see what you’re doing, God?” Not always, but at times I believe that the answer is that He has placed a veil over our eyes. He knows exactly how much we can handle, and He knows how long we need to stay in something before we learn what we need to learn. His ways are not our ways, but His timing is always perfect. So I urge you to remember Josef’s brothers. They were in deep turmoil over the actions they were having to take just to get food, but the whole time, Josef loved them deeply and hoped only that their hearts had been changed through the process.