This Parsha this week is Parshas Vayigash. In the Parsha the Torah tells us the final episode of the saga of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph had been sold into slavery as a 17 year old boy by his brothers. Twenty two years later, in a remarkable chain of events, Joseph was appointed Viceroy of Egypt to lead the country through a period of a terrible hunger. The brothers came to Egypt to buy food from this Viceroy, who they did not recognize as Joseph. Although the brothers still had no idea that the person who they thought was the Viceroy of Egypt was in fact Joseph, Joseph recognized who they were. Before the brothers left Egypt, Joseph had his priceless goblet planted in the sack of Benjamin, the youngest brother, and then accused the brothers of having stolen it. The brothers hotly denied this accusation. When their bags were searched, whoever, the goblet was found in the possession of Benjamin. The brothers were brought back to face Joseph, and were accused of having stolen from the house of the Viceroy. Joseph said that he would now keep Benjamin in Egypt to be a slave, and the brothers would have to return to their father Jacob without Benjamin. The brothers were faced with a situation that could easily cause such pain to their father Jacob that it would kill him. Knowing that this accusation was false, the brothers told one another that G-d was punishing them for not having mercy on their brother Joseph over twenty years earlier, when they sold Joseph into slavery. When Joseph heard this absolute declaration of regret from his brothers, he decided that he must immediately reveal his true identity to his brothers. “And Joseph could not hold back in front of all those who were standing in front of him and he called out, “take away all people from before me.” (Genesis 45:1) Only when all the Egyptians had left the room and he was alone with his brothers did he reveal his true identity to them.
The Sages point out that this was very dangerous for Joseph to do. What if when they were alone, before Joseph told them who he was, the brothers decided to just kill this Viceroy of Egypt who was falsely accusing them and threatening them to ruin their lives? After all, if there was no one with them they could easily overpower him and then just quickly leave? Aside from that, if Joseph could not hold himself back, why did he wait until everyone left the room? The answer to both questions is, that Joseph knew that when he would reveal himself and they would have to own up to the terrible act they had done against him over twenty years earlier, they would be embarrassed. He didn’t want to cause them shame in public – even if it meant that he was putting himself in danger. He also did not allow himself to say anything, and waited until everyone left the room before beginning this conversation.
The most important lesson of this episode is very clear. How often are we in a situation that we want to say something, but it will cause embarrassment or pain to someone else? Joseph taught us the importance of always controlling ourselves, holding back from saying any words that could disgrace or humiliate someone else.