Back to the Question…Why was it Joseph Who Wept? Is there a Deeper Meaning?

We have noted that aside from Benjamin, his younger brother and son of his own mother Rachel, that none of the other brothers wept. We ask again, “Why?”

It has been said that they were in absolute shock, ashamed, and afraid when Joseph revealed himself to them. After all he looked like an Egyptian, was dressed like an Egyptian and was second in command under Pharaoh over the entire land of Egypt. How could this be their younger brother Joseph? But at some point during the unfolding of the story, it would seem that they would be jarred out of their shock and come to the full realization of what they had done and weep in his embrace, or at least weep at their father Jacob’s deathbed and ask for forgiveness as he gave them each his blessing. Why did they not weep? We may never know. Perhaps the partial answer may lie in genetics.

Could there be an inherent difference in the emotional/psychological make-up between Joseph and his younger brother Benjamin and the rest of his brothers?  

If so, could that inherent difference stem from the deep passion that Jacob felt in his union with Rachel, Joseph’s mother…beginning with their first meeting, when the text says that “he kissed her, lifted up his voice and wept”( Gen.29:11)…as opposed to his lesser feelings for Leah, Bilhah, and Zilpah? Also in Gen. 44:27-28 we find Jacob poignantly referring to “his wife” Rachel having borne him two sons, (Joseph and Benjamin), and the subsequent heartbreak that later followed when he was deceived into believing that his beloved Joseph had been “torn to pieces” (Gen. 36:33-35).

It is becoming clearer and clearer as our understanding of genetics increases that psychological as well as physical tendencies are inherited.  To carry this theory further, would it not also make sense that the descendants of Joseph (and perhaps Benjamin who is ‘hidden’ within Judah) would reflect his personality?

Is there an ancient DNA thread that perhaps could be traced back to Joseph and his brothers that would account for the difference in their emotional make-up?

In light of this possible scenario of inherited psychological/emotional tendencies, I would ask you to reflect upon the scene of what normally occurs today when going into a church vs. going into a synagogue.  Most evangelical churches have ‘greeters’ at the door who will welcome you with a hug or a hearty handshake whether you want it or not…and in some instances even non-appointed greeters will do the same.  In many of these churches, the services can be quite emotional…with weeping, raising of hands, etc., while in others the atmosphere can be more subdued.  

Most synagogues, on the other hand, do not have ‘greeters.’ And according to Rabbi Tovia Singer, with tongue in cheek, the first four words you will most likely hear are, “You’re in my seat!” All jest aside, the services in the synagogue are normally more reserved with less of a welcome to visitors, which given the history of the Jewish people, is understandable.

On a personal note, having grown up and been deeply involved in churches in my earlier days and in synagogues in the last thirty years, I certainly realize that there are exceptions within both groups…I have personally known more than a few. Each of us is each unique in our own way, but could we say that in general those of Joseph are more openly emotional and prone to tears than those of Judah?

Going back to our story and the parsha Vayigash (Gen 44:18) we find Judah who was the first to come up with the plan of throwing Joseph in the pit now making a 180 degree turn. At the risk of his own life, we find him boldly and courageously stepping forward and drawing near to Joseph…whom he still does not recognize as his brother…to plead with him to allow Benjamin to return home for the sake of his aging father. This was definitely an emotionally charged moment on both sides, yet it was only Joseph who finally gave in to weeping. Judah did not weep.

Could this tendency of weeping or not weeping possibly be the result of an ancient DNA thread? Both Judah and Joseph had the DNA of their father Jacob, but only Joseph had the added DNA of his mother, Rachel.

 Perhaps this is a stretch but I cannot help but think that it very well could be Joseph and his children, who often identify themselves with Ephraim today who are for the most part still weeping.

Rachel is weeping for her children because “he” (Joseph) is not (Jer. 31:14). Joseph is weeping because he has been separated from his family and when he finally encounters them again, he is moved with emotion and compassion and wants to reunite with them so that he can offer consolation, but they do not recognize him.

The text indicates that he held back his tears on several instances but when he could no longer restrain himself, “he gave his voice free reign in weeping.” Then with heartrending emotion, he reveals himself to them and says, “Ani Yosef, does my father yet live?”  The brothers were terrified, but Joseph implores them saying, “Come closer to me, Ani Yosef. I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Mitzrayim” (Gen. 45:1-5).

After a time the brothers did speak to Joseph as he kissed them and wept in their embrace, but there is no mention of any of the brothers except Benjamin weeping. Why not? Is there a possible pattern beginning to emerge…a pattern that in some circumstances can be seen today? It makes one question how often this has been the case with some who identify themselves as being of Joseph when they attempt to reveal themselves to Brother Judah?

King Solomon writes “That which has been is that which shall be and that which has been done is that which shall be done; and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10). In other words, what happened once will happen again. Is this happening again today between Joseph and Judah?

A closer look into the blessings of Jacob for each of his sons reveals that their father addresses all of them in the third person with the exception of Judah and Joseph. Jacob speaks directly to them in the first person and we see that they will emerge as the two major players in the last days for they will be leading the others in the reunification of all the tribes…all Israel.

Reunification of Judah and Joseph – Looking Back, Living Forwards!

Today we are witnessing a phenomenon of countless individuals across our nation and throughout the world who are developing a hunger for HaShem and Torah and subsequently wanting to connect with Judah (See Zach.8:23 regarding grabbing the tzit tzit of the Jew). Many of these from the nations are aligning themselves with the B’Nei Noach movement…and the rabbinic community is opening up to them. Others are claiming to be of Joseph (most often referred to as Ephraim in the scriptures)…and who are we to say that they are not?

These people are from all walks of life and have one thing in common…they love HaShem and Torah and have a burning desire to connect with Brother Judah. There is also an increasing number of those of Judah who are responding by reaching out, teaching, and slowly beginning to draw near not only to those in the B’Nei Noach movement, but also to those claiming to be of Joseph.

One such example can be seen in the work of my dear friend Hanoch Young of Judah who has for many years been deeply involved in this outreach movement of “drawing close” to his brothers and sisters of Ephraim. He lives in Israel and works as a tour guide, and each year makes extensive trips to the U.S. and travels around the country to further this movement that he terms the “Revolution for Restoration” which involves the restoration of all Israel as prophesied in Ezekiel 37:19.  Hanoch may be contacted his through his personal Facebook or his Connect to Israel Facebook page.

The prophets speak time and time again of this final reunification that will come to pass in the latter days, but in the interim we each have a responsibility to do our part.

As many of you know, David Horowitz of blessed memory, founded United Israel World Union with the express purpose of promoting this worldwide re-unification of Judah and Joseph…the year was 1943, some seventy eight years ago. David was of Judah, a forerunner, and a man before his time. He loved HaShem and he loved the Hebrew Bible. He often taught from and quoted from the prophets. One of his favorite prophesies was that of the two sticks from Ezekiel 37:19, where HaShem says, “Behold, I will take the stick of “Yosef, which is in the hand of Efrayim, and the tribes of Yisrael, his companions and will put them and it together with the stick of Yehuda to form one stick, and they shall be one in My hand.”

This in itself is encouraging beyond words, and one has to wonder how close it is to the time when the final revealing of Joseph to Brother Judah will occur once again. The picture of Joseph weeping as he reveals himself to his brothers, accompanied by the heartrending words, “Come closer…Ani Yosef,” I am Joseph your brother seem to cry out through the ages…and through the pages of the Tanakh as do those of his mother Rachel who is pictured as bitterly grieving for her children.

Long after her death, we find the prophet Jeremiah making reference to her continual weeping. Notice the language used to describe her grief. She like her husband Jacob refused to be comforted. “A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted for her children because he (singular in the Hebrew) is not” (Jeremiah 31:13-14).  This passage is set off by a white space which always has special significance. It is noteworthy that Reuben, speaking of Joseph, In Genesis 37:30, used these same words he “is not” when he came back to the pit and discovered that Joseph was not there.

The text in Jeremiah chapter 31 continues with another white space (verses 15-19) with HaShem Himself comforting Rachel with the touching words, “Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears,” because your children will return… the text then speaks of Ephraim as HaShem’s dear son, His darling child who having gone astray will turn and do t’shuvah and how HaShem “earnestly remembers him still,” and that His (HaShem’s) “inward parts are moved for him” and that He will have mercy upon this darling child of his…a most endearing passage!

DNA and More – Could there be DNA of the Heart?

The question remains, why was it Joseph who wept so much? Was it in his DNA from his mother Rachel? Has that tendency to weep been passed down through the generations to some of Joseph’s descendants today?  Perhaps yes or perhaps we could go further to suggest that it is also a matter of what we might term as DNA of the Heart… that can bypass generations and affect any one person, from any of the tribes, including Judah, and or including those of the nations who have attached themselves to HaShem and Torah…anyone who has a heart for G-D? These are questions we could meditate on for a lifetime, but the bottom line for each of us is, “Where is your heart? Do you have a heart for G-D?”

As we complete the Joseph Saga, we come to the end of the Book of Genesis (Beresheit in Hebrew) with the Torah portion, Vayechi (“And he lived”) which begins with the beautiful account of Jacob, knowing he was soon to die, calling Joseph to bring his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, in order that he should bless them. It is quite thought-provoking that it has become traditional in many Jewish homes and synagogues across the globe that parents recite a special blessing upon their sons that they should be “like Ephraim and Manasseh.”

Following the blessing of Joseph’s two sons, the text records the moving account of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel, calling his 12 sons to gather together, assemble themselves and listen, so that he could tell them what was to happen in the acharit yamin, or later days (Gen.49:1 ). He then blesses his twelve sons, symbolized by the twelve tribes, each with their appropriate blessing…and as they gathered together in unity around his deathbed, he instructs them to bury him with his fathers in the cave of Machpelah (Gen.49:1-33).

As Jacob drew his last breath and was gathered to his people, we read the heartrending words…”Then Yosef threw himself upon his father’s face and wept upon him and kissed him” (Gen.50:1). The story continues as Jacob is mourned many days and then carried back to his homeland…and then after a time, Joseph also upon telling his brothers that he is about to die, promises that HaShem will visit them and elicits an oath that when they leave Egypt that they will take his bones with them back to the Promised Land…so Joseph joins the legacy of all the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs and his story along with theirs continues to live on…

Upon completion of each of the five books of the Torah there is an ancient and meaningful tradition in synagogues around the world to recite in unison a phrase of encouragement as we go into the next book of Torah.

Chazak, chazak, v’neit chazek

Be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened!

One day all of us will be gathered together in unity…ONE family…ONE heart! (Ezekiel 37:19; Malachi 3:23-24; Jer.3:18, 50:4). And there will be no more weeping for HaShem will wipe away all our tears.

As we look forward to that day and to the final Redemption may we each delve deeply into our own hearts and into the heart of the Torah as we seek to discover and enrich our lives with more and more of those “hidden sparks beneath the surface!”

by Elisheva Tavor aka Betty Tabor Givin

Betty Tabor Givin (who is known by her Hebrew pen name as Elisheva Tavor) is a lifelong teacher. After having retired from her teaching career of several decades in the public and private school sector, she turned her full attention to religious education. She is an ordained teacher and long-time board member for United Israel World Union. Her popular teachings demonstrate the depth and beauty of her Jewish faith. Her articles have been featured in various publications and on the web. She is a regular contributor to Netiv Center for Torah Study and the United Israel Bulletin and is presently writing a book entitled, Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface.