OU Press

Parshat Vayigash – Rabbi Goldin

December 8, 2010

Why Didn’t Yosef “Phone Home”?

by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, author of Unlocking the Torah Text


After thirteen years of slavery, Yosef experiences a dramatic transformation when he interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and is appointed viceroy over Egypt. Yosef serves in this position through the seven years of plenty and into the years of famine before being reunited with his family.


Why doesn’t Yosef contact his father and family after his rise to prominence in Egypt? As the Ramban asks: “One can only wonder…. After Yosef ’s multi-year sojourn in Egypt, how could he not have sent even one letter to his father to inform him and to comfort him? After all, Egypt is only a six-day journey from Hevron. Respect for his father would have justified even a year’s journey!”

Yosef ’s failure to contact his father may well be the most difficult issue arising out of the entire Yosef story. Surely Yosef must have known that his father had been mourning his loss over the years. How could he, then, have been so callous as to neglect to communicate with Yaakov concerning his survival and unimaginable success in Egypt?

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Adapted from one of the multiple essays on this parsha in Unlocking the Torah Text by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin.