Repercussions and RecriminationsBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
After three days, Yoseif let the brothers out of jail. He said, “You know what? I’m a nice guy. Instead of sending one of you to get your youngest brother while I keep the rest of you in prison, I’ll let all of you bring food back to your families while I keep just one locked up. I choose… that one!” (Shimon.)
The brothers recognized that this misfortune was punishment for what they had done to Yoseif; Reuven didn’t miss the opportunity to say “I told you so!” They didn’t realize that “Tzafnas Panayach” understood Hebrew without his interpreter. When he heard all this, Yoseif excused himself and had a good cry. When he returned, Yoseif had Shimon taken away. (Why did he pick Shimon? Remember that Shimon and Levi together managed to wipe out the city of Shechem. Separating those two was a really good idea!)
Yoseif gave instructions that the brothers’ sacks be filled with grain. He also ordered that each one’s money be placed in the bag. The brothers loaded up and headed back to Canaan.
When they set up camp for the night, they opened a sack to get food and Levi found his money returned. “Uh oh!” the brothers exclaimed. “This can’t be good.”
They reached home and told their father the whole story. They then started unpacking the rest of the bags and they found the other brothers’ money. “We’re in real trouble now!” they said. “That Egyptian guy already thinks we’re spies – now he gonna think we’re thieves, too!”
Yaakov was understandably upset by the whole scenario. “I give you one simple thing to do, go down to Egypt and buy food! Yoseif’s gone, you got Shimon taken away, and now you want to bring Binyamin to Egypt? I don’t think so!”
Reuven said, “I promise to bring Binyamin back safely. I’m so confident that I offer my own two sons as collateral. If anything goes wrong, you can execute them in retaliation.” (Yaakov’s reply is not recorded in the text, but it was apparently along the lines of, “You realize that your sons are my grandsons, right? I don’t think you fully thought that through.”)
So Yaakov refused to allow Binyamin to go to Egypt, but it was only a matter of time before the food ran out again. Yaakov told his sons to go buy more, but Yehuda reminded him that the man said he wouldn’t see them again unless Binyamin was with them.
“Now why’d you have to go and tell him you had another brother?” Yaakov asked.
“He kept asking about our family!” the brothers replied. “How we were supposed to know he was going to ask for Binyamin?”
“Look,” Yehuda said, “if we don’t bring Binyamin with us, we’re all going to starve to death. I’ll personally guarantee his safety. If I don’t bring him back, let it be on my head! We could have gone to Egypt and back twice in the time this has taken!”
Yaakov agreed to this proposal. (Not only was it a better offer than Reuven’s had been, Yehuda had lost two sons himself. Of all the brothers, only he could truly appreciate how Yaakov felt.) Yaakov sent a gift of some of the indigenous delicacies of the land, no doubt made more valuable than ever because of the famine. He also instructed his sons to bring double the cash, to pay for the previous grain in addition to the new provisions. All the brothers, including Binyamin, headed for Egypt.