|Brothers||Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad,Asher, Naphtali, Benjamin|
The Story of Joseph and his Eleven Brothers
Joseph was Jacob’s son. One of twelve, and the firstborn of Rachel, Jacob’s younger but beloved and beautiful wife. Rachel died in childbirth when her second son and Joseph’s real brother Benjamin was born to Rachel while she was on the road. Jacob’s other wife Leah had six sons, and a daughter Dinah. The sons became patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel, and were called the
Children of Israel as Jacob’s second name was Israel. The other four sons were born to the maid servants of Leah and Rachel, two each.
Because Joseph’s father, Jacob, loved Rachel so much, Joseph became Jacob’s favorite son. Jacob made Joseph a striped coat as a sign of his love for his son. His ten older brothers were very jealous, especially because, when Joseph was a young man, he had dreams which he told to his brothers and to his father, and they understood the dreams to mean that Joseph would be in charge of them, and they would bow down to him.
After a while, his brothers got so angry with him that one day, when they were away from home tending to the flocks, they threw Joseph into a pit. The actually planned to kill him but while he was in the pit a caravan passed by and they pulled him out of the pit, sold him to the caravan and thus Joseph was carried to Egypt and sold as a slave. The brothers smeared the blood of an animal they had killed on Joseph’s striped coat and took it home to show their father who now thought Joseph was dead. He grieved for Joseph many long years.
Joseph became a slave to a very important Egyptian called Potiphar. Joseph was such a hard worker that his owner gave him more and more responsibility until Joseph was in charge of the man’s house.
The man’s wife told a lie about Joseph and Joseph was thrown into prison. He was in a prison with Pharaoh’s Cup-bearer and Pharaoh’s Baker.
When these two men had dreams that they could not understand, Joseph interpreted the dreams for them. He told the Cup-bearer that he would be restored to his old position in three days. When this happened, Joseph asked the Cup-bearer to remember him, but of course, he forgot. At the same time the Baker’s dream, as interpreted by Joseph came true – he was not restored to his position but was instead put to death.
Sometime later, Pharoah had two troubling dreams. The Cup-bearer then remembered Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams. Joseph was summoned from prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. The dreams were the same in essence – they meant that Egypt would enjoy seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.
Joseph suggested to Pharoah a way to solve the problem. Pharoah recognized in Joseph a competent and dependable person with the capacity to plan for the future of Egypt and he appointed Joseph viceroy, second only to Pharoah himself in importance. Joseph was responsible for storing Egypt’s surplus grain during the seven years of plenty and selling it back to not only the Egyptians but also to many people who came from far and wide in the region to buy food. When his older brothers came to buy food, Joseph recognized them, and was thus enabled to bring his own family, including his elderly father and his brother Benjamin to Egypt to settle. (See below for details.)
Joseph proved himself a really good and humble man. Joseph told his brothers that it was not his greatness that had saved the day, but God’s goodness in saving him from the pit, bringing him to Egypt, and giving him the opportunity to not only interpret drams, but also to save his family and all Egypt. He also forgave his ten older brothers for being nasty to him in his youth, and he was true to his word. He never took it out on his brothers.
The story of when the ten brothers came to Egypt to buy food is interesting. On the first occasion, Joseph recognized them and could understand them; they did not recognize their younger half-brother as he was dressed as a noble Egyptian.
Joseph told them they had to bring their younger brother (Benjamin) with them if they ever came back to buy food.
Of course this happened, and reluctantly father Jacob let Benjamin go with them for their return (second) visit. Jacob said he would die if Benjamin didn’t return.
After buying food, they left to go back to Canaan. Joseph created a theft with the missing object in Benjamin’s sack, and declared Benjamin would have to stay in prison in Egypt. But Judah (after whom Judaism is named) pleaded to let Benjamin return home and offered to take his place. This showed Joseph that Judah had truly repented of being involved in his own capture and enslavement.
Finally Joseph revealed to his brothers who he was in a very emotional scene, and made arrangements for the whole family, including father Jacob, to come to Egypt to live. They would settle in Goshen and bring all their flocks with them.
So Joseph was somewhat devious in testing his brothers, but he did forgive them and work for their safety and promising future. But the story makes it quite clear that his greatest love was for his younger brother Benjamin and for his father.
Who is a Tzadik? From the root for Justice (Tsade, Dalet, Kof): A compassionate person who works for justice and making righteous (correct) decisions.
The Bible says “Tzedek, tzedek tir’dof” = righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue or chase after without stop. Joseph surely did that. Why, in your opinion?
(Akhlah would like to thank Victoria Cohen Crumpton and her fifth-grade class at Congregation Micah for this expanded version)