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    A truthful answer – Vayyiggash

    Joseph & his brothers, by Gustave Dore

    Joseph & his brothers, by Gustave Dore

    When the crescendo came and the brothers of Joseph stood before him in his capacity as a top Egyptian ruler, Joseph had two things to say, “I am Joseph!” and “Is my father still alive?” (Gen. 45:3).

    Such a moving moment, and every time we read the story we want to weep. The thought of one day meeting his father again must have sustained Joseph for years, and now it was about to happen.

    But there is a problem. This is not the first time he asked that question about his father. He had already done so when, without revealing his own identity, he asked, “How is your aged father about whom you have spoken? Is he still alive?” (Gen. 44:20).

    The question he now asks – Od Avinu Chai? – seems the same, but the answer might differ. On the former occasion, the brothers might have decided that the real truth did not matter. All they wanted was food, and if the ruler – whom they thought to be a stranger – for some reason asked about their father they would say whatever was politic at the moment, whatever was likely to secure a supply of food.

    Now the situation is different. The stranger has turned out to be their own brother and they could have no thoughts of twisting the truth.

    When their own brother asked about Jacob it was a cry from the heart and they had to tell the truth.

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