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    Speaking my language – Vayyiggash

    Joseph, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1874

    There is a strange verse that is part of the reconciliation of Joseph and the brothers: “Your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin can see that my mouth is speaking to you” (Gen. 45:12).

    Of course they could all see that Joseph was speaking. But why mention Benjamin?

    Rashi thinks that it is to emphasise that Joseph bore no ill-will towards Benjamin, who had no reason to be devious or apologetic towards him.

    Targum Onkelos, the Midrash and the commentators take a different approach. They say that Joseph is acknowledging that he is not speaking Egyptian but Hebrew, implying, “I am speaking in your (own) language”.

    Why mention Benjamin? Perhaps because till now, Joseph had been using an interpreter, speaking – as one would expect from an Egyptian official – in the language of Egypt and leaving it to the interpreter to turn his words into Hebrew.

    Benjamin had not been aware of this diplomatic dodge and was naïve, so he needed to have his attention drawn to the new situation.

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