Psychological Warfare

There is a uniquenessbrothers_01 to Joseph we witness whenever he opens his mouth. His G-d consciousness is greater than any other in all of Chumash. He even surpasses the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and his father, Jacob. Even when he meets his brothers in Parshah Miketz[1], this tendency seems to create an uneasiness or tension, as we shall soon see.

Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground[2].

The ten brothers failed. They came to Egypt and failed to recognize their long-lost brother. This reminds me of the stories of holocaust survivors and survivors of epic tragedies who look intently at each face they see hoping for a glimmer of recognition either in themselves or the person they see. However, in the opposite cases, we can fall victim of our own laziness because we can fail to recognize someone in an unfamiliar backdrop. Is this the case of the ten brothers? Is this why they failed to recognize Joseph? They had a very low opinion of Joseph; he was a seventeen year-old immature punk who told their father what the brothers did; in fact, their father liked it because he sent Joseph out for that particular purpose. Joseph was Jacob’s eyes and ears, and the brothers hated him for it. He was the brat who never worked. He was placed in charge like a superintendent or a non-working foreman and they resented it.

Joseph recognized his brothers as soon as he saw them. But he behaved like a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where are you from?” he asked. “Me’erets Kena’an lishbor-ochel / From the land of Canaan – to buy food,” they replied[3].

They were asked, “From where do you come?” Their answer should have been simple: “From the Land of Canaan.” Herein is their first mistake. If you are ever arrested or detained by the authorities, the fist thing you need to learn is to keep your mouth closed and only answer the questions given you. When a person begins to weave a narrative, that’s usually a good sign he or she is hiding something or is not being truthful. “To buy food,” they added, which could be a nervous addition or it could be an attempt to hide an ulterior motive for being in Eretz Mitzrayim[4].

And he said to them, “Meraglim atem / you are spies; lir’ot et-ervat ha’arets batem / you have come to see the nakedness of the land[5].”

There are two translator options from this text. First, Joseph could be saying, “You have come to look for the soft underbelly of the land,” indicating a possible national security threat. However, the text could be indicating, “You have come to the seedy section of the land, to the nefarious, to the indecent alleyways, to the sex-trade underground.” While apologies should be made for creating what seems to be a psychological commentary on the text, there are things in here that would send Dr. Sigmund Freud to the DSM V to write another chapter. In response to the accusation of their status of spies, they say:

No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies[6].”

The stress is getting to the brothers, and their words begin to shift the sand under their feet, and Joseph sees it; he once again repeat the accusation.

He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see[7].”

And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more[8].”

The trap has been set. The brothers dug a hole and they fell into it. The accusation is that the brothers have been searching in the seedier section of town, looking for something. Are the looking for members of the sex trade? For mercenaries? For a long-lost brother? Joseph leaves the reason for visiting the dark alleys purposely ambiguous. Joseph probes, looking for the right answer, providing the brothers an opportunity to say they are looking for the brother who has been estranged for 22 years, but they cannot bring themselves to admit their part in the criminal plot. Instead, their lies hint to deceit and guilt. “You are spies,” Joseph argues, and the brothers admit they have a brother who “is no more.”

But Joseph said to them, “It’s just like I said. You are spies[9].”

What just happened? Joseph saw through their lies. They HAD been looking for something. When he accused them of spying, they revealed they were not looking to overthrow the Egyptian government or looking for a way to steal the grain-stores; instead they unwittingly admitted they were spying the areas of lowlife activities looking for the loser brother they sold. Instead of admitting it, they continued to lie and say, “No, we just came to buy food.” Even when Joseph gave them an opportunity to reveal the intrigue behind the loss of their brother, they denied such activities.

By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” And he put them all together in custody for three days[10].

After three days, the brothers were released, given food, and told expressly to bring the youngest brother next time otherwise do not bother coming back. The brothers are suffering debilitating guilt – a guilt so deep they cannot bring themselves to admit it and it fuels the train-wreck they call a conversation with the man over all of Egypt.

And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood[11].”

It almost seems like Reuben knows retribution is coming when he says, “Here comes the reckoning for his blood.” Waiting for punishment is often worse than the punishment; it reminds me of the times my mom would say, “Wait ’till your father gets home.”

In order to determine if they are spies or brothers, Shimon is placed in a pit and the other nine are sent away. If they are spies, Shimon will be abandoned. Plausible deniability. What’s notable is the term pit used to describe the prison in Egypt as well as the pit the brothers threw Joseph prior to the sale 22 years ago. The remaining nine brothers were sent away with their money in their bags. They left a brother, Shimon, behind but they had money. This is not the first time they left a brother behind and had money in their bags. Shimon was one of the two brothers who committed murder in Shechem. Therefore, it’s most likely they[12] who said the brothers should kill Joseph at the well[13].

When the nine brothers return home with food, Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me[14].” It’s clear Jacob blames the sons of Leah for the loss of each brother. In response to their father’s grief, Reuben does what Reuben does: he overreacts and puts his foot in his mouth. Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you[15].” His father’s response indicates he places trust in neither Reuben nor his judgment: He said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol[16].”

Once the food is gone, it is Judah who creates more comfort when he promises to take care of Benjamin. He says, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever[17].” His words ring true and honest. No exaggeration and no hyperbole.

When they return to Egypt, they bring Benjamin with them and they are reunited with Shimon. They’re taken to Joseph’s house to eat a meal and are seated at a table and placed in birth order. Aside from the terrifying birth-order seating, everything seems to finally work for the brothers. They’re together, Benjamin is still with them, and everyone is healthy. Everything is fine except one thing. They still have one brother whom they left behind.

As the brothers preparing to go home, their bags are filled with grain, and all their money [both trips’ worth) are put back in their bags. A silver cup is placed in Benjamin’s bag. In the morning, all eleven leave with their donkeys. I can almost hear the sigh of relief as Joseph’s house and the granaries began to disappear in the rear-view mirror. I can imagine the bitter-sweet euphoria they felt that something finally went right. I bet they felt they jinxed themselves when they are detained by the stewart.

“Why have you repaid evil for good? Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this[18].”

From where did this talk of divination come? In a surprising twist, the Egyptian polytheist went from speaking of G-d and the G-d of your fathers to a total lack of G-d consciousness. Now, he speaks of divination! Now the brothers have lost the ability to make appeals in the name of G-d. One of the brothers says, Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord’s servants[19].” I will give you one guess who said that; I can imagine the rest of the brothers wanting to pummel Reuben for opening his big mouth. As the bags are opened, money is found in the mouth of each bag. The agonizing wait as each bag was opened and ransacked… no pun intended… must have been excruciating. Additionally, this was a recreation of the most traumatic event of their childhood: when Laban overturned their carts and belongings looking for his teraphim[20], an tool for divination, just like the supposed power of the silver cup. How horrifying to discover that the silver cup was found in Benjamin’s satchel.

This gives the sons of Leah an option that will save their necks. Like mother like son: Rachel, the “illegitimate[21]” wife of their father was a thief, stealing an item of divination. Was Benjamin just like his mother? Did Benjamin steal the silver cup? This is the perfect opportunity to totally separate from the Rachel side of the family. They could say, “Yeah, we are brothers, but not with the thief. In fact, that whole side of the family are thieves and self-serving jerks,” and forever abandon him and the Rachel legacy from the family. Judah, however, steps in and weaves a great story. His speech is full of lies and half-truths, but it does the trick, because the only way out of this situation is the one he chooses: take me instead of my brother Benjamin[22].

The purpose of prophesy is to create tikkun[23], and the dreams and events between Joseph and his brother are no different. This appears to be the only way to create healing, but arguably, there can never be complete healing. Similar to adopted children or children taken by DCF, the relationships are forever broken and the closeness can never be regained. Even after Jacob died, the brothers come, bow to Joseph, and plead for their lives. This is not a sign of a healed relationship.

In a similar vein, the prophesies of “end-time events” are intended to be a tikkun as well. The promise of Messiah’s return[24] is to reunite the sons of Israel, and there is [and always has been] an invitation for the goyim to be part of that tikkun. While many peddle their prophetic commentaries and make a ton of money in the process, this is not their purpose. Almost all prophesies are conditional and are, therefore, not guaranteed to happen. Nineveh was not destroyed because the whole city made teshuvah[25], even though the language of the prophecy was worded as a guarantee. The same applies to Daniel, Revelation, and the Prophets. The dreams in Bereshit are intertwined, especially Jacob’s, Joseph’s, and Pharaoh’s. The former informs the latter. These dreams run a different circuit than other prophesy because the purpose of prophesy is not to foretell the future but to illicit a change of heart in the listener.

[1] Genesis 41:1 – 44:17

[2] Genesis 42:6

[3] Genesis 42:7

[4] the land of Egypt

[5] Genesis 42:9b

[6] Genesis 42:10-11

[7] Genesis 42:12

[8] Genesis 42:13

[9] Genesis 42:14

[10] Genesis 42:15-17

[11] Genesis 42:22

[12] Shimon and Levi

[13] Once murder is used to solve a problem, it becomes the easy solution for other problems. Killing someone burns a hole in the soul and forever alters the moral compass. When you look at the narrative in Vayeshev, Genesis 37:19-30, the four oldest sons of Leah appear to speak in order of birth.

[14] Genesis 42:36

[15] Genesis 42:37

[16] Genesis 42:38

[17] Genesis 43:8-9

[18] Genesis 44:4-5

[19] Genesis 44:9

[20] Teraphim are household idols often used to foretell events of significance. Genesis 31:19-35

[21] illegitimate from the perspective of the sons of Leah

[22] Genesis 44:13

[23] a repairing

[24]I believe Messiah will come again, not as Yeshua [salvation], but as Menachem [comfort],

[25] they repented and changed their way


One thought on “Psychological Warfare

  1. Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to create a very good article…
    but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and never manage to get anything done.


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