Author Topic: The Psak of Yosef  (Read 3272 times)

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The Psak of Yosef
« on: December 25, 2006, 04:02:25 AM »
The Psak of Yosef
By Moshe Lerman
« on: Dec 8th, 2004, 9:12am »  Quote  Modify 

Parashat Mikets is the centerpiece of the story of Yoseph. It relates about his rise to the Egyptian throne and his subsequent encounter with his brothers. Yoseph treats his brothers harshly. Why is he so cold? Why does he not reveal himself immediately? Why does Yoseph insist that Benyamin be brought to him?
Though there is no shortage of explanations, the following approach seems particularly relevant at this time. 
Our Parasha connects three psakim (halachic decisions) found in the preceding and subsequent Parashot. The first psak was by the Beit Din of the ten brothers of Yoseph. They decided on a psak of disengagement from their brother. It seems that they argued that Yoseph was a rodef, a mortal danger to their lives. The psak was wrong, and the Torah explains the source of the error: The judgment of the brothers was perverted because of the hatred towards Yoseph that resided in their hearts. 
How could this be? Were the ten brothers not the righteous forefathers of the tribes of Israel? HaShem judges his Chassidim by a hair's-breadth, and therefore the Torah use a harsh description for what in reality was only a small flaw. But this small flaw, a little hatred, was the cause of an erroneous psak and its calamitous consequences. 
The second psak is that of Yoseph, his decision to reunite with his brothers - the exact reverse of the psak of disengagement. What is the reason for the cold behavior of Yoseph? Why does he not immediately come with his ruling?
Yoseph was uncertain. A Posek must be absolutely neutral. The slightest bias in his heart can cause him to rule erroneously. Yoseph had two realistic options. He could have chosen not to reunite with his brothers. If he had ruled this way, the twelve tribes of the Chosen Nation would have come from Ephraim and Menashe and the ten sons of Benyamin. The existence of this option explains why Joseph insists that Benyamin be brought to him.
To issue a psak of Truth, Yoseph had to test his brothers. He needed an objective proof for their righteousness. He had to eliminate the possibility that his emotion would pervert his judgment. Joseph's heart must have been full of emotion: the pain of his exile, the love for his brothers and father, the patriarchic status he would gain if the Chosen Nation would come from the sons of Rachel. Yoseph HaTsaddik deserves his title: his ruling expressed the Truth.
The third psak is the one by Ya'akov, settling a nuance in the definition of the Chosen Nation that Yoseph could not rule about because his personal involvement was too great: Ephraim and Menashe are tribes of Israel. Ya'akov ruled that they should not loose this status as a consequence of Yoseph's greatness. 
By Divine providence, we are reading about Yoseph HaTsaddik while two great poskim in Israel are about to issue a psak that will likely make or break the formation of a government that plans to disengage from Gaza and the Shomron and to uproot Jews in the Land of Israel. Their names: Rabbi Yoseph Shalom Elyashiv and Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph. May they rule like their namesake.