For Joseph’s brothers, this is the week of their “big reveal.” They suddenly learn that the viceroy of Egypt, the one who had taken their brother Shimon (Simeon) captive, forced them to bring their brother Binyamin (Benjamin), and then seized Binyamin instead — is none other than their brother Yosef (Joseph), whom they had sold into slavery decades earlier.
Joseph’s brothers were stunned, completely at a loss for words. The Midrash compares their experience to every man’s day of judgement: “Joseph was the youngest of the brothers and they couldn’t answer him … When G-d rebukes each person, there will certainly be nothing to answer. (MR 93:10)”
Recall that Joseph was sold by his brothers to Egyptian merchants, and they covered up their actions by falsely reporting to their father Yaakov (Jacob) that he had been tragically killed in the wild. Now, when Yosef revealed his true identity, they were in the midst of rescuing Benjamin from the viceroy, arguing it was unjust and merciless to seize their father’s only son from Rachel. This was the ultimate reprimand, for 20 years prior they were just as merciless when returning to their father without his son Joseph.
The Hebrew word for rebuke is “Tochacha,” which is more accurately translated as “showing, demonstrating the truth.” It’s nearly impossible for us to see the truth in ourselves, unclouded by our own biases. When we are critiqued or reprimanded by someone else, we have the opportunity to see the unadulterated truth as seen by others. True “Tochacha” reveals to us the ultimate truth about ourselves.
Joseph’s brothers couldn’t see the truth about themselves, until they saw their errant behavior revealed in Yosef, the viceroy standing before them. They accused the viceroy of wrongdoing, only to recognize that that precise wrongdoing had indeed been done — by they themselves. The only crime was their own.
The Talmudic sage Shmuel said “Kol HaPosel B’Mumo Posel (Kiddushin 70b)” which essentially means, “All who accuse others, accuse from their own faults.” This is the secret to finding the truth in ourselves, without having it revealed to us by others. Before you accuse someone of dishonesty, ask yourself, “How am I dishonest?” If you feel your neighbor is being inconsiderate, ask, “How have I been inconsiderate?” With this method of self discovery we can live true to our own values, and proudly stand before G-d knowing we have been true to Him. No more surprises! (Based on Bais HaLevi al HaTorah).