1 He commanded his household saying: fill up the sacks of these men with as much food as they can carry; put each man’s silver at the top of his sack. 2 And my silver goblet put it in the sack of the youngest with silver of his payment; he did it according to Joseph’s instruction. 3 At the light of day, the men were sent out, they and their animals. 4 They left the city, but didn’t get far; Joseph said to his household: get up and go after those men; when you reach them, say to them: why did you repay good with evil? …
10 He replied: and no so it will be so: the one who has it with him will be my slave and you others will be blameless. … 12 He searched from the eldest to the youngest; he found the goblet in the sack of Benjamin. 13 They tore at their clothes, each one packed up his mule and they returned to the city. 14 Yehuda and his brothers arrived at Joseph’s house and he was still there; they fell down with their faces to the ground.Genesis 44
Joseph stood and watched his revenge come about as magnificent as any dish ever prepared for him.
REVENGE served: Cold and sweet
Could there perhaps be another menu choice? Sizzling and spicy? Blood must have been surging furiously around his heart as he saw the ultimate fruition of his plan and his childhood dreams and so he turned and said:
17 He said: unfortunately for me to do this to the man who has the goblet in his hand – he will be my slave and you can go in peace back to your father.Genesis 44
Then there must have been a pause, as the words in the Torah scroll break only to continue this drama in the next portion (but still in the same chapter)
This ancient and inspiring literary cliff hanger cannot be anything but confusing to the brothers.
Should we read ahead or simply wait a while and see how things turn out? Either way the suspense fills the empty space and magnifies our confusion. Can we grasp the fear and trepidation in the next step? What do we expect will come from the brothers who threw Joseph into the pit?
44 The miracle comes before the fear fall in the trap and rise from the trap, he will be trapped….Jeremiah 48
There is a space between these two portions, a gap in time and a gap in the narrative. Where does this space belong, in this portion or in the next one? It shapes the story by being there and showing a time that no words can describe. No exact description explains this. It isn’t a total vacuum but full of action. Did the brothers consult by furtive glances and hand signals or did they lower their eyes, engrossed in thought?
In that small but towering gap, Joseph was present too, but we cannot see how he reacted either. Fate hovers above the room full of brothers, children of the same man but divided by time spent apart. Any hint of guilt in the air? Fear can bind them together and paralyze their senses. Joseph was going to let them work it out; negotiate to change the fate they perceive that he planned for them.
After this pause, the story will continued…
Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021