In this week’s Torah portion we learn about the selling of Joseph by his brothers. The Torah tells us that originally Joseph’s brothers planned to kill him but, then Reuvain convinced them to instead throw him into a pit and not spill his blood until finally Judah convinced the brothers to sell Joseph as a slave which led to Joseph being brought to Egypt.
This story of the Torah seems shocking! How can Joseph’s brothers, the fathers of the twelve tribes, contemplate killing their brother? The commentaries explain that we find that Torah considers Joseph’s brothers righteous even after they contemplate killing Joseph. The reason is that they felt that they were justified to kill Joseph though they were wrong. There are different details in the explanation on why they felt justified but they all center around the theme which the Torah tells us about Joseph’s relationship with his brothers.
The Torah tells us that Joseph would tell his father about anything negative he saw with his brothers and additionally about two dreams which he told his brothers about. These dreams indicated that he would be the ruler over his brothers, thus the brothers felt that he was plotting and working against them and that they needed to defend themselves by killing him.
In truth, they were wrong in their estimate and their actions were considered sinful. Joseph was sincere and was not plotting against them, and his dreams were truly from G-d. The dreams later came true, when his brothers bowed down to him when they came to buy food.
The mystical commentaries tell us that Joseph was in fact superior to his brothers in that his brothers, in order to stay connected to G-d, had to remain separated from worldly affairs. They therefore chose to become shepherds. However, Joseph became the viceroy of Egypt and was still able to retain his righteousness. This is the reason that the brothers had to come and bow down to Joseph, their submissiveness to Joseph made them fit to learn this trait from Joseph which would be crucial for their descendants who will be exiled to all different types of civilization and nonetheless stay connected to their Judaism.