The Torah relates that there was much tension between Yosef and his brothers, which was exacerbated when Yosef related to them his dreams that portrayed him as a ruler over them. Their father, Yaacov, gave Yosef special treatment which didn’t help matters.
Surprisingly, although Yaacov knew all this, he instructed Yosef to check up on his brothers who were shepherding Yaacov’s flock in the City of Shechem. Besides placing Yosef in danger from his brothers, the City of Shechem had a history of not being a good spot for their family because Yaacov’s daughter Dina was molested in Shechem. Yaakov’s two sons Shimon and Levi then killed all the males of the city and rescued Dina.
Still, Yosef, due to his devotion to his father did not object and went without hesitation.
Why did Yaacov dispatch Yosef and place him in this precarious situation?
When Yosef arrived in Shechem he couldn’t find his brothers and he met a “man.” Our Sages tell us that this man wasn’t an ordinary one; he was actually the angel Gavriel in human disguise.
He asked him what he is looking for and Yosef answered, “I am looking for my brothers.” The man told him they moved on from Shechem to a place called Dosan. So Yosef headed to Dosan and when his brother’s spotted him, their issues with him became aroused and inflamed. They convened a tribunal and sentenced him to death because Yosef had a history of reporting negatively on them to their father.
At first, his brother Reuven reasoned with them and saved Yosef from death. Then his brother Yehuda suggested that they sell Yosef to passing merchants.
Surprisingly, Yosef, who the Torah describes as extremely handsome and talented, was sold for a meager 20 silver pieces.
Commentators point out that Yosef was held in a pit infested with scorpions and snakes which terrified him and when he was taken out, he was shaken, frightened and pale. This diminished his value considerably.
The brothers failed to recognize the miracle that the poisonous snakes did not touch the righteous Yosef. All this begs an explanation.
The Torah relates that G-d appeared to Avraham and told him that his descendants would be enslaved in a land which is not theirs for hundreds of years.
When the time came for G-d to implement His plan, he chose the land of Egypt. G-d could have forced Yaacov and his family down to Egypt in a disgraceful manner, but He chose that they initially come and settle in a respectful manner.
Yosef preceded his family to Egypt so that he would rise to power and eventually be able to send for his father and family to come in a dignified and comfortable manner.
G-d in His infinite wisdom implemented His plan through favoritism, jealousy, hate, slander, sentencing, and human trafficking which are not part of our nature – ways we wouldn’t expect from the righteous Yaacov and his family.
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. points out that when Yosef was in Shechem and couldn’t find his brothers, G-d sent an angel to direct him to his hateful brothers.
Why didn’t G-d arrange that the same caravan that had purchased him as a slave, abduct Yosef and bring him down to Egypt without the drama of having an encounter with his brothers?
He explains that from here we see that G-d specifically wanted this entire episode to be borne out in ways that bring to question all the decisions and instructions. The reason this was done was so that when the Jews would be enslaved by the Egyptians they would reflect on their enslavement and realize that it was a result of their lack of unity. Thus they would purge from themselves all bad character traits, dissension and conflict that they had displayed and that had led Yosef down to Egypt.
Indeed, many years later when the servitude was well underway, the Torah relates that Moshe emerged from the comforts of the Pharoh’s palace where he was being raised and went to check up on his brethren. He then witnessed two Jews fighting and reprimanded them. They turned to Moshe and exclaimed, “Who are you to judge us?” They then informed on Moshe to the Pharoh, and as a result Moshe had to flee for his life.
The Torah tells us that Moshe’s response to the betrayal of his brothers was; “Now I understand the reason for the servitude.” Our Sages explain that Moshe understood that it was the sin of Loshon Harah – ill speech about others – that warranted the Jews to be enslaved.
As the Jews began displaying kinship to one another – the process of redemption began.
When they were freed, the ultimate ideal of unity was accomplished when the entire nation stood in harmony at Mount Sinai when G-d revealed Himself and presented the Torah to the Jewish Nation.
Our future Redemption will also transpire when we show care, sensitivity and value towards our brethren. Yes, it may sound like a tall order, but we have the inborn essence and resolution to make the seemingly impossible happen!