ויגש אליו יהודה
Then Judah came near to him
The Midrash Rabbah (93):7 says:
This refers to the verse (Ecclesiastes 7:19): “החכמה תעוז לחכם יותר מעשרה שליטים אשר הוו בעיר” (Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten rulers who are in the city). Upon seeing Judah’s anger, Joseph kicked his throne and it collapsed into a heap of pebbles. Trying to take out his sword from its sheath, but unable to do so, Judah said “this one must be one who fears Heaven.”
The connection between strength and wisdom is difficult to understand, but our master, quoting his father (R. Avraham Glasner, 1826-77), the gaon of blessed memory, explained that Joseph the righteous one, seeing that Judah was enraged, and hearing himself assaulted with the words — “כי כמוך כפרעה – גוזר ואינו מקיים” (for you are like Pharaoh — he decrees but does not fulfill) and “ואהרוג אותך ואת אדונך” (I will kill you and your master) — that Hazal attribute to Judah, might have responded with the anger of a king or of the angel of death. For how could Judah have presumed to vilify Joseph in his own house while he was sitting on his throne? But Joseph, in his great wisdom and humility, did not respond in kind, enduring insult and abuse until he felt as if he were sitting on a pile of pebbles. Because Joseph listened silently to this insult and abuse, the anger of Judah abated. For how could anyone remain angry after seeing the king, sitting on his throne, suffering his own humiliation in silence? Doing so, Joseph thereby overcame his brothers who, according to the tradition of Hazal, had were rising up together to destroy the whole city. (שביבי אש)
ולא יכלו אחיו לענות אותו כי נבהלו מפניו
But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence
It is written in the Midrash Rabbah (93:10):
Abba Kohein Bardela said, “Joseph was the smallest of the children of Jacob, but his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence” (כי נבהלו מפניו). When the Holy One Blessed Be He comes to reprove each of us, as it is written (Psalms 50:21) ” אוכיחך ואערכה לעיניך” (But I will rebuke you and set the matter before your eyes), how much more so will we, in our dismay at His presence, be unable to answer?”
Our master explains that the most severe rebuke occurs when a person recognizes the greatness of God and reflects on His loftiness, for he then quickly becomes ashamed and wishes to disappear, asking himself how a creature of dust and ashes created from the ground could dare to sin against the Lord of all creatures, the King of kings, the Holy One Blessed Be He. Nor is it even necessary to enumerate the person’s sins as part of the rebuke. Such was the rebuke of Joseph when he said, “I am Joseph.” They were looking at him face to face, but then had to lower their heads in shame, unable to reply in their dismay at his presence. Abba Kohein Bardela therefore deduced that when the Holy One Blessed Be He, in all His honor and splendor and glory, will come to reprove each person — revealing Himself to each person so that he will recognize the greatness of the Blessed One — each person will rebuke himself, as it is written, אוכיחך”” (I shall rebuke thee) in that “אערכה לעיניך”: I shall set My honor and My glory before your eyes. And in this way, you will be rebuked. (שביבי אש)
אל תרגזו בדרך
Do not quarrel on the way
“Do not occupy yourselves in halakhic discussions.” Another explanation is: “Do not travel long distances [each day], but instead enter the town where you will spend the night while the sun is still shining.”
Our master explains this symbolically (דרך רמז), based on the saying of Hazal that one should always incite the good inclination (יצר הטוב) against the evil inclination (יצר הרע). If the good inclination prevails, all is well; if not, one should lead the evil inclination to the house of study. If the good inclination has still not prevailed, one should recite the shema, and if the good inclination has still not prevailed, one should remind himself of the day of death. Now each of these methods for subduing the evil inclination is best used under particular circumstances, their properties not being identical. For example, studying Torah will not help one overcome an angry disposition, because Torah study tends to arouse one’s anger, as the Sages said, “the Torah is what boils within him” (אורייתא הוא דמרתח ביה ). Similarly, one who has a tendency to depression will only become even more depressed by thinking about his own demise. However, reciting the shema distracts a person from worry, removing jealousy and causing anger to be forgotten, because reciting the shema arouses the fear of God and acceptance, with love and resignation, of whatever happens in accordance with God’s will.
It was written above that Joseph told his brothers (Id. 45:5): “ועתה אל תעצבו ואל יחר בעיניכם כי למחיה שלחני אלקים לפניכם”” (Now therefore be not distressed, or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life). This advice seems amazing, for sadness and anger are conflicting emotions. The reference to conflicting emotions seems to our master to accord with those commentators who suggest that Joseph was unsure whether his brothers had yet conceded that, having reached a position greatly superior to theirs, he was worthy of ruling over them, or that he, the son of Rachel, the principal of the house (עקרת הבית), was worthy of leadership. If they were thinking that Joseph did, indeed, merit leadership, then they would likely be very remorseful for having sold him into slavery. On the other hand, Joseph thought that they still might not accept his right to rule over them, in which case their anger would be intensified, because they, themselves, by selling him into slavery, had enabled him to achieve greatness and become ruler of Egypt. Joseph also thought that some brothers might hold the first opinion and be remorseful, and others hold the second opinion and be angry. He therefore said, “אל תעצבו ואל יחר בעיניכם” (be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves). Addressing those who might be sad, he said, “כי למחיה (to preserve life), indicating that what they had done turned out to be for their own benefit, so there was reason to be grieved. Addressing those that might be angry, he said “שלחני אלקים לפניכם” (God did send me), so that the honor achieved by Joseph was God’s will, and who can contest God?
Now the Torah is called a way (דרך), because , as the Sages say (Qidushin 2b), it is written (Exodus 18:20) “והודעתם להם הדרך אשר ילכו בה” (and you shall make known to them the way in which they shall go). Death is also called “דרך” as it is written (1 Kings 2:2) “הנה אנכי חולך בדרך כל הארץ” (behold I am going the way of all the land). But the sun symbolizes the fear of God, as they say (Psalms 72:5), “יראוך עם שמש” (they shall fear you with the sun), for the sun, when it sets, bows down to its Master. When Joseph said to them “אל תרגזו בדרך” (Do not quarrel on the way), he meant: do not provoke your evil inclination with “דרך” either by studying Torah or by thinking of the day of death, both being called “דרך.” For neither one is an effective antidote to anger or to depression.
So when Rashi explained this verse to mean “do not occupy yourselves with halakhic discussions,” he was referring to Torah study, and when he explained it to mean “do not take long distances,” he was referring to thoughts of the day of death – in other words, today here and tomorrow in the grave. Instead, he advised them to enter the town where you will spend the night while the sun is still shining, by which he meant that they should recite the Shema, thereby arousing the fear of God within you, as symbolized by the sun, which sets in the evening as a greeting to its Master. So should you enter the city before dark and recite the Shema, and you shall be happy and it will be well with you. (שביבי אש)