The Tears of Yosef – The Tears of Greatness

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By Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer

“And Yosef turned away from them and cried…” (Bereshis 42:23-24)

“And Yosef hastened, for his mercy was stirred toward his brother (Binyomin), and he (Yosef) sought to cry, and he went into the room and cried there.” (Ibid. 43:30)

“And he began to cry… and he said, ‘I am Yosef; is my father still alive?'” (Ibid. 45:2-3)

“And he embraced Binyomin his brother and cried, and Binyomin embraced him and cried as well. And he kissed all of his brothers, embraced them and cried…” (Ibid. 45:14-15)

“And he (Yosef) embraced his father and continued to cry.” (Ibid. 46:29)

“And he (Yosef) embraced his father and cried upon him and kissed him.” (Ibid. 50:1)

” … and Yosef cried as they spoke unto him.” (Ibid. 50:17)

Yosef obviously underwent many extremely emotional experiences during his lifetime: being hated and then sold into slavery by his brothers, being estranged from his birth family for 22 years, bringing his brothers to a state of complete Teshuva, revealing his hidden identity to his brothers and lovingly forgiving them, being reunited with his father and his brother Binyomin, and being accused of planning to take revenge against his brothers. The first part of Yosef’s life was full of turbulence and psychological trauma, and the emotional roller coaster which Yosef rode would bring anyone to tears.

However, Yosef’s forebears and progeny also experienced many stressful challenges and hardships, as well as numerous riveting and miraculous occurrences of salvation, yet we do not find in general that the Torah depcits them crying (save for a few – very few – exceptions). Why does the Torah portray Yosef as crying on so many occasions?

Yosef’s tears reflected his exceedingly deep perception of events, in terms of their emotional, spiritual and destiny-charged significance. When one is moved to tears, it is often because he at that moment relates to profound realms that lie beyond the natural senses. The powerful messages and currents that run far beneath the surface and that transcend the here and now are only perceived by a select few, and upon such perception, one can be moved to tears, detecting and being stirred by something so profound that is not noticed by others.

Yosef was such a person, as his very existence was well beyond the present, surpassing and eclipsing the natural world in every way. Whether it was Yosef’s own dreams, his interpretation of the dreams of others, his inexplicable ascendancy in the house of Potiphar, in jail and in Pharaoh’s government, his clairvoyance in terms of the Egyptian famine and how to overcome it, his prescient understanding of why his brothers sold him – knowing that it was all part of Hashem’s master plan to save the Jewish People – as well as his keen and prophetic vision about the future Redemption from Mitzrayim, Yosef’s mind, heart and soul existed on an elevated plane, far above that of the natural order and day-to-day life.

Yosef’s perception of an infinitely deeper and higher inner significance of all that was transpiring was reflected by his tears, as mere words could not express matters adequately, and Yosef’s unique realization of the underlying and piercing spiritual and historical drama that was occurring via him gripped him acutely and stirred him to cry.

Yosef served as the crucial and delicate bridge between the era of the Avos and the era of Mitzrayim. Only someone with a supernatural sense of purpose and a penetrating perception of destiny could have filled this role. Only someone whose intelligence, emotions and personality existed on a heightened spiritual plane could have grasped the significance of events and thereby provided the necessary guidance to save and lead his people. Only someone whose expression transcended the physical and the verbal, and who was plugged into an exalted and sublime source of understanding, could have served as this vital link.

This person was Yosef, whose tears belonged to an otherwise unrevealed and higher order of which he was a part, which he discerned, and by which he was so moved.

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