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Friday, Tevet 6, 5779 / December 14, 2018


Questions and answers about the story of Joseph reuniting with his brothers and his father, as related in this week’s Parsha, Vayigash:


Q. How many years was Joseph away from his family before re-uniting with them again?


A. Joseph was 17 when he was sold by his brothers, into slavery to the Egyptians. He spent 13 years,  many of them in prison, before he was freed and made viceroy of Egypt. After being viceroy for 9 years, through the seven good years and two of the hunger years, he was reunited with his family. He brought them all to Egypt. He was away from his family 22 years. Joseph was 17 when he was sold and 39 when he met his father and brothers again.


Q. Is there a reason given why this painful separation happened to Joseph and Yaakov?


A. Here are two reasons: It was a measure-for-measure punishment to Jacob, for his being away from his parents for 22 years when he went to his uncle Lavan. He stayed with Lavan 20 years and two years of travelling time on his way home, for a total of 22 years.


Another reason: It was decreed many years earlier (about 240 years earlier), when G-d told Abraham that He will give his descendents the Land of Israel, but not before they will be strangers and enslaved in a foreign land. Thus, Yaakov and his family were destined to settle in Egypt.


There were two choices before G-d how to get Yaakov to go to Egypt. He could have gone in an honorable way or he could have been forced to go there under not so pleasant conditions. G-d chose to bring Yaakov and his family into Egypt with honor and dignity, by making his son, Joseph, the ruler of the land of Egypt.


Q. How many people came to Egypt with Yaakov?


A. Yaakov and his descendents, who came to Egypt, were 66. His granddaughter, Yocheved, who later gave birth to Moshe, was born as they entered Egypt. Together with Joseph and his two sons, who were already in Egypt, they were 70 people.


Q. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream that Egypt will experience seven good years and seven famine years. At which point did Yaakov move to Egypt? How long did Yaakov live in Egypt?


A. Yaakov came after two years of famine. However, in Yaakov’s merit, the famine stopped. Thus, there were only two years of famine instead of seven. Yaakov lived in Egypt for 17 years. He was 130 when he came and he passed away at 147.    




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