Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. Chapter 45 brings the revelation that Pharaoh’s viceroy is Joseph. Abravanel shares
profound insights that Joseph had gained along his painful journey in reaching the pinnacle of success.
That journey would pave the way for the family’s deep wounds to heal. At the end of the chapter, focus
shifts to Jacob. How will they break the incredible news that Jacob’s beloved son is alive?
“And they told him saying, Joseph is yet alive. And he is ruler over all the
land of Egypt. And his heart fainted, for he believed them not. And they
told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them. And
when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit
of Jacob their father revived. And Israel said, It is enough Joseph my son
is yet alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
Abravanel peers into Jacob’s psyche, when his sons return from Egypt and approach him, “saying,
Joseph is yet alive.” From the time of Joseph’s disappearance, Jacob coped with the pain by building a
wall. Whenever Joseph’s name was mentioned, the patriarch withdrew. He checked out.
And so it was when Jacob heard, “Joseph is yet alive.” The patriarch’s defense mechanism went up, “And
his heart fainted, for he believed them not.” Twenty-two years of despair erected a barrier that no one
could penetrate. Jacob’s sons had seen their father’s blank stare before. Indeed, they had become all
too familiar with that wan look whenever any association with Joseph passed their lips. Fresh pain
overtook Jacob. It was as if Joseph had died that very day.
Jacob would not allow himself to believe for a second, that his precious Joseph was yet alive. Still, his
sons persisted. Talk therapy. “And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them.”
The pained patriarch’s soul heard words, scripted by Joseph.
Jacob’s disbelief began to slowly melt away. “And when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to
carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived.” Jacob looked up and saw a royal fleet of wagons that
could only belong to Pharaoh. For once in over two decades, Jacob could lower his defense mechanism.
In time, Joseph’s brothers conveyed the story of Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt. “And he is ruler over all
the land of Egypt.”
Jacob pined to see Joseph. He wasn’t moved by Joseph’s top position. Nor was Jacob interested in
Joseph’s astounding accomplishments. For twenty-two years, one thing tugged at Jacob, without let up
day in and day out. An image of Joseph’s face had indelibly burrowed itself into his inner being, his heart
and soul. “It is enough Joseph my son is yet alive. I will go and see him before I die.” For the aging
patriarch, an arduous ride down to Egypt would be a breeze, each moment bringing him a step closer to
the fulfilment of his wildest dream.