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Crowns of Thorns

28/12/12 09:27:21


R Pesach Siegel

Crowns of Thorns

 Yosef swore to his father on his death bed that when the time comes for him to depart from the world, Yosef would return his father to Eretz Canaan.

The people of Mitzrayim mourned the departure of Yaakov for seventy days.  The journey began. Yaakov returned surrounded by his twelve sons. His aron was in the center. His sons camped around him in the same manner that the Bnei Yisroel would travel in the desert upon their exodus from Mitzrayim. Each one of his sons was in their own unique position acting together as one entity. It was the picture of perfect unity.

Upon hearing of the ascent of Yaakov and his children, the Canaanite kings and the princes of Ishmael came to wage war. Their intent was murderous. They sought to wipe out the presence of Yaakov and his from the land of Canaan.

And then the attackers saw the aron of Yaakov Avenu. Hanging from it was the crown of Yosef HaTzadik.  They said “Evel kaved liMitzrayim” – A heavy mourning for Egypt.

Abruptly, there was a change in plan. They approached Yaakov’s aron, removed their own crowns and placed them in a circle upon the aron in a form that resembled a thorn bush.

The place was called Goren Ha’atad - “Threshing place of the Thorn Bushes” as a result.

Yaakov and his family occupied a position of prominence among the residents of Canaan. He was the grandson of Avrohom Avenu who was crowned as a king. Additionally, following the eradication of the city of Shechem at the hands of Shimon and Levi, all the kings of Canaan came to wage war against Yaakov and his sons. It is inconceivable that the cause for Yaakov’s descent to the land of Mitzrayim was hidden from the kings of Canaan. Certainly, the children of Yishmael would be aware of the ascent of Yosef HaTazdik to the throne of Egypt.  It would be well known that Yaakov went to rejoin his son, Yosef.  This is quite evident, for as soon as Yaakov sought to return to Eretz Canaan, the Canaanites and Ishmaelites were immediately alerted.

They were being closely monitored during the passage of their seventeen year sojourn in Egypt.


Why is it that when they saw the Egyptian crown of Yosef, they made an about face? They already knew of the crown, and yet still proceeded with their plan.

Not only did they desist from harming their intended victims, they actually gave honor to the procession of Yaakov Avenu. Why would seeing the crown of the Egyptian king, Yosef, produce such a response?

What is the significance of seeing the crown hanging on the aron of Yaakov Avenu? Would their reaction be any different if Yosef HaTzadik had worn the crown upon his head?


Things are not always what they seem.

On the surface, Yosef’s rise to the position of second to the king can be seen as an ordinary event. Pharaoh dreamt. Yosef was adept at interpreting dreams. Through his interpretation, the land of Mitzrayim was saved from death by hunger. Pharaoh, out of gratitude, raised Yosef up to a position of power.

Yosef ruled by virtue of the favor he found in Pharaoh’s eyes. Pharaoh is the true ruler of Egypt. Yosef is but an extension of Pharaoh’s power.

The medrash reveals a completely different story.

Desperate to purchase food, the Egyptians traded all that they had until all that was left was their very own bodies. Yosef then insisted that they undergo circumcision. Only then would he sell them food. The Egyptians were loath to comply. They approached Pharaoh, hoping he would overturn Yosef’s decree. Pharaoh declined, saying, “Yosef cursed all the grain you stored up during the seven years of plenty. If he should so wish, he may choose to curse you as well. Do as he says.”

Yosef was the power. Pharaoh was intimidated from him.

Hakodesh Baruch orchestrated every detail of Yosef’s rise to power. 

The world at large respected G-d as the creator of the world and the master of the heavens. Yaakov Avenu, following the path of his father and grandfather, represented the malchus of Hashem over every aspect of Olam HaZeh, the physical world. The Avos are the source for this truth. They lived their lives with the living faith that there is no corner of the universe that is so insignificant to be outside of Hashem’s master plan.

Such a belief must fill the world. The Avos alone are incapable of bringing this truth to all who inhabit this world.  A bridge is required, between the Avos and the rest of mankind.

Yosef is that bridge. He is a son and at the same time he is an Av. He is a son of Yaakov Avenu and a father figure to his brothers. Thus, his children are numbered among the shevatim. Yosef is the only one of the sons who is a veritable extension of his father Yaakov. Yaakov is an enlightening flame, Yosef is a raging travelling fire. Yaakov’s light of emunah spreads through Yosef.

The true source of Yosef’s rise to the monarchy of Egypt is his connection with Yaakov Avenu. Mitzrayim represents the totality of the known world. Yosef was placed in the unique position of master over the entire physical world.

Had Pharaoh remained as the true power, Mitzrayim would have disappeared through the ravages of hunger. The life of Mtzrayim emanates from Yosef.


The Canaanites and their allies the Ishmaelites were mistaken. They viewed Yosef as a lackey of the Egyptian Pharaoh. They knew not of his true power. In their ignorance, they sought to wipe out Yaakov and his children. The residents of Canaan don’t want to believe that Hashem rules on Earth as well as in the Shamayim. They wish to believe that Canaan is ruled by the Canaanites. They wish to believe that they can do as they please.  Yaakov and his family represent a threat to their way of life.

The Canaanites, and especially the Ishmaelites were a deep people.

As they approached with murder in their hearts, they gazed upon Yosef’s crown hanging on the aron of Yaakov Avenu. They saw and they perceived.

Yosef is not a ruler by virtue of his connections to the Egyptian throne. He is much more than that.

He is the extension of Yaakov Avenu. He is the ladder firmly planted on earth that reaches to the very heavens. He is the one who was been placed in the unique position to join Earth with the Shamayim.  Hashem created the world, He is aware of all that takes place in the world. His interest is in the happenings of this world. He judges this world. He rewards this world.

It was not the crown of the Prince of Egypt that the Canaanites beheld. It was the crown of Hashem held aloft by the bond between Yosef and his father Yaakov. The Canaanites understood this.

For a brief instant, they were filled with the veracity of this truth. They recognized the source of their own existence.

And they removed the crowns from their heads and placed them on the aron of Yaakov. They are no longer the rulers they perceived themselves to be.

Ki LaHashem hamelucha – To G-d is majesty.




Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781