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Seeing Speech

21/12/12 08:43:41


R Pesach Siegel

Seeing Speech

This week’s parshah marks the cataclysmic reunion between Yosef Hatzaddik and his brothers. Yehuda, thinking him and his brothers falsely accused, stands poised to tear apart MItzrayim. Yosef spars with him verbally, trading threat for threat. He goads Yehuda, pushing him towards violent action, until Yosef can’t “take it anymore.”[1]

The brothers did not recognize Yosef. When he parted from them he had no beard.[2]

Yosef, on the verge of revealing his identity to his brothers, sends his guards from his presence. He was concerned lest his brothers be embarrassed in front of them. By doing so he placed himself in the ultimate danger. Bereft of his protectors, Yehuda had a clear field. There was nothing standing between him and Yosef. As Yehuda advanced with murderous intent, Yosef cried, “I am Yosef, is my father still alive?”[3]

Out of sheer embarrassment, his brothers were struck dumb. They distanced themselves from Yosef.

Yosef spoke to them softly. He beseeched them, “Don’t be embarrassed.  Come close to me.” He showed them that he was circumcised.[4] Continuing, he says to them. “Behold your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Binyomin that my mouth is speaking to you.”[5] 

What is meant by the phrase, “My mouth is speaking to you?”  Rashi tells us that Yosef was speaking to his brothers in Lashon HaKodesh.


Would a beard prevent anyone from recognizing his own brother? Wouldn’t a brother be able to see through this thinly veiled disguise?

Did he actually show them his bris milah?

What proof would showing that he was circumcised provide? Descendants of Yishmael circumcised their young. According to the Medrash, Yosef forced the entire Egypt to circumcise themselves in return for food during the years of famine. (He did this in order that his brothers would not be embarrassed when they would come down to Mitzrayim).[6]

Was Yosef the only one in Egypt who was able to converse in Lashon HaKodesh? They spoke to Yosef through an interpreter (Yosef’s son, Menashe). He spoke Lashon HaKodesh. Pharaoh made Yosef take an oath not to reveal that he does not speak Lashon HaKodesh. It was expected of the rulers that they speak all languages. Yosef was a ruler.[7]

Yosef tell his brothers, “See, my mouth is speaking to you in Lashon HaKodesh.” Wouldn’t the proper way of expressing this be “Hear” rather than “See”?


The gemora tells us that when the wicked are sentenced to Gehinnom, Avrohom Avenu comes and raises them out. There is one exception; one that has defiled himself by having relations with a gentile woman. His circumcision has been reversed. He no longer bears the appearance of a descendant of Avrohom Avenu. Avrohom Avenu does not recognize him.[8]

It is clear this is not a physical reversal of the circumcision process. The physical effects of the bris remain even after one has had relations with a gentile woman.

When one undergoes a bris milah, one is affected in two ways. The physical body has been altered, and the soul has been elevated. It has been elevated to a level where it is capable of emulating the self control of the Avos Hakedoshim. It is now capable of harnessing one of the most potent forces in mankind in order to fill the world with kiddush shem shamayim.

The Mishna reveals that a gentile who has undergone circumcision is still an arel – uncircumcised.[9] He has only undergone a physical change.

Lashon Kodesh is as its name states. It is not a language like all languages. It is the language with which Hashem fashioned all of creation. Man was created to speak. He was created to speak with holiness and sanctity. He was created to reveal the thoughts hidden within his pure soul. One cannot do so with “languages”.

A parrot can be trained to utter words of Lashon Kodesh. They are missing all depth and content. People, too, are capable of speaking words of Lashon Kodesh in a superficial manner. They speak without thought, without content.

The word for beard, zakan, is an acronym. It stands for “Zeh shekanah chochmah” - One who acquires wisdom.[10] There are many who have beards and are found to be devoid of chochmah. They wear their beards on the outside, without being aware of the depth that comes from growing a beard.


Yosef was a master of disguise. His name was Tzafnas Pane’ach,[11] which means the hidden one. He was not only capable of masking his outward appearance; he was able to hide his internal spiritual level. One has to assume that the brothers were quite adept at detecting the presence of sanctity, and yet, Yosef fooled them.

The brothers only understood one aspect of Yosef. They understood that he was one of them. They saw his role as one of twelve, each one complementing the other. They did not see the aspect of Yosef that generated malchus – majesty. They rejected this aspect of Yosef as is seen by their reaction to his dreams.[12]

He was hidden.

When they came to Mitzrayim and saw that he was a majestic ruler, they could not possibly believe that the ruler of Egypt was their brother Yosef. This is what is meant by the “beard of Yosef”. In Egypt, Yosef was revealed as a patriarchal figure who rules.[13]

When the time came for Yosef to reveal himself to his brothers, he revealed that the circumcision of his soul was still intact. He had not contaminated himself with the wife of Potifar. The circumcision of the Egyptians and Ishmaelites is only on the surface. Yosef allowed his brothers to peer beneath the surface and gaze into his soul.[14]

When he spoke to them in Lashon Kodesh, they sensed the kedushah emanating from his mouth. It was “soul to soul” communication.

Thus he told them to “see” that his mouth is speaking to them. He beseeched them to look deeply with the eyes of their souls and see that internally he still retains the kedushah of his father, the purity of his father.

As he said, “Ani Yosef, ha’od Avi Chai.” I have two parts to me, one, I am your brother Yosef. In addition, I am an extension of our father. I am a ruler. You have now seen all of me. Now, understanding begins to dawn. The purpose of me being sold to the land of Egypt is finally revealed.

We are reunited again, with awareness of our true respective roles. Let us begin building a nation.

[1] Breishis, perek 45, posuk 1

[2] Rashi, perek 42, posuk 8

[3] Breishis, perek 45, posuk 3

[4] Rashi, perek 45, posuk 4

[5] Breishis, perek 45, posuk 12

[6] Chizkuni, Gur Aryeh, Taz

[7] Ramban

[8] Meseches Eiruvin 19a

[9] Meseches Nedarim, perek 3, mishna 11

[10] Meseches Kiddushin 32b

[11] Breishis, perek 41, posuk 45

[12] Breishis, perek 37, posuk 8

[13] Baal HaTurim

[14] Kli Yakar

Wed, September 23 2020 5 Tishrei 5781