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Rashi to 45:4 says that when Yosef told his brothers to approach him, it was to show them his circumcision (presumably to prove he was Jewish). But how would that prove anything? All of Egypt had been circumcised already, as Rashi says on 41:55. If his showing his circumcision wasn't to prove he was Jewish, why did he do it?

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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Chizkuni asks this and offers two answers:

  1. The reason the Egyptians were circumcised was because of the hunger of the famine. Yosef however was rich and therefore the only reason he would circumcise himself would be if he was Jewish.

  2. Although all the Egyptians were in fact circumcised, the brothers were not aware of this this and would recognize Yosef on the basis of his bris.

The Tzeida Laderech adds two more explanations:

  1. Since Yosef was born circumcised (as Midrash Rabba says), this would be apparent.

  2. Our sages say that one who has relations with a gentiles affects his bris, so seeing his bris proved he was not Egyptian.

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I don't understand something in Chizkuni: he first asks that perhaps he was a Yishmaeli and answers that since they only have a bris when they are older the priyah is not apparent. He then asks perhaps he was Egyptian, and gives the two answers above. Why doesn't the answer regarding Yishmaeli not work to negate him being Egyptian? –  Michoel Dec 17 '12 at 0:01
don't know if it is an answer, but I remember reading somewhere that yishmaelim only do milah and not priya. Yosef however, was telling the Egyptians to circumcise themselves (falling under the umbrella of servants of the house of Avraham, who also received circumcision). Perhaps they therefore did priya as well. –  Menachem Dec 17 '12 at 0:07
I think the second answer of Tzeida Laderech has an additional important detail. After all, Yossef has married Osnat Bat Poti Fera, which is apparently an Egyptian. I assumed that it's OK since she was converted (as Menashe & Efraim are certainly considered Israeli), but I saw here that the Targum Yonatan explains that Osnat was actually _Dina_m Yaakov's daughter. –  yair Dec 17 '12 at 0:15
@Menachem The Tzeida Laderech asks on Chizkuni based on what you are saying that Yishmaelim don't do priya. However Chizkuni himself seems to be saying that they did do it but due to their age it looks different. If so this should be case with the Egyptians as well (at most their bris would have taken place two years prior). –  Michoel Dec 17 '12 at 0:16
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In the הסכמות to the sefer נחמד מזהב, Rav Shmuel Yaakov Koppel Katz says that from the time that Avraham was commanded to do Bris Milah until Har Sinai, all of Bnei Noach were commanded in this mitzvah, but they were not commanded to do priah (the uncovering). But Tosfos writes that Avraham himself did do priah since Yisrael were to be commanded to do so in the future, and his offspring certainly continued to do this as well.

This is what Rashi means when he says "שהרי אני מהול ככם" - I am circumcised like you, with priah, not like the Egyptians who have not done priah.

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