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So, we got Bereshit 42, psukim 26, 27

כו וַיִּשְׂאוּ אֶת-שִׁבְרָם, עַל-חֲמֹרֵיהֶם; וַיֵּלְכוּ, מִשָּׁם. כז וַיִּפְתַּח הָאֶחָד אֶת-שַׂקּוֹ, לָתֵת מִסְפּוֹא לַחֲמֹרוֹ--בַּמָּלוֹן; וַיַּרְא, אֶת-כַּסְפּוֹ, וְהִנֵּה-הוּא, בְּפִי אַמְתַּחְתּוֹ.‏

and Bereshit 43, psukim 18, 24

יח וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, כִּי הוּבְאוּ בֵּית יוֹסֵף, וַיֹּאמְרוּ עַל-דְּבַר הַכֶּסֶף הַשָּׁב בְּאַמְתְּחֹתֵינוּ בַּתְּחִלָּה, אֲנַחְנוּ מוּבָאִים--לְהִתְגֹּלֵל עָלֵינוּ וּלְהִתְנַפֵּל עָלֵינוּ, וְלָקַחַת אֹתָנוּ לַעֲבָדִים וְאֶת-חֲמֹרֵינוּ.‏

כד וַיָּבֵא הָאִישׁ אֶת-הָאֲנָשִׁים, בֵּיתָה יוֹסֵף; וַיִּתֶּן-מַיִם וַיִּרְחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיהֶם, וַיִּתֵּן מִסְפּוֹא לַחֲמֹרֵיהֶם

and again in Bereshit 44, psukim 3, 13

ג הַבֹּקֶר, אוֹר; וְהָאֲנָשִׁים שֻׁלְּחוּ, הֵמָּה וַחֲמֹרֵיהֶם

יג וַיִּקְרְעוּ, שִׂמְלֹתָם; וַיַּעֲמֹס אִישׁ עַל-חֲמֹרוֹ, וַיָּשֻׁבוּ הָעִירָה

Why are they mentioned all over that story?

The question can be split to the following, more specific, questions:

  1. Why do we care of the brothers' transportation method?

  2. Why do we care that they fed the donkeys in the hostel? (It's trivial, isn't it? Tza'ar ba'alei chaim is alredy learned from another pasuk.)

  3. The brothers' freedom is at stake, and they find it appropriate to also cry for the donkeys that will be taken away? (Even considering the donkeys are the only possible way to return to Israel, I'd give that problem second priority by far.)

  4. And again, Yossef's housekeeper let the brothers wash their legs and... of course - he feeds the donkeys! Is it so important to mention?

  5. Morning rises and again, why is it so important to mention that the donkeys were sent along with the brothers? Moreover, isn't it obvious?

  6. Why do we need to know that the brothers have loaded the trunks back on the donkeys?

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See here: yeshiva.org.il/forum/print.asp?id=98041 –  Michoel Dec 17 '12 at 7:41

2 Answers 2

To at least answer 3: Rashbam points out that the donkeys have the food that is needed for the survival of their families back in Canaan.

"They'll take us and our donkeys" means "our families will starve to death."

In that culture, it was self-understood that "donkey" -> "packages."

(On a somewhat related note, the halacha that the Torah's laws of damages due to "an ox or donkey" falling into a pit is limited to livestock is from a Talmudic quote (Bava Kama 28b) -- "ox -- and not a person; donkey -- and not wares." The Talmud isn't picking random things to exclude, it's pointing out the most likely thing that would fall into a pit together with an ox (person leading it or plowing behind it) or donkey (package on its back).)

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+1 this well answers (3). Yet a complete answer would either answer all 6, or include some overall donkeys insight :). Thanks for the answer. –  yair Dec 19 '12 at 0:34
    
However, I think that your answer applies also for (1) the donkeys might have been mentioned to imply that they bought a large amount of food, which is essential for their families; and for (5) if it weren't mentioned that the donkeys were also sent with the brothers, we could have thought that Yossef has confiscated them (Egyptian rulers probably weren't famous for their generosity). –  yair Dec 19 '12 at 0:45

Two of the mentionings of the donkeys can be explained as follows:

The sefer באר יוסף here explains that the brothers came to Egypt to buy produce during the second year of the famine. In the first year the Egytians had already used up all their money and in order to get more food they had to give to Yosef all of their animals. And in the second year they had to give their lands and themselves - to enslave themselves to Pharaoh.

But Yosef's brothers came with ready cash in their hands and so did not have to give their animals in order to acquire food. This was very different from what everyone else had done at that time, and so the Torah emphasizes וְהָאֲנָשִׁים שֻׁלְּחוּ, הֵמָּה וַחֲמֹרֵיהֶם - they and their donkeys were sent away, something very unusual at that time.

And this is what they meant when they said: וַיֹּאמְרוּ עַל-דְּבַר הַכֶּסֶף הַשָּׁב בְּאַמְתְּחֹתֵינוּ בַּתְּחִלָּה, אֲנַחְנוּ מוּבָאִים--לְהִתְגֹּלֵל עָלֵינוּ וּלְהִתְנַפֵּל עָלֵינוּ, וְלָקַחַת אֹתָנוּ לַעֲבָדִים וְאֶת-חֲמֹרֵינוּ, that since eveybody else had already sold their anmals and themselves to the kingdom, they are creating a pretext to do the same to us - to take us and our animals.

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+1: Beautiful answer. –  Yishai Dec 11 '13 at 21:32

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