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Bereishit 50:4, after Yaakov's death and mourning, says that Yosef spoke to Paro's house (בֵּית פַּרְעֹה) and asked them to ask Paro for leave so he could go bury his father. During the famine and when Yaakov comes to Mitzrayim we see Yosef address Paro directly, as one would expect from someone in his position.

Why the change here? Perhaps the indirect request is because of something about this specific case (leaving Mitzrayim to bury his father)? Or perhaps, after the famine and the arrival of his family, Yosef didn't have as elevated a position so he needed to go through intermediaries now? Why doesn't he ask Paro directly?

Rashi is silent on this. Someone I study with speculated that after Yosef brought shepherds (who are taboo) to Mitzrayim maybe his relationship with Paro suffered, but he doesn't have a source.

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scroll down to 50:6. The talmud Sotah 36b says that pharaoh refused to let yosef bury yaakov until yosef threatened to break an oath he made to pharaoh, never to reveal pharaoh's lack of knowledge of hebrew. It is possible that this is why Yosef initiated the conversation publicly, so that pharaoh couldn't just brush him off. – Menachem Aug 13 '13 at 5:57

3 Answers 3

S'forno says it would be inappropriate for Yosef to approach the king while dressed in mourning.

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Thanks. He was dressed in mourning after sh'loshim? – Monica Cellio Aug 13 '13 at 12:54
@MonicaCellio, the S'forno doesn't elaborate. To be honest, though, "mourning" is my loose translation/interpretation. He says "sackcloth". – msh210 Aug 13 '13 at 14:02
@MonicaCellio As he still hadn't buried Yaakov, and there was more mourning yet to come( see especially v. 10), he could have still been "dressed in mourning". – Tamir Evan Dec 12 '13 at 6:25
He is an Onen until Yaakov is buried – CashCow Jan 2 at 11:50
@CashCow, yes, assuming the same definition of onen as the one we use today. That doesn't mean he wasn't wearing mourning (and S'forno says he was, as indicated above). – msh210 Jan 2 at 13:37

The sefer באר יוסף (a sefer I very highly recommend) writes that immediately after Yaakov died the enslavement of Yisrael to Egypt began. This even affected Yosef's elevated status, so much so that he could no longer appeal to Pharaoh directly concerning Yaakov's burial, and instead had to appeal to the members of his household to intercede for him.

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Tora Sh'lema cites Tz'ror Hamor as citing a midrash as offering two explanations:

  1. Yosef didn't want to leave his father's side (out of respect for him), so sent messengers instead.
  2. (If I understand it correctly:) Yosef was worried that if he approach Par'o with the request himself then Par'o's people may dissuade Par'o from granting the request. So he got them formally on his side. (I'll include the language of the Tora Sh'lema in case I'm misunderstanding it: "כדי שישאוהו עצה שיניחוהו לעלות שהיה מתיירא מהם שלא יעצוהו שלא לעלות. מתלא אמר קיימון לקטיגורא כי היכא דלא ליטרדך.‏‎")
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