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Like with so many of these questions, there are several approaches as to how to deal with this issue: While this approach is rejected by every commentator I've seen, I think it's worth mentioning at least as a rejected possibility: Yosef wanted to take revenge on his brothers for selling him. Besides for being an unacceptable interpretation because it ...


The Mizrachi (44:20) suggests that they said Yosef was missing when they first met him, but they said, when they next met him (with the gift of fruit), that he'd died. The Gur Arye (44:20) suggests that by "dead" they meant "missing, presumed dead" (but they still sought him).


The implication of the Rashbam seems to be that he thought that the brothers may have been fooled into thinking the person in front of them was their brother. Rashbam to Bereishis 45:27 את כל דברי יוסף - שאר דברים שדיבר אליהם הכתובים למעלה, שבכה על צואריהם והכירו בודאי שהוא אחיהם The words of Yosef - the rest of what he said, which was written ...


While not necessarily saying that Yosef was acting with ill-will or seeking revenge, R. Yoel Bin-Nun, as well as R. Chaim Yaakov Goldwicht (see YeZ's answer to this question) to explain that Yosef felt fully estranged from his family the whole time. In this article, footnote 2, the author points to an earlier source: Prof. Yaakov Spiegel (Megadim 5) ...

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