In Miketz, we read:

וַיַּ֣רְא יַעֲקֹ֔ב כִּ֥י יֶשׁ־שֶׁ֖בֶר בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יַעֲקֹב֙ לְבָנָ֔יו לָ֖מָּה תִּתְרָאֽוּ׃ When Jacob saw that there was grain being sold in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another?” (Gen. 42:1)

What does this strange phrase mean?

-Rashi and Ramban say it means: “What are you waiting for? Why aren't you out already looking for food?”

-Sforno says it means: “Why are you looking at one another as if each one of you expects another of you to go buy the food?"

-The Midrash says it means: "Since you are strong and handsome, do not stand together in one place, lest the evil eye prevail over you." (Midrash Tanchuma, Miketz 8:1)

-Along the same lines, the Talmud tells us it means:

“Do not show yourselves, when you are satiated, before [the house of] Esau or [the house of] Ishmael, so that they not be jealous of you, considering they suffer from hunger.” This teaches that one should not show he is full when others are hungry. (Taanit 10b)

In other words, do not show off your blessings to those who don’t enjoy the same.

This last explanation became the dominant one. But why? The two halves of the verse are obviously connected. The first half is "When Jacob saw that there was grain being sold in Egypt, he said to his sons." The second half, “Why do you keep looking at one another?”, only makes sense with Rashi and Ramban's explanation. But if so, what’s the reason for informing us that Jacob told his sons "get moving"?

  • 4
    "This last explanation became the dominant one." Is that an objective statement? What makes this the dominant explanation, and how do you know that?
    – Mordechai
    Dec 14, 2020 at 22:39
  • 1
    just how frequently I have seen it quoted, and its source. Dec 14, 2020 at 22:45
  • BTW (and this should probably be an answer), what you bring as Rashi's explanation is in parentheses in my chumash (Meor mikros gadolos), meaning that it is an addition and not from Rashi. It looks like that from the Ramban as well.
    – Mordechai
    Dec 14, 2020 at 22:46
  • The gemara's explanation is difficult to understand, as it is evident from Yaakov's later conversations with his sons that without getting food from Egypt they would have starved.
    – The GRAPKE
    Dec 15, 2020 at 0:13
  • I don't see where Rashi says what you ascribe to him
    – Joel K
    Dec 15, 2020 at 9:48

1 Answer 1


According to the Talmud's interpretation, the verses read as follows:

Jacob saw that there was grain being sold in Egypt [and that those who lacked grain would travel there to purchase it]. Jacob said to his sons, “Why do you show off [in front of Esau and Ishmael's families that you are not hungry and still have plentiful stores of food? Rather, you should act like everyone else.]”

He said, "I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy us some."

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .