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?

  • parsha.blogspot.com/2011/12/… Jul 3, 2014 at 17:30
  • Pashut pshat (if one can use that word in a sentence about Midrash) is that the Midrashim that Rashi quote are not meant to be consistent. This seems a likelier explanation than the various pilpulim suggested.
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 18, 2015 at 2:28
  • And that is in fact what the linked post states: "My inclination regarding this is that it is indeed a contradiction, and that Rashi will, on occasion, bring contradictory midrashim" Nov 28, 2017 at 17:59

8 Answers 8


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.

  • 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, 2012 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, 2012 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, 2012 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, 2012 at 0:16

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.


If the brothers knew about it, they would have known the reason - that they were forced to do it in order to obtain food.

Yosef, as the second in command, would not have been forced due to his position (giving out the food to everyone else). So the fact that he was circumcised would have had to have been for a different reason.

ברוך שכוונתי וכו


The Taz asks this question in his Divrei Dovid and answers that Yosef had not actually attempted to have the Egyptians circumcise themselves, he was merely proving to them to what extent they were required to heed his every command. Then afterwards there was no circumcision carried out.


Kli Yakar explains that one who has relations with an Aramis (gentile) his Orla gets stretched (Moshcha Orloso). He wanted to show the brothers that he is the same Tzadik and did not sin while he was in Egypt.

  • 1
    I understand Kli Yakar. But my questions is more on Rashi (who qoutes the midrash) that "Yosef shows the brothers his circumcision as a *proof of him being a son of Yaakov. It clearly says Circumcision so how do you explain it according to Rashi is my question
    – user5224
    Jul 1, 2014 at 18:52
  • Could one not have relations with an female Aramean, experience Praeputial stretching, and then be circumcised? Also why does your source say Aramis. Do Egyptian women produce the same effect? Jul 1, 2014 at 22:06

Just a guess, but probably the wound having healed from childhood would look very different than an adult's fresh one.

  • I like that answer. But the only problem is: That Rashi says he showed him his ""Circumcision"" meaning that it was the fact that he had a Circumcision is the proof. I like the answer but I do not think it fits clearly in the text of Rashi.
    – user5224
    Jul 1, 2014 at 18:56
  • 3
    More precisely it says "והראה להם שהוא מהול" i.e. "and showed them that he was circumcised". (Stronger support for @user613's comment.)
    – msh210
    Jul 1, 2014 at 18:59

Ok. Heres another answer. This one is good. The egyptians hated circumcisions, it was a cherpa to them, (as found in Etz Yosef in the name of Yaaros Dvash). For a person to happily show his milla would be a proof that he is a 'Mahul' and not just a person missing his foreskin.

  • 1
    Not bad. Vis-a-vis Rashi, it would be more powerful if Rashi could be shown to agree with that observation about the Egyptians of the time.
    – Yishai
    Jul 1, 2014 at 21:44
  • Hey, its a powerful question. I like it very much. I'm just throwing out some ideas.
    – user6591
    Jul 1, 2014 at 21:48
  • Where are ets yosef or yaarot devash.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 28, 2017 at 15:02

Yosef made this rule two years into the hunger. That is the same time the brothers came. Perhaps the rule was after they came.

And an even more intriguing approach is that he didn't literally show them a body part, but rather proved to them, and showed them that he is Mahul, precisely with this ruling.

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