Yoseph And His Brothers: Why Didn’T Joseph Contact His Father?
Uses the statement that you make about Yosef not knowing that his father had thought that he was dead to answer your final question.
Yosef could not send a message to his father because he thought that he had been rejected by his father, just as Yishmael had been rejected by Avraham and Eisav had been (eventually) rejected by Yitzchak. Had he not been rejected, his father (as a major sheik in Canaan) could have found the cousins who took him to Egypt and arranged to purchase or ransom him from Potiphar.
Now that he was in power, it would have looked as if he was gloating over his good fortune even though he was in a position similar to Eisav (who also became a ruler and whose descendants became kings). Additionally, now that he was actually Par'o's slave and was expected to save Egypt from the coming famine, he could no longer get away no matter what he did.
In any case, he would have expected that it would not make a difference as far as the rejection.
This is the thesis of Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun. Rabbi Yaakov Medan objects to this and connects it to the necessity for Yosef to see that his brothers had done teshuvah for what they had done to him. Rabbi Bin Nun answers that this answer does not follow the pshat in the Torah including the statement that Yaakov thought that Yosef had died.
In any case, Rabbi Medan's explanation might not be a reason for the preceding years of not sending a message.
The following is an abridgement of articles written by Rabbi Yoel
Bin-Nun, a teacher in the Herzog Teachers’ College affiliated with
Yeshivat Har Etzion, and Rabbi Yaakov Medan, a teacher in the yeshiva,
which originally appeared in Hebrew in Megadim 1.
Ramban poses a difficult question, one which continues to puzzle
whoever studies the book of Genesis:
“How is it that Joseph, after living many years in Egypt, having attained
a high and influential position in the house of an important
Egyptian official, did not send his father even one message to inform
him (that he was alive) and comfort him? Egypt is only six days’
travel from Hebron, and respect for his father would have justified
even a year’s journey! (It would) have been a grave sin to torment his
father by leaving him in mourning and bereavement for himself and for
Shim’on; even if he wanted to hurt his brothers a little, how could he
not feel pity for his aged father (Ramban to Gen. 42:9)?”
Abarbanel poses the same question, but more bluntly:
“Why did Joseph hide his identity from his brothers and speak harshly to
them? It is criminal to be as vengeful and recriminating as
a serpent!… How is it that as his brothers were starving and far from
home, having left their families and small children and, above all,
his aged, worried and suffering father waiting for them, did he not
show compassion, but rather intensified the anguish by arresting
Shim’on?” (chap. 4, question 4)
1) RAV YOEL BIN-NUN’S SOLUTION:
Our entire outlook on this story changes, however, if we accept the
fact that Joseph did not know that his brothers had fooled his father
with the coat, the blood, and the lie that Joseph had been devoured by
Joseph’s wonder at his father’s silence is joined by a terrible sense
of anxiety which grows stronger over the years, as seasons and years
pass by and no one comes. Joseph’s anguish centers on his father: the
voice inside him asking where is my father? is joined by another harsh
voice: Why did my father send me to my brothers that day? He concludes
that his brothers must have succeeded in convincing Jacob, and he has
been disowned. Years later, when Joseph rides in the viceroy’s
chariot, when he shaves his beard and stands before Pharaoh, it is
clear to him that God must have decreed that his life would be lived
separately from his family’s. He gives expression to this feeling in
the name he gives his eldest son, born of an Egyptian wife:
And Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, for "God has caused me to
forget all my toil and all my father's house."
To forget his father’s house!
Joseph’s entire world is built on the misconception that his father
has renounced him, while Jacob’s world is destroyed by the
misconception that Joseph is dead. Joseph’s world is shaken when his
brothers stand before him, not knowing who he is, and bow down to him.
At that moment, he must question this new reality –
Joseph needs to hear no more. He finally realizes the naked truth: No
one has cut him off at all! He has not been forgotten!
Does he live? Is he yet my father, who loves me and has not forgotten
me? Is it possible?