Why did the brothers, or Yaakov, not send a substitute for Benyamin when Pharaoh demanded that the family produce him? Surely there were young men about his age who were quite familiar with the family whom the family would expect to do a credible job impersonating Benyamin. Do the sources discuss this?

  • What would they gain? Why should they risk one person just to protect another person?
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 2, 2017 at 19:09
  • If Benjamin was most precious to his father, then his father might do anything to keep him home and, presumably, safe. Or, his brothers might not want to bring up the history of Joseph with their father, since that was a topic of great sensitivity to their father. So the brothers might undertake to find a substitute without informing their father. In any case, the substitute could be apprised of the situation and any possible rewards and dangers rather than duped into going.
    – Yehuda W
    Jan 2, 2017 at 19:40
  • I doubt that a zaddiq would endanger one person just to prevent his son from the equal situation. Sounds pretty selfish. | If you are talking about seeking someone out, maybe they did ask, but no one was dumb enough to willingly place his life in the hands of a maniacal dictator. This doesn't seem like a very strong question. | On an unrelated note, consider marking an answer correct here. Especially if someone for example quotes contemporary poskim, or...for example provided particular requested info. ;)
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 2, 2017 at 19:47
  • @mevaqesh Moral dilemmas come up with some frequency in the Torah. For example, one brother being sent out into the desert to protect another brother. In any case, the brothers were not all of sterling character.
    – Yehuda W
    Jan 2, 2017 at 20:16
  • 1
    @mevaqesh Some people volunteer for hazardous assignments for various reasons. Beyond that, I do not know what Yosef's reputation was. Surely the civilized world knew of his position of power in Egypt. Do you think he had a reputation as as maniac ruler? Or a fair and just ruler?
    – Yehuda W
    Jan 2, 2017 at 20:22

2 Answers 2


Chizkuni 44:2 says that actually Yosef was unconvinced it was Binyamin and felt that perhaps it was a stranger from the street. Therefore he hid the goblet by Binyamin to see if the brothers will come to his aid. That way he will know it is truly Binyamin.

מה ששם עלילה על בנימין, לפי שלא היה מכירו, וחשב אולי הביאו אסופי מן השוק, ואם יעליל עליו ואינו אחיהם יניחוהו

Perhaps the brothers realized that they can not play games as Shimon was imprisoned.

  • nice answer ...
    – sam
    Jan 2, 2017 at 17:46

First of all, the brothers knew that they could not hide the "relationship" with a ringer. They had already shown this with Yosef, when they had been unable to act pleasantly after the dreams. Consider the way they had revealed the existence of Binyamin and the way Yosef had gotten them to speak of their family.

Secondly, they realized that they were dealing with Tzafnas Paneach, he who reveals the secrets. They would have been told about the dreams and about how Yosef had been raised to his position. By this time in his career, no-one would have dared attempt to deceive Yosef in any matter. After all, people would have been trying (and failing) to trick him for (at least) the previous nine years. They would know that any attempt to trick him could cause the death of all of them.

Par'o had publicized the dreams and his displeasure with the "answers" that they had given him. He then declared before the entire court that Yoseph had successfully interpreted the dream and that had given the advice that would avoid the trouble that was coming and that he was the "wise man" who would lead Egypt. He then paraded him before the entire kingdom. The butler had announced exactly what Yosef had done.

Similarly, only by publicly announcing the famine to come and how Yosef had discovered what was to be could they justify the storage of the grain during the years of plenty. The pasuk says Miketz 41:54

And the seven years of famine began, as Joseph had said, and there was famine in all the lands, but throughout the land of Egypt there was bread.

While the years of plenty were not attributed to Yosef, the years of famine were acknowledged as the result of his prediction.

Third, Yosef had already shown intimate knowledge of the brothers. The medrash explains that he had seated them in order of their ages(which was not obvious) and had returned the money into the sack of each brother that a particular bag of money had come from. Note that it does not say that he returned the amount of money to each brother, but each brother received his money. Of course a medrash may not be fully accurate and it is not pshat, but it does show what was going on and how Yosef was regarded. Thus, it can be used to show that Yosef did have details at his fingertips that would have prevented trickery.

All of this serves to explain why they did not dare to try to fool Yosef with someone else, even if they could have brought themselves to risk an innocent party. Indeed, since they realized the wrong they had done to Yosef, they could not do a similar action to someone who had not harmed them.

  • They would have been told about the dreams Can you demonstrate that this was public info.? | The medrash [sic] explains that he had seated them in order of their ages Don't forget the difference between Midrash and Peshat... | they could not do a similar action to someone who had not harmed them But as Yehuda pointed out, the person could have volunteered. (They could've potentially provided an incenctive, for example.)
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 2, 2017 at 20:49
  • @mevaqesh The situation became publicized throughout the court as shown by the way Par'o searched for somone to answer his questions, the butler approached Par'o, and Par'o announced throughout the land how Yosef was being put in charge. As far as the medrash, it does reveal the situation and can be used to show how Yosef was regarded. Jan 2, 2017 at 20:54
  • You have not demonstrated that the info. was actually public, although you have suggested a couple of reasons why this information might have been. Consider editing them into the answer. You seem to simply ignore the difference between Midrash and peshat, assuming, for example, that the latter is necessarily true. Which is not true.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 2, 2017 at 21:13

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