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Yaakov had previously reacted by rebuking the actions of Shimon and Levi when they destroyed Schem (Bereishit 34:30):

וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל-שִׁמְעוֹן וְאֶל-לֵוִי, עֲכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי, לְהַבְאִישֵׁנִי בְּיֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ, בַּכְּנַעֲנִי וּבַפְּרִזִּי; וַאֲנִי, מְתֵי מִסְפָּר, וְנֶאֶסְפוּ עָלַי וְהִכּוּנִי, וְנִשְׁמַדְתִּי אֲנִי וּבֵיתִי.

...and later in VaYechi, Yaakov negatively references the behaviour of Shimon and Levi in the blessings (Bereishit 49:5):

ה שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי, אַחִים--כְּלֵי חָמָס, מְכֵרֹתֵיהֶם. ו בְּסֹדָם אַל-תָּבֹא נַפְשִׁי, בִּקְהָלָם אַל-תֵּחַד כְּבֹדִי: כִּי בְאַפָּם הָרְגוּ אִישׁ, וּבִרְצֹנָם עִקְּרוּ-שׁוֹר. ז אָרוּר אַפָּם כִּי עָז, וְעֶבְרָתָם כִּי קָשָׁתָה; אֲחַלְּקֵם בְּיַעֲקֹב, וַאֲפִיצֵם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל.

Even Yosef when he had told his dreams to his family, Yaakov retorts to Yosef rhetorically "me, your mother and brothers are going to prostrate ourselves to you?" (Bereish 37:20):

וַיְסַפֵּר אֶל-אָבִיו, וְאֶל-אֶחָיו, וַיִּגְעַר-בּוֹ אָבִיו, וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מָה הַחֲלוֹם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר חָלָמְתָּ: הֲבוֹא נָבוֹא, אֲנִי וְאִמְּךָ וְאַחֶיךָ, לְהִשְׁתַּחֲו‍ֹת לְךָ, אָרְצָה.

Why then doesn't Yaakov at least challenge his sons for lying to him about the whereabouts of Yosef, which had caused him so much anguish? His reaction seems disproportionately passive. (Bereishit 45):

כו וַיַּגִּדוּ לוֹ לֵאמֹר, עוֹד יוֹסֵף חַי, וְכִי-הוּא מֹשֵׁל, בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם; וַיָּפָג לִבּוֹ, כִּי לֹא-הֶאֱמִין לָהֶם. כז וַיְדַבְּרוּ אֵלָיו, אֵת כָּל-דִּבְרֵי יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֲלֵהֶם, וַיַּרְא אֶת-הָעֲגָלוֹת, אֲשֶׁר-שָׁלַח יוֹסֵף לָשֵׂאת אֹתוֹ; וַתְּחִי, רוּחַ יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם. כח וַיֹּאמֶר, יִשְׂרָאֵל, רַב עוֹד-יוֹסֵף בְּנִי, חָי; אֵלְכָה וְאֶרְאֶנּוּ, בְּטֶרֶם אָמוּת.

One may say that he was caught in the moment and was so happy of the good news that he didn't rebuke his sons. But this is difficult, since we never hear a word of rebuke even at a later stage. If one were to say that Yaakov saw the hand of God despite their negative actions, and it was a blessing; you could say that about any bad thing that happens i.e. Hashem has a plan which comes to pass through negative things in any case. But this doesn't mean that we are 'ok with' those bad things, or poor decisions.

  • Some commentaries say the passage you quote from Gen. 49 refers to Yosef. – msh210 Jan 5 '17 at 11:51
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    Where does the text say that anyone told Yaakov what the brothers really did? The verses say that he was told that Yosef was alive and ruling Egypt. Then they retold all the words which Yosef told them to say. They don't seem to tell of their involvement at all. – rosends Jan 5 '17 at 12:03
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    I just heard a shi'ur by Rabbi Netanel Frankenthal (Makhon Me'ir) in which he states that one, well-accepted tradition is that Ya'aqov never truly found out exactly what happened to Yoseph. He explains that this was Yoseph's intention such that Ya'aqov would not look down upon the brothers. – Lee Jan 5 '17 at 13:11
  • @Lee essentially correct! See the answer, below. – DanF Jan 5 '17 at 16:32
  • I think it's the Ramban who says Yaakov never found out – El Shteiger Jan 5 '17 at 18:12
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See Da'at Z'keinim Miba'alei Hatosfot on Breishit 45:4.

In summary, he states that when Joseph reveals himself, he says, "I am Joseph. Is my father alive?" Why didn't he mention immediately "the one that you sold to Egypt"? Because he knew that they were ashamed about what they did (recall that they revealed this upon their initial visit to Egypt. Benjamin was not with them at that time.) Joseph also didn't want Benjamin to tell his father what his brothers did. So, he separated them from Benjamin and later told his other brothers, (next verse), I am Joseph that you sold to Egypt.

Thus, it seems, according to this interpretation, that Jacob never knew what actually happened.

BTW - Refer to Breishit 50:16-17 where the brothers state "Our father commanded us" to apologize to you (Joseph). Thus, it would seem that Jacob actually did know about what they did. See Rash"i, who cites Midrash Breishit Rabbah stating that they alerted the truth, here, as Jacob didn't actually command anything, as he didn't suspect them of being involved with Joseph.

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