Rash"I on Bereishit 50:16 explains the part in the verse where the brothers say, "Our father told us to say...". Rash"I says that they altered the matter for the way of peace, because their father never issued this commandment.

What is the "way of peace" implied here? (I know that there is a rule that one is allowed to lie for the sake of peace.)

  • Are you asking for the particular "way of peace" in this case of Yoseph and his brothers or for an explanation (including sources) of the general concept of altering the truth to maintain peace? – Lee Jan 12 '17 at 9:51

Rashi was alluding to BT Yevamoth 65b, which is below (click on the image to view the source online). The end of this passage from the Talmud cites an excellent example to illustrate the point. Scripture records the thoughts of Sarah, who had considered Abraham as old (Gen 18:12), but the Angel of the Lord articulated her thoughts out-loud (to Abraham) quoting her instead as saying that she (not Abraham) was the one who was old (Gen 18:13). Sarah was indeed old, and so the "paraphrase" by the Angel of the Lord was truthful and relevant, but not unkind to Abraham. The "way of peace" therefore is not lying, but remaining truthful and relevant while not yet being unkind.

BT Yevamoth 65b

R'Ile'a further stated in the name of R'Eleazar son of R`Simeon: One may modify a statement in the interests of peace; for it is said in Scripture, Thy father did command etc. so shall ye say unto Joseph: Forgive, I pray thee now, etc. (Gen 50:16)

R'Nathan said: It is a commandment; for it is stated in Scripture, And Samuel said: 'How can I go?
If Saul hear it, he will kill me', etc. (1 Sam 16:2)
At the School of R`Ishmael it was taught: Great is the cause of peace.

Seeing that for its sake even the Ho One, blessed be He, modified a statement; for at first it is written, My lord being old (Gen 18:12), while afterwards it is written, And I am old.

In summary, When Jacob died, the brothers thought that Joseph would finally seek revenge. That is, they thought that Joseph was waiting for his father to die before settling scores with his brothers (and in this way Joseph would be avoiding any heartache for his father Jacob). So the brothers presented Joseph with statements made by Jacob, which were creatively modified by them "in the way of peace" so as to ensure that Joseph would not harm them.

  • I don't see how this addresses the particular "way of peace" in this case of Yoseph and his brothers. The OP clearly states that he is familiar with the general concept of altering the truth to maintain peace. If you find the OP unclear, please comment on it to that effect. – Lee Jan 12 '17 at 9:49
  • 1
    Beautiful explanation. IMHO include it in your answer! – Lee Jan 12 '17 at 11:28
  • I think that that would be kinder to those who can't see images. (And search engines.) – msh210 Jan 12 '17 at 20:43

Yosef's brothers feared that he (Yosef) had grudge and could take revenge for what they did to him in the past, and then they invented that Yacov asked him to forgive them; by mentioning a request of Yacov himself the brothers expected that Yosef listened to him and this would preserve the peace of the family. (See question to Parashas Vayechi in What's Bothering Rashi? by Avigdor Bonchek. Online here).

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