It's a simple question that I thought about this past week (since the parashah was Mekeitz). Is there any evidence that Jacob could have figured out what happened to Joseph before they reunited in Egypt? I recall a commentary in which Isaac indeed knew what happened, but I don't remember who it was.

Could Jacob have figured out what happened to Joseph before they reunited in Egypt?

  • Why are you asking about BEFORE they were reunited - and not generally if Jacob EVER found out
    – Yaabim
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 12:02
  • @Yaabim Because obviously he eventually figured out; Joseph was found alive and well in Egypt, contrary to the Brothers' story of a wild animal devouring him.
    – ezra
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 16:54
  • sefer chassidim, says the brothers made חרם solemn ban forbidding anyone from divulging to Yaakov what had occurred. and this oath applies to Yosef as well, Yitzaak saw prophecy but was silenced by the oath, Rashi adds that even HaShem was bound by the vow. When a qualified quorum of 10 men invoke solemn ban it is binding on the entire community.
    – Lilopinpin
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 16:39
  • @Lilopinpin Find the exact place in Sefer Chassidim, quote it, and post it as an answer. I will personally give it a +1.
    – ezra
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 16:48
  • Can someone please clarify how the righteous brothers could ban on knowing their judgement? Did they think it was not Halakhical, they overreacted? If they knew what they did, and did it in sake of Heaven, why would they hide their deeds?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 14:02

2 Answers 2


Ramban (Genesis 45:27) writes that according to the peshat, it does not appear that Yaakov ever found out what happened to Yosef:

יראה לי על דרך הפשט שלא הוגד ליעקב כל ימיו כי אחיו מכרו את יוסף, אבל חשב כי היה תועה בשדה והמוצאים אותו לקחוהו ומכרו אותו אל מצרים

He bases himself off Genesis (50:15-7) which states that after Yaakov's death the brothers feared Yosef's anger (apparently fearing that he wouldn't do anything to them while Yaakov was still alive), so they sent a message to them claiming that Yaakov wanted him to forgive them. If they actually ever told Yaakov what they did, it would have made sense for them to convince Yaakov himself to beg Yosef not to harm them. That we never find this, indicates that Yaakov never found out.

He is in turn quoted by Rabbenu Bahya there.

Presumably Ramban makes a point of describing this as the peshat, since he is aware of Midrashim that ostensibly contradict this. For example, Rashi (49:6) suggests that Yaakov's criticism of Shimon and Levi refers to their treatment of Yosef.

Similarly, the Genesis Rabba (ed. Albeck: Parashat Vayechi: 97) states that Yaakov praised Yehuda for saving Yosef from the brothers (particularly Shimon and Levi):

יהודה אתה יודוך אחיך, מה תל' לו' אתה יודוך אחיך, אלא כך אמ' לו יעקב, יהודה בני גלוי וידוע לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא שהצלתה את יוסף מן המיתה, שאילמלי אתה היו הורגין אותו שמעון ולוי

  • 1
    Do Ramban or Rabbeinu Bachya explain why Yaakov thought Yosef treated the brothers harshly, imprisoned Shimon, returned the money, and required Binyamin to come? Maybe he never needed to find out about the goblet story, but they had already told him the first half.
    – Heshy
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 15:01

From sefer hasidim on why no one was allowed to tell Yaakov about Yosef still being alive.

תתתתשסא. אמרו שבני יעקב שמו חרם שלא להגיד על מכירת יוםף ואיך יתכן שהקב״ה יסכים והם חוטאים ולמה לא יגיד ליעקב? אלא כך אמרו כיון שמוציא דיבה עלינו ויודע שאנחנו שונאים אותו כי אמר לאבינו מה שלא עשינו והוא אומר שימלוך עלינו וכתיב (שם לז ח) ויוםיפו עוד שנא אתו על חלמותיו ועל דבריו, למה נאמר על דבריו כי היה אומר כיון שאתם חשודים באותם דברים שהיה מביא דיבה אל אביהם אני יודע שאמלוך ואני אמשול וארדה בכם שלא תעשו עוד וחם חשבו כזו מדבר וכך חולם נשכים לד,ורנו ויאמר יהודה כי כיון שאומר שירצה שנהיה לו לעבדים אם יתקיימו באותה מידה נעשה לו ונמכרנו לעבר שנאמר (תהלים קה יז) לעבד נמכר יוםף ונמכרנו למרחקים ואם ימלוך לא ימשול בנו בכאן וישבע יוםף שלא ישיב לאביו ולא יניד לא על ידי שליח ולא על ידי כתב בלא רשותינו ואשר אמר צבא השמים משתחוים לו עושה עצמו כנעבד אם כן נשים חרם ברצון הבורא אם רצונו שלא ידע אבינו והסכים כדי שיהא כפרה לו.

And it's actually Rashi who speaks about Yitzhak knowing prophetically. The Lubavitcher Rebbe answers this question (Likutei Sichot vol. 10 p. 129ff) based on Rashi's assertion (in his commentary on Miketz 37:33) that Isaac, Jacob's father, prophetically knew that Joseph was alive—but didn't tell Jacob. "How can I tell him," Isaac reasoned, "when G‑d chooses to keep it a secret from him?"


a wild beast has devoured him: [This means that] the Holy Spirit flickered within him: Potiphar’s wife will ultimately provoke him (Gen. Rabbah 84:19). Now why did the Holy One, blessed be He, not reveal it (the truth) to him? Because they (the brothers) excommunicated and cursed anyone who would reveal [it], and they included the Holy One, blessed be He, with them, but Isaac, however, knew that he was alive [but] he said, “How can I reveal it if the Holy One, blessed be He, does not wish to reveal it to him?” [from Tanchuma Miketz]

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    You don't speak Hebrew, yet you give me a Hebrew paragraph from Sefer Chasidim? Lol, don't worry about it, +1.
    – ezra
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 18:50

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