Rabbi Yonatan Blass

After they fail to recognize him, Joseph accuses his brothers of being spies: “You are spies, to see the nakedness of the land you have come” (Bereishit 42:9). Hidden in this accusation, writes the Shelah Hakadosh, is a reference to the future sin of the spies in the desert. Your children, the spies sent by Moses to report to him from the Land of Israel, heads of the tribes that will descend from you, will speak ill of the Land of Israel. My descendant, Joshua, on the other hand, will keep faith with the Land, as will the daughters of Zelophchad, also my descendants.

Rashi explains (Breishit 42:8) that the brothers did not recognize Joseph because when they had last seen him he did not have a beard, and now he had a full grown beard. But why should this have sufficed to conceal Joseph’s true identity from his brothers?

Joseph, even when he was surrounded by Egyptian culture, succeeded in preserving his righteousness. His brothers, however, were unable to perceive that righteousness. They stood before Joseph, but were deceived by externals – a beard – and saw “just another Egyptian.” And similarly, their descendants who would be sent to scout the Land of Israel would be oblivious to the land’s sanctity and focus only on the difficulties to be encountered in its conquest.

Let us not allow the difficulties of Aliyah to blind us to the privilege given to us of returning home to Eretz Israel.