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The Crown of Halacha

Mikeitz 5778 – The Difference Between Looking and Seeing

This entry is part 11 of 17 in the series Bereishis 5778

The Difference Between Looking and Seeing

Yosef recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him. (Bereishis 42:8)
Rashi explains that when Yosef left the brothers he did not have a beard, now he has a beard (and therefore do not recognize him).

Yosef Never Changed

Yosef Hatzadik’s face was disguised by his beard. Yet how can we logically explain that although the brothers never saw Yosef with a beard when he was young, they didn’t assume he might have one now? Furthermore, Yosef closely resembled his father so the beard would actually help identify him as ben Yaakov. Given the fact that the brothers were searching for Yosef and that he prophesized he would become their ruler, a beard would seem like very insufficient camouflage.

The Brothers Didn’t Know Who They Were Looking For

The answer is that the brothers had never perceived Yosef clearly. When he was young, they falsely accused of him of driving a wedge between them and their father. His brothers threw him into a pit filled with snakes and scorpions and then sold him into slavery. In the palace, he was incorrectly perceived again when he was found guilty of attacking Potiphar’s wife and sentenced to life imprisonment. At the momentous occasion of the brothers finally standing in the presence of Yosef they were blinded by their own misconceptions. They were looking for someone who they had never really seen and would be unable to recognize now.

A Biased Person Has Biased Perception

Often times the success of a disguise is not how one alters his appearance but rather how one is perceived by those around him. For example, the comic book hero Superman disguised himself as Clark Kent by donning regular clothes and wearing a pair of glasses. For the reader it seems obvious that this is hardly called a disguise since it barely changes one’s appearance. Nevertheless, the characters in the story are fooled.

Look With Your Eyes, See With Your Heart

We see from here how careful we have to be in order to guard ourselves from judging people. In our society, we meet Jews from many backgrounds. Since each Jew is considered the son of the King, the question we have to ask ourselves is, “Am I properly perceiving the greatness of the person standing before me?”


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