Why Did Yosef Frame Binyamin?


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From Spying to Stealing

Parashat Miketz ends on a tense note as Binyamin is framed for having stolen Yosef's silver goblet. This is not the first trumped up charge which Yosef has hurled at his brothers. In fact, from the moment they face him when arriving to buy food, Yosef has made their lives uneasy. He first accuses them of spying, imprisons them, and holds Shimon in custody until they bring him Binyamin. He also plays mind games with them by clandestinely returning their payments in their sacks. Then when the brothers return, Yosef presents a very different face, inviting them to dine with him and giving special favor to Binyamin, only to again turn against them with the planting of the goblet and accusation of theft. What was Yosef trying to achieve through all of these actions?

What Was Yosef Thinking?

Yosef's plan to frame Binyamin appears to have been orchestrated from the time the brothers first arrived in Egypt. Otherwise, why would Yosef have stipulated that the brothers bring Binyamin to Egypt in order to verify that they were not spies; what did one thing have to do with the other? Yet, what was Yosef hoping to accomplish by bringing Binyamin to Egypt and accusing him of stealing? Of all the brothers, Binyamin was the only one not involved in the sale of Yosef, so why indict him? Moreover, Yosef issues instructions to place each of the brothers' payments in their sacks for a second time. What was the point of this? Would this not have made it abundantly clear that this was all a setup?

The Omniscient Reader

As seasoned Torah learners, we all know that this story has a happy ending, with Yehuda offering himself as a slave instead of Binyamin, and Yosef then revealing himself to his brothers. But was Yosef hoping and perhaps even planning all along for this to happen, or was he caught by surprise and compelled to change course by Yehuda's unanticipated intervention? Conversely, how would Yosef have proceeded had Yehuda not made his impassioned plea?

Does Time Heal all Wounds?

By the time our story takes place, over twenty years have passed since Yosef was sold. His life was turned upside down, but despite all his trials, he has emerged as second in command to Paroh. Upon seeing his family again, what does he feel? Is he filled with resentment, or have time and good fortune softened his sentiments? Has he morphed into an assimilated Egyptian autocrat or has he matured into "Yosef the righteous" looking out for his family? Does he yearn to reunite or desire to forget? Does he seek revenge or forgiveness? Which of these emotions ultimately drives all of his actions and the framing of Binyamin?