Did Yosef forgive his brothers?

That's a bit of a trick question. In the shiur that Michal Horowitz gave today, she mentioned that Rav Moshe Feinstein said that Yosef never explicitly forgave his brothers, never saying so outright, and that kept the debt hanging over klal Yisrael that was collected in the form of the asara harugey malchus.  She said it to make the point that one should be sure to clearly say that they forgive so that there will not be a price to pay for the person or the person's descendants.

During the shiur someone asked if the brothers actually asked forgiveness. She said she wasn't certain that they did. It's true that they did not do so directly; however, in Vayechi, this week's parsha they do so indirectly after their father's death when they tell him that Yaakov said he should forgive them: "Ana sa na pesha achicha vechatatham ki raa gamlucha veata sa na lepesha avdey Elokey avicha. [Please forgive the transgrssion of your brothers and their sin, for they treatedf you badly, and now forgive the transgression of the ones who serve the G-d of your father] Yosef doesn't respond with "you are forgiven" but with what amounts to saying "there's nothing to forgive." What he says is: "Al titrau, ki hatachat Elokim ani? Veatem chashavtem alay raa, Elokim chashva letova. [Don't be afraid. Am I in place of G-d? You thought to cause me harm, but G-d had a plan for good]"

My grandfather offers this insight into Yosef's view of culpability in light of intent and effect. He starts by explaining the double language for wrongdoing that the brothers used in referring to their sin as they sinned both against Yosef and against G-d. The first part of Yosef's answer, "ki hatachat Elokim ani?" was making the point that he is not empowered to forgive them for a transgression against G-d.

Yosef then addresses the the transgression against him, and says it doesn't require forgiveness.  Yosef points out that it is true that they had bad intentions toward him, but G-d had good ones. As a bad outcome was averted, so was the negative account of a bad deed. Yosef was applying  the princple of crediting for intentions is only on the positive side. That is "machshava tova Hakadosh Barush Hu metzrfa lema'ase [Hashem adds on the credit of good intentions to the deed]" but not the reverse. Yosef insisted there was no bad deed on record, only bad intent, and that doesn't count by itself.



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