"They told him all of Joseph's words that he had said to them, and he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, and the spirit of their father Jacob was revived." (Gen. 45:27)

"all of Joseph’s words" - [Including] a sign he gave them: in what Torah topic he was engaged when he [Joseph] separated from him [from Jacob], the section dealing with the heifer that was to be beheaded [Egla Arufa--(Deut. 21:1-9)] and this is why [our verse] says, "and he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent," and not, "that Pharaoh had sent." (Ibid., Rashi based on Gen. Raba 94:3)

The fact that Joseph remembered the exact topic he had been studying with Jacob twenty-two years earlier indicated to Jacob that Joseph was not only physically alive but that he was still spiritually alive—the moral teachings of his father had remained with him. He thus said: "…my son Joseph is still alive" — i.e. he is still my true son, carrying on my legacy. In fact, it was the inner message of their parting study session that enabled Joseph to remain righteous in Egypt:

...he is still my true son, carrying on my legacy.

When a corpse is found in the field outside the city, the leaders and judges of the closest city must come out and perform a specific ritual, after which they are to declare, "Our hands did not spill this blood," meaning that that they did not knowingly fail to provide this person with food and an escort prior to leaving their city. (Deut. 21:7)

Spiritually, as we have seen, the "field" is the realm of Esau. (Gen. 25:27, 37:7) Going out into the "field," then means leaving the environment of Torah and Judaism. One who does so, becomes susceptible to spiritual death, i.e., disconnection from God, the source of all life. The leaders and judges have the responsibility to prevent such an eventuality. They must fortify those venturing out into the "field" with spiritual food (knowledge of the Torah) and proper clothing (observance of the commandments) to protect them from the spiritual dangers that await them in the field.

As we have seen, when Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers, he sensed that somehow this would lead to the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham that his progeny would be slaves in a foreign land. (Gen. 37:13) This inspired him to teach Joseph the laws about protecting those who venture out into the "field." Jacob thereby fortified Joseph with extra spiritual strength to withstand the spiritual temptations he would face.

Thus, when Joseph wished to inform Jacob that he was still alive spiritually, he hinted to him that he had kept the theme of their last study session in mind and that doing so gave him the strength to remain unaffected by the unholy "field" of Egypt.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 30, pp. 222-224
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org