A very challenging question is asked by many commentators. During all the years Joseph was thriving in Egypt, why didn't he dispatch a message to his father to inform him that he was still alive? Moreover, when Joseph met his brothers for the first time in years and they bowed down to him, as it is written, "And Joseph remembered his dreamed that he had dreamed about them"? (Gen. 42:9) Rashi points out that at this point he saw his dreams become reality. Why did he not reveal himself then and there, letting them know in no uncertain terms after all this time, that he was right and the dreams did come true? He could have had the small satisfaction after all the hardship he experienced of saying "I told you so"! And if he would have revealed himself at that moment, then they would have immediately grasped the truth, that he was Joseph and their sarcastic claim, "So will you be the king over us, you will rule over us...",(Gen. 37:8) was in fact the truth. Nevertheless, he kept his secret to himself. Joseph chose…to hold himself back from the thrill of triumph…

Joseph chose to have pity on his brothers and to hold himself back from the thrill of triumph. The drive to be right, and to have one's will prevail over another's, was a trait that Joseph repressed and never let have its say. For that reason, at the critical moment, when the dreams were being fulfilled and the brothers were bowing down to Joseph, like the stars in the sky and the sheaves of grain in the field, he concealed his identity from them so as not to claim his victory and thereby greatly embarrass and disparage his brothers. That was something which Joseph wished to avoid at all cost. In the minds of the brothers, they were bowing down to some Egyptian minister.

This is why, says the Kedushat Levi, Joseph didn't send a message to his father revealing that he was alive. Certainly the news would have reached the ears of the brothers, and their embarrassment before their father would have been tremendous when he learned the truth about what had happened and how his sons had conspired to deceive him and protect themselves. They would then have to return to Egypt with Benjamin or with Jacob, their faces to the ground in embarrassment and disgrace, knowing that Joseph's dreams were finally being fulfilled. Joseph preferred to remain anonymous, thus protecting the feelings of his brothers.

[First published in B'Ohel Hatzadikim, Vayigash 5759; www.nishmas.org]