Why Doesn't Yosef Write Home?
Until this point, we have focused on the brothers' perception of the "bechira" process. Now, we shift our focus onto Yosef's perception of the "bechira" process, in order to answer our second question: Why didn't Yosef write home? First, let's explain our question.
Considering Yosef's very close relationship with his father [recall that he was Yaakov's "ben zkunim" - see 37:3], one would expect him to have made every possible attempt to contact his father. Yet, even after his appointment as head servant of the House of Potiphar, Yosef makes no effort to inform his father that he is alive and well. And surely, after his appointment as the Commissioner of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, Yosef should have no problem whatsoever contacting his father. Nevertheless, Yosef doesn't seem to bother. It appears that Yosef has wiped his past from his memory.
This question is raised by Ramban (see 42:9) and dealt with by numerous other commentators. Ramban explains that Yosef's actions were motivated by his aspiration to ensure the fulfillment of his dreams. Somehow, according to Ramban, Yosef understood that in order for the Divine plan to unfold, he must not contact his family.
Abravanel argues on Ramban's assertion that Yosef's primary drive was to fulfill his childhood dreams. Instead, he explains Yosef's entire strategy as an attempt to bring his brothers towards proper teshuva. (See Nechama Leibowitz on Sefer Breishit who deals with this "shita" in depth.) However, even though Abravanel's interpretation explains Yosef's behavior after his brothers arrived, it does not explain why Yosef did not contact his father before they arrived in Egypt!
R. Yoel Bin Nun, in an article in Megadim vol. I (a publication of the Herzog Teachers Institute), offers a fascinating solution, based on an analysis of Yosef's perception of the "bechira" process.
In our shiur, we employ Rav Bin Nun's approach to explain Yosef's behavior during his first twenty years in Egypt - before his brothers arrive. However, to explain Yosef's overall 'master plan,' we employ Abravanel's approach as well, adding a little twist of our own.
Rav Yoel begins his article by taking issue with Ramban's basic claim that Yosef feels obligated to ensure the actualization of his dreams. It is unthinkable, he argues, that Yosef would cause such suffering to his father simply because of a dream. Rav Yoel also contends that "pshat" of the parsha indicates that Yosef remembered his dreams only after the brothers came (see 42:9). During the approximately twenty years beforehand, his dreams seem to have been forgotten!
To explain Yosef's behavior, Rav Yoel suggests that Yosef had no idea that his father believed he was dead. Rather, Yosef assumed that the brothers knew of his sale, and hence he expected his father (and/or his brothers) to come to his rescue. After all, the Yishmaelim were international traders who traveled quite often through Eretz Canaan. Surely, Yosef hoped, his father would find out that he was sold and demand that the brothers trace the sale and then go to Egypt to buy him back. However, many months passed and no one showed. Yosef's hopes were replaced by a feeling of rejection. After several months (or years), he gradually reached the conclusion that he must have been 'rejected' from the "bechira" process. (See Board #2.) Reluctantly, he accepted his new fate, understanding that he was no longer wanted by his family.
The logic behind Yosef's 'mistaken' conclusion can be explained in two ways - either through either a 'conspiracy theory' or a more conservative approach.