Why Did Yosef Cry?

Yosef’s brothers made him suffer (he was thrown into the pit, sold into slavery, thrown into prison etc.) yet through all of these hardships the Torah does not describe him crying. However, we do see Yosef cry several times when he is reunited with his brothers.

In Parshat Vayigash, Yosef cried when he revealed his identity to his brothers (Breisheet 45:2): “He cried in a loud voice. Egypt heard and Pharaoh’s household heard.” Rashi says that Yosef asked the Egyptians present to leave because he was worried about his brothers being embarrassed, not because he was self conscious about his own crying.

Yosef also cried when he hugged his brothers (45:15). Rabbi Saadya Gaon comments that his brothers also cried. Radak is of the opinion that his brothers did not cry because they were too embarrassed.

In Parshat Vayechi, after Yaakov’s death, Yosef’s brothers were afraid that Yosef would now take revenge against them. Yosef’s brothers altered the truth (lied) and said to Yosef (Breisheet  50:16-17): “Your father gave us orders before his death, saying ‘Thus shall you say to Yosef: “Please kindly forgive the spiteful deed of your brothers and their sin for they have done you evil”’ so now please forgive the spiteful deed of the servants of your father’s God.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

Breisheet Raba 100:8 states that Yosef cried because his brothers suspected him of wanting to take revenge.

Yosef was not embarrassed to show his feelings. Yosef’s brothers on the other hand felt guilty for selling him. Since they were at his mercy they felt that they had to suppress their emotions and put up a front which included lying. The only brother who is described by the Torah as crying along with Yosef was Binyamin. Binyamin was not carrying the emotional baggage that his brothers were carrying since he was not involved in selling Yosef (and may not have even known exactly what happened). Since Binyamin was totally innocent he was able to be himself and was comfortable showing his true feelings.

Barbara LaRaia of The San Mateo (California) Daily Journal writes: “Crying is the most inexpensive, natural and powerful mechanism for coping with pain, stress and sorrow. By stifling crying, legitimate emotions are not released and unproductive personality traits can result. We should encourage healthy crying. After all, weeping is probably a necessary contributing factor to human survival.