When Yosef saw his brothers coming to Mitzrayim to buy food, the Torah says, “And Yosef recalled the dreams that he had dreamed about them” (Bereishis 42:9). Ramban there explains, “The Torah is telling us that when Yosef saw his brothers bowing down to him, he remembered all the dreams he dreamed about them, and he knew that that none of them were yet fulfilled. For he knew, based on the dreams’ interpretation, that all of his brothers would bow to him, as was evident from the first dream… ‘We were binding sheaves,’ the word we alluding to all eleven brothers. And according to the second dream, it would be his father together with his household and all eleven brothers (as represented by the sun, the moon, and eleven stars). And since Yosef did not see Binyamin with them now, thus preventing fulfillment of even the first dream, he devised a scheme… so that they would bring his brother Binyamin to him as well to fulfill the first dream. And that is why he did not immediately tell them, “I am Yosef” and “Hurry to my father,” sending wagons of food to him. For had he done so, Yaakov would have immediately come to him, which would have eliminated any chance of fulfilling the first dream, which called for only the brothers to bow to Yosef. After the first dream was fulfilled, Yosef told his brothers all these things, in order to fulfill the second dream. And if not for that, Yosef would have been committing a great sin in causing grief to his father, keeping him in bereavement… for Yosef as well as for Shimon [who was jailed by Yosef]… how could he not have pity on his father’s suffering? Rather, we must say that he did everything in its proper time in order to fulfill the dreams, for he knew that no human effort would thwart the Divine decree, and on the contrary, he should hasten its fulfillment.”
What does Ramban mean that Yosef felt compelled to see to it that the dreams were fulfilled? Does a prophet have such an obligation, over and beyond his obligation to report the prophecy? The Gra in his sefer Aderet Eliyahu concurs with Ramban, but elaborates, “For Yosef did not wish to violate HaShem’s will… in order not to negate the will and decree of HaShem, and this is a basic principle in the Torah.”
This has nothing to do with prophecy, nothing to do with a prophet. This is an idea central to our lives, incumbent and obligatory upon every single individual — to fulfill ratzon HaShem, or to have ratzon HaShem be fulfilled.
This is conceptually beyond adhering to the mitzvos HaShem; this is going beyond the dry fulfillment of our obligations. This is an expression of the love we have towards the Ribbono Shel Olam; we want His will fulfilled!
We find this concept in many places. For example, Ramban describes the sin of the dor hapalaga as trying to negate HaShem’s will that the earth’s population be spread out over the globe; instead, they decided that they would all gather together in one spot. Now clearly, HaShem’s statement “fill the earth” is not one of the Noachide commandments! Yet it is a revelation of the will of HaShem, and, as such, commands respect and awe and reverence.
We are familiar with the idea that Avraham Avinu kept the Torah even before it was given, i.e. before being commanded to. Ramban (Bereishis 26:5) assumes that Yaakov Avinu did so as well, “because it is not logical that Yaakov did not keep what Avraham accepted as forbidden” (rather than simply saying that Yaakov Avinu did so as well). What this seems to mean is that Avraham revealed certain actions as being either in consonance with the will of HaShem or in conflict with it. And once that was known, it is self-understood that Yaakov Avinu would adhere to that mode of behavior as well.
We know that there is a famous disagreement between Rambam and Ramban regarding the nature of our obligation to follow mitzvos and decrees which are d’rabanan. Rambam says that the obligation to do so is included in the Torah prohibition of “You shall not turn from that which they teach you.” But Ramban argues that that prohibition only includes explanations that a beis din hagadol imparts to a Torah law either through mesorah from Sinai or through the 13 methods of exegesis. But all other d’rabanan are not included in that prohibition. But wait! If they are not, then what is our obligation to listen to them? From where is that obligation derived? It seems that this is an extrapolation based on the fact that we do know that HaShem gave the sages the authority to interpret the Torah; logic dictates that it is the will of HaShem that we give them ultimate authority and obey their decrees and injunctions.
We find many times in the Gemara the concept of a law being “only mid’rabanan,”and yet the Gemara insists that there is a hint to it already in the Torah (asmachta). This means that although it is not a mitzvah by Torah law, the Torah very legitimately hints at the fact that this behavior, this observance, is the will of HaShem.
And now comes a most difficult question, my friends. Think over your day, maybe the last two days. Think over various nisyonos you had, different choices you needed to make. Things that were not, technically, mitzvosor aveiros. Did you ask yourself what HaShem wants? Which behavior would be pleasing in the eyes of HaShem, and which behavior not? Does that concern us at all? Or are we caught up in the technicalities, and have essentially painted HaShem out of the picture? The lesson of Yosef should not be lost on us. Yosef structured his response to his brothers’ appearance by following, against his kibud av instincts, what he saw as the will of HaShem.