The brothers seem to slightly exaggerate Joseph’s position (on his request in an earlier verse), claiming to Jacob that he is the ruler over all of the land of Egypt. After all, it was Pharaoh who ruled over Egypt, so what does it mean that Joseph ruled over Egypt?
We can perhaps conclude that Joseph was not trying to say that he was the real leader over Egypt from a physical perspective, but rather from a spiritual one. He wanted his father to know that, even though he had been separated from him for 22 years and even though he was living in a land of alien influences, nevertheless he had kept alive the ideals and teachings of his dear father. In other words, he ruled over Egypt. It hadn’t deadened him spiritually and the culture and society did not rule over him.
On Friday nights there is a custom for parents to bless their children. In blessing our daughters, we bless them to be like the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
One would therefore think that when it comes to blessing our sons, we would bless them to be like the patriarchs. However, we don’t. We bless them instead to be like Manasseh and Ephraim, the sons of Joseph, who lived their entire life outside of the Holy Land in a land spiritually distant from their forefathers. Yet in spite of that, they were brought up in a home built on the teachings and wisdom of the patriarchs.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing Jews today is bringing our children up in a society where the emphasis is often on things that run contrary to Torah values and holiness. Our aim, therefore, should be to help them rise above these challenges and ensure that they are not ruled by society and culture rather that they rule over it.