"And the brothers of Joseph saw that their father had died and they said, 'Perhaps Joseph will hate us and will return to us all the evil that we had done to him.'" (From this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, Genesis 50)
It is strange. After all the outpouring of emotion, the public forgiveness, living together, suddenly the brothers fear that it was all a show? That Joseph was just paying lip service, simply waiting for their father to die?
We are usually not aware of the power of parents' influence over their children. It seems to us that when the children grow up and fly from the nest that they are completely independent. But the child has a natural need to look back to his parents and receive endorsement for his chosen path. Every action taken by the parents is watched and learned. Always. Even by the most outrageously rebellious children, even when they are older, even when the parents are already very old. Even when the parent does not immediately feel his influence, it is immense. One can never know the extent of his influence over his children and its reach – even years after he has completed his sojourn on this earth.
The brothers did not believe that Joseph had a long-term scheme to harm them. They feared something much deeper. They feared an authentic change in Joseph's personality after the death of their father and the seeming decrease in his influence.
What does Joseph say to them?
Do not worry. My relationship with you is not dependent upon changing moods and not upon education that may go awry. It is based on stability that stems only from a faith-based worldview and steeped in fear of Heaven.
"And Joseph said to them, 'Do not fear, for am I instead of G-d? And you thought evil for me and G-d thought it for the good, in order to do as this day, to keep a huge populace alive."