The brothers were terrified when they heard the verdict of the Egyptian ruler, Yosef, known to all Egyptians as Tzafnas Panayach. They were free to leave, yet Binyamin was to remain in Egypt as a slave! How could they desert Binyamin?! They promised their father that he would return unharmed!
It was Yehudah who had personally guaranteed his brother’s safety, so he courageously confronted the great ruler, “You are like Paraoh – mighty ruler of the Empire of Egypt.
Our father’s wife Rachel had only two children – one is Binyamin, whom our father loves so dearly, and the other is no longer alive… If we don’t bring Binyamin home with us, our dear elderly father will die of sorrow!”
Then Yehudah pleaded, “Take me instead! I am stronger than Binyamin and would make a much better slave. Mighty ruler, how can I stand to see my father’s pain? YOU MUST LET BINYAMIN GO!”
“You are like Paraoh.” You can read this to mean that Yehudah was complimenting Yosef, saying that he was as great as Paraoh, and he was the one who had the power to release Binyamin. But there is a deeper meaning here as well. Our great Rabbis explain that Yehudah was actually threatening Yosef.
Yehudah was hinting to Yosef that he was like the old Paraoh in the days of his great-grandparents, Avraham and Sarah. When they came down to Egypt due to hunger, Paraoh captured Sarah and was punished with 10 terrible plagues. Now, Yehudah was actually warning Yosef that unless he lets Binyamin go free, the same thing would happen to him!
When reading Chumash (or even the rest of the Tanach), there are “music notes” called Ta’amim, a.k.a. Ta’amei Neginah, a.k.a.Trop, that help us understand the Torah better. Listen carefully and you’ll hear sadness, hope, happiness, glory, triumph and other emotions. In fact, sometimes the very names of the Ta’amei Neginah reflect what’s going on.
Here is a fascinating example, we read here how Yehudah – feeling responsible for his baby brother – approached Yosef, even though he was not the oldest brother present.
The Trop over the words “Vayigash Eilav Yehudah” are Kadmah, Azla, and Revii, which literally mean “The fourth hastened to go.”
You see? Even the names of the Ta’amei Neginah (Trop) give us wonderful insight into the Pesukim.