This week, we read in the Torah portion Vayigash (Gen. 44:18–47:27) about Joseph revealing himself to his brothers and Jacob coming to Egypt with his family. This storyline culminates by Joseph presenting his brothers and his father to Pharaoh. A curious thing, though—instead of presenting all eleven brothers, Joseph presents only five. This fact does not escape the attention of Rashi, who comments as follows: Joseph chose the weakest of his brothers to avoid conscription of the brothers to the military service in the Pharaoh’s army. This explanation always left me dissatisfied. Even if it explains why Joseph presented fewer than all of his brothers to Pharaoh, it does not explain the number—why five? Why not one, or two, or three?

The number five in Hebrew is represented by the letter Heh. I submit to you that the letter Heh is a symbol of weakness. Here are some of my reasons:

We start with the Midrash, which says that it was as effortless for G‑d to create the world as to pronounce letter Heh (Bereshit Rabba). Letter Heh does not have a distinct sound and is pronounced by simply exhaling. Just as it takes no effort to exhale, it takes no effort to pronounce letter Heh. The Midrash tells us that it involved no effort for the Almighty to create this world.

This can be seen much more vividly by matching fundamental forces to the ineffable name of G‑d, Shem Havaya—Tetragrammaton—Y‑H‑W‑H. As we discussed in the earlier posts (see FOUR CAMPS AT SEA – FOUR FUNDAMENTAL INTERACTIONS and FOUR CUPS AND THREE MATZOTH), the four fundamental forces correspond to the letters of Tetragrammaton:


י (Yud) Strong (Nuclear) Force
ה (Heh) Weak force (beta decay)
ן (Vav) Electromagnetic force
ה (Heh) Gravitational force


The first letter Heh in the Tetragrammaton represents weak forces. Again, the letter Heh is associated with weakness. The second letter Heh corresponds to the gravitational forces—the weakest of all four forces. The fact that gravity is so much weaker than the other forces, is one of the great mysteries in the Standard Model. Once again, letter Heh is associated with the notion of weakness.

Mystery solvednumber five is not arbitrary. By presenting to Pharaoh five of his brothers, Joseph was telling Pharaoh of their weakness. Did Joseph know about four fundamental forces? Was he teaching this lesson to Pharaoh?

Joseph Presents His Father and Brothers to the Pharaoh (Francesco Granacci, 1515)