When Yoseph is sending provisions with his brothers back with them to their father (“וַיִּתֵּ֨ן לָהֶ֥ם יוֹסֵ֛ף עֲגָל֖וֹת עַל־פִּ֣י פַרְעֹ֑ה וַיִּתֵּ֥ן לָהֶ֛ם צֵדָ֖ה לַדָּֽרֶךְ Joseph gave them wagons as Pharaoh had commanded, and he supplied them with provisions for the journey” (Gen. 45.21)), he provides his brothers with changes of clothing and Binyamin with silver and lots of clothing (Gen. 45.22), but what does he provide for his father? “וּלְאָבִ֞יו שָׁלַ֤ח כְּזֹאת֙ עֲשָׂרָ֣ה חֲמֹרִ֔ים נֹשְׂאִ֖ים מִטּ֣וּב מִצְרָ֑יִם וְעֶ֣שֶׂר אֲתֹנֹ֡ת נֹֽ֠שְׂאֹת בָּ֣ר וָלֶ֧חֶם וּמָז֛וֹן לְאָבִ֖יו לַדָּֽרֶךְ And to his father he sent the following: ten he-asses laden from the best of Egypt, and ten she-asses laden with grain, bread, and provisions for his father on the journey” (Gen. 45.23). While I am quite curious about these items, a curious term actually stands out: what is “From the best of Egypt”?
Well, you guessed it: wine, of course. How else is anyone supposed to travel? With just food?
The Talmud inquires what this “from the best of Egypt” is, which yields the following text: אמר רבי בנימין בר יפת אמר רבי אלעזר שיגר1
לו יין שדעת זקנים נוחה הימנו Rabbi Binyamin bar Yefet said: “Rabbi Elazar said: ‘He sent him wine, which the elderly find pleasing’” (bMegillah 16b). Of course, this text is somewhat surprising: why is it only the elderly who find wine pleasing? Certainly, anyone would find it pleasing, right?
It’s not entirely clear, although Rashi thereupon writes “לפי שדעת זקנים נוחה הימנו זה הדבר הטוב לו מן הכל Since the disposition of elders are calmed with it – this is the best thing of all for him” (ד”ה שיגר לו יין), perhaps that the peace of mind that wine can provide is the best thing for him. It’s interesting that Rabbi Binyamin bar Yefet quotes Rabbi Elazar as saying that the wine constitutes from amongst the best of Egypt, which sounds an objective best, whereas Rashi describes this as a subjective best for elderly folks.
Nevertheless, elsewhere in the book of Genesis, we have seen that, even when fleeing from destruction, Lot’s family made sure to bring a lot of wine, enough to get him beyond drunk two nights in a row (Gen. 19). Here, we see royal provisioning on wagons, we should fully expect wine to be included. Why didn’t the verse mention wine, specifically? Perhaps it would have been assumed to have included amongst the various provisions.
1. This is the term found in many manuscripts (see mss. Vatican 134, Oxford Opp. Add. fol. 23, Goettingen 3, NY- Columbia X 893 T 141 (Cf. Munich 95)), while MS Munich 140 and the printed editions (Pesaro & Vilna) witness שלח.↩