In the Torah portion of Mikeitz we read that during the time of famine in Canaan, “Yaakov saw that there were provisions in Egypt. Yaakov said to his children: ‘Why are you showing off?’ ”1 Rashi explains that this means, “ ‘Why are you showing off before the children of Yishmael and Esav, as if you are satiated?’ For at that time they still had food.”

There are a number of questions regarding Rashi ’s comment: Why does he state “Why are you showing off before the children of Yishmael and Esav” who did not live in Canaan, rather than state the obvious — “Why are you showing off before your Canaanite neighbors”?

Additionally, Rashi seems to contradict himself. He begins by stating: “Why are you showing off … as if you are satiated,” implying that in reality they were not satiated. He then concludes by saying: “For at that time they still had food,” thus giving us to understand that they were not hungry.

We must perforce say2 that Rashi is explaining that Yaakov’s children behaved as if they had a lot of food when in reality they had only enough for “that time,” i.e., to last them a short while.

Still, the question remains: Why would Yaakov’s children pretend they had more provisions than they actually had?

In the simple context of the verse, Yaakov was not afraid of arousing the jealousy of their neighbors, for they only had enough to last a short while. Rather, he objected to the fact that they showed off as if they had no worries about food — something likely to offend the descendants of Yishmael and Esav, as shall presently be explained.

As indicated earlier in the book of Bereishis, hunger in Canaan was not uncommon; there was famine there both in the times of Avraham and Yitzchak, causing them both to leave the land.

The reason they had to depart was not because they were undeserving of G‑d’s support during a famine. For we find that when Yitzchak was in Grar he was tremendously successful, notwithstanding the fact that it was “a year of famine… a difficult land and a difficult year.”3

The conduct of Yaakov’s children, acting as if they lacked for nothing, can now be understood:

Yaakov’s children were strong in their faith that G‑d would not forsake their father or themselves. When they saw that they still had food while all the inhabitants of Canaan were hungry, they were sure that they merited Divine blessings and success.

Thus, although they only had enough food to last a short time they were sure that G‑d would continue to provide for them in a miraculous manner, similar to His general conduct with the Patriarchs. They therefore behaved as if they had a lot of food, for their faith in G‑d let them act as if the food they would need in the future was already in hand.

It was with regard to this manner of conduct that Yaakov commented: “Why are you showing off before the children of Yishmael and Esav?”

This manner of conduct — demonstrating complete confidence of obtaining the necessary provisions in Canaan without having to go to Egypt — could arouse the ire of the children of Yishmael and Esav, the descendants of Abraham and Yitzchak.

The children of Yishmael and Esav might well think to themselves: How is it that Yaakov’s children are sitting so pretty in the land of Canaan during these years of hunger? Are they better than our ancestors Avraham and Yitzchak, who had to leave the land because of hunger?

This kind of thinking, however, meant that the children of Yishmael and Esav failed to understand the true reason that Avraham and Yitzchak left the land — a reason that did not necessarily apply to Yaakov and his children.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXX, pp. 190-194.