Why did Joseph die before his brothers? After all, he was the second youngest. According to the mitzvot he did – honoring his father and being his brethren's savior – should he not have lived a long life? Why did his brothers outlive him?


Astute observation. I assume you are basing your question on the verse that says,1 "Joseph said to his brothers: I am going to die; G‑d will surely remember you and take you up out of this land..." Indeed, the Midrash confirms that Joseph was outlived by all his brothers.

The Talmud2 teaches us that three different behaviors shorten a person's life. One of these is putting on airs, acting superior to others. And incredible as it may seem, our sages say that Joseph was guilty of this very failing.3 Similarly, the Midrash states4 that Joseph was punished for having listened silently to his brothers referring to their father as Joseph's servant.5

Why such a severe punishment? The Maharal explains that a supercilious attitude is divisive, and so isolates the person from the rest of the community. And anything isolated is always less enduring than when it's part of something greater. Also, the Maharal explains that the simpler something is, the less opposition there is to its existence. The less opposition there is, the longer it will exist. It turns out then that Joseph's shortened life was a natural outcome of his conduct.

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger for