“And Yosef said to his brothers: I am Yosef. Is my father still alive? And his brothers were not able to answer him for they were shocked at his presence” (Genesis 45:3).
Throughout this dramatic episode, Yosef has relatedly asked about his father’s welfare and if he’s still alive (see 43:7). Just prior to revealing himself to his brothers, Yosef asked once more if his father is still alive, and the brothers confirm that he is (43:27-28). Yosef has been with his brothers the entire time since they assured him that their father was still alive, so why does he now ask them again?
Another perplexing matter here is the comment of the Midrash on the brothers’ shock after Yosef’s self-revelation. “Woe to us for the day of judgement, woe to us for the day of rebuke!”
Where do we see rebuke in Yosef’s words?
The Bais HaLevi explains that the brother’s claim all along has been that if Benjamin would not be freed, it would break Jacob’s heart and kill him. Yosef didn’t need to find out now if Jacob was still alive – that was already discussed. His question was meant as a rebuke. If you are so concerned about our father’s well-being, why weren’t you apprehensive about his welfare when you sold me? The brothers had no legitimate response to this inconsistency.