Joseph's Bones

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

Joseph converted a number of souls in Egypt and therefore circumcised them. These were the "mixed multitude" that left with the Jewish people.

[When the Jewish people left Egypt,] Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for [Joseph] had adjured the children of Israel, saying: "G‑d will deliver you, and you will bring up my bones from here with you." (Ex. 13:9)

As you know, our sages tell us that when Pharaoh told the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you," Joseph required them to circumcise themselves. (Gen. 41:55)

After storing up food during the seven years of plenty, the Egyptians found that when the years of famine began, it had all rotted. They went to Pharaoh, who advised them to go to Joseph and ask him for food. Joseph told them that he would distribute food to them only if they circumcised themselves. Pharaoh advised the Egyptians to comply with his demand, for "he [evidently] decreed that the produce should rot; what happens if he decrees that we should die?"

[In so doing] he converted a number of souls and [therefore] circumcised them. These were the "mixed multitude" that left Egypt with the Jewish people.

When the Jews left Egypt, "a mixed multitude also left with them". (Ex. 12:38) These were converts from a number of peoples - including Egyptians. (See Rashi's commentary on this verse.)

Moses also wanted to accept them and take them in under the wings of the Shechinah.

See Rashi's commentary on Ex. 32:7.

Therefore, since Joseph began this deed and was the first one to convert them to Judaism, [it is appropriate that] Moses took him [Joseph] with him [personally].

In the Talmud Sota (13a), the Sages point out, "Whereas all the [other] Jews were occupied with the spoil [of Egypt], Moses occupied himself with the commandments," i.e. with fulfilling Joseph's wish to be exhumed and taken to the holy land. The Arizal gives a thematic explanation of why this was so.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Not through the Land of the Philistines

End of the Path: Part 1

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

The journey to Israel manifest mystical unifications in the spiritual worlds.

This week's Torah portion opens with the words:

"And it was, when Pharaoh sent away the people, that G‑d did not lead them by way of the Land of the Philistines, for it was close. For G‑d said, 'Lest the people change their mind when they see war, and return to Egypt' So G‑d led the people around by way of the desert of the Sea of Reeds, and the Israelites went out from Egypt armed. Moses took Joseph's bones with him, for he had made the Israelites swear, saying, 'G‑d will certainly redeem you, so take my bones out of here with you.' (Ex. 13:17-19)

The word for "and it was" presaged trouble for the Jewish people from the fact that "Pharaoh sent away the people", that is, the Mixed Multitude.

The word for "and it was/vayehi", is understood by the Sages to presage trouble. (Megilla 10b) When the Torah uses the term "the people" instead of the more usual "the Israelites/Benei Yisrael", it is often understood to refer to the Mixed Multitude of gentiles that Moses converted and accompanied the Jews out of Egypt. These converts were moved to convert by the miracles they saw performed for the Jews rather than by sincere devotion to G‑d. Since their intentions were not pure, they proved repeatedly to be a source of trouble during the ensuing trek to the Land of Israel.

For it was because of them that "G‑d did not lead them…", i.e. the Jews, ["by way of the Land of the Philistines] for [this route] was close", and they would have entered the [Promised] Land immediately [had they taken it]. G‑d suspected that "the people (i.e. the Mixed Multitude) would change their mind and return to Egypt".

chanoch adds: HaShem knows not suspect. The translation might be incorrect.

When Moses saw that they had to travel "by way of the desert of the Sea of Reeds", and they would have to cross the sea, "he took Joseph's bones with him" in order to use them to split the sea, similar to [the idea in] the verse, "the sea saw and fled". (Psalms 114:3)

According to the Midrash, it was Joseph's bones that the sea saw and "fled", i.e. retreated on either side, leaving a dry path for the Jews to use to cross. It was because Joseph fled when he was tempted by Potiphar's wife that the sea now fled before him. (Bereishit Rabbah 87:8)

Rabbi Shalom Sharabi notes that since this verse continues "for he had made the Israelites swear, saying, 'G‑d will certainly redeem you, so take my bones out of here with you'", we cannot say that Moses took Joseph's bones because he realized he would have to use them to split the sea, because the Jews were obligated to take his bones in any case. Rather, he says, the Arizal means that the reason Moses took Joseph's bones "with him", i.e. keeping them next to him, rather than putting someone else in charge of them, was for this reason.

The Arizal goes on to explain the Kabbalistic dynamics behind this change of plans in Part 2: Curly-Haired Philistines

(click here)

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Likutei Torah, parashat Beshalach; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Curly-Haired Philistines

End of the Path: Part 2

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

[This article is a continuation from Part 1: Not through the Land of the Philistines

(click here).]

This week's Torah portion opens with the words:

And it was, when Pharaoh sent away the people, that G‑d did not lead them by way of the Land of the Philistines, for it was close. For G‑d said, "Lest the people change their mind when they see war, and return to Egypt." So G‑d led the people around by way of the desert of the Sea of Reeds, and the Israelites went out from Egypt armed. Moses took Joseph's bones with him, for he had made the Israelites swear, saying, "G‑d will certainly redeem you, so take my bones out of here with you." (Ex. 13:17-19)

The Arizal now explains the Kabbalistic dynamics behind this change of plans:

Now, the Philistines are situated [spiritually] in the location of the hairs [referred to in the phrase] "his locks are curled". (Songs 5:11) [They are alluded to] by the combined numerical value of the ten names Elokim of constricted consciousness, from which these hairs issued above [in the spiritual realms].

Energy passes out of the brain and metamorphoses into hair….

Hair is seen as a manifestation of the brain's excess "light" (mental energy). As this excess energy passes out of the brain and metamorphoses into hair, it undergoes an extreme qualitative contraction (tzimtzum); hair, together with nails, is the most lifeless part of the body, since it can be cut painlessly.

chanoch adds: The Kabbalah explains that Light enters the top of the head and spreads to share as is the nature of Light. Some is able to spread outwards back through the top of the head. This restriction or Tzimzum has the effect of judgement. Other aspects of the Light spreads through the neck to the body. Some parts of the Light can not “fit” through the neck and becomes the hairs of the beard.

The Arizal states elsewhere (Shaar HaKavanot, Tzitzit 5) that the hair on the head of Arich Anpin is white (or blonde), the hair on the head of Zeir Anpin is black, and the hair on the head of Nukva is red. The verse applying to the hair of Zeir Anpin is "His locks are curled, black as a raven".

He further states that there are three types of hair on Zeir Anpin's head: long locks ("kevutzot"), medium-length hairs ("nimin"), and short hairs ("saarot"). These three types of hair originate in the three parts of the brain, which in turn correspond to the three components of the intellect.

The long kevutzot originate in daat (which is centered in the brain stem or cerebellum). Daat comprises the origin of the midot, which, as we have seen previously, are manifest principally as fives states of chesed and five states of gevura. There are thus ten contracted states of excess mental daat-energy that emerge from daat. Inasmuch as the name Elokim signifies contraction (tzimtzum), these ten contracted states are manifest as ten names Elokim.

here are the links to deeper exlanations about hair by the Ari.

To continue on to Part 3:

Medium-Haired Philistines (click here)

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Likutei Torah, parashat Beshalach; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Medium-Haired Philistines

End of the Path: Part 3

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

[This article is a continuation from Part 2: Curly Haired Philistines (click here).]

The word for "lock" is "taltal". The numerical value of this word is 860:

"Taltal" is spelled tav-lamed-tav-lamed = 400 + 30 + 400 + 30 = 860.

The numerical value of the name Elokim is 86 (alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem = 1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40 = 86), and 10 x 86 = 860.

The addition two letters of the plural, "locks" ("taltalim"), are yud-mem (10 + 40 = 50), alluding to the 50 letters used to spell ten names Elokim.

The medium-length hairs ("nimin") come from bina and the short hairs ("saarot") from chochma. The short hairs function as the encompassing light (or makif) around Zeir Anpin itself; the medium hairs function as the encompassing light around the partzuf of Leah, and the long hairs function as the encompassing light around the partzuf of Rachel.

The Hair of Zeir Anpin

type of hair – origin - encompassing light

short hair ("saarot") – chochma - of Zeir Anpin

medium-length hair ("nimin") – bina - of Leah

long locks ("kevutzot") – daat - of Rachel

The Philistines personified over-indulgence in the sensuality of this world. This is alluded to by their name, which is derived from the root pei-lamed-shin, meaning "breaking through" or "overdoing it". In the realm of holiness, the Philistines signify excessive joy in the service of G‑d, breaking all boundaries of propriety. This is generally frowned upon, because there is always a danger that excessive expression of joy - even in a holy context - can degenerate into "joy for joy's sake", i.e. for the enjoyment of joy itself, and this is a form of self-indulgence and thus evil. This is why Michal rebuked her husband, King David, for rejoicing excessively when he brought the Ark of the Covenant back from the Philistines (Samuel II 20). Michal was wrong because King David was exceedingly pious, but her supposition was essentially correct. (See Or HaTorah, Beshalach, pp. 369-370.)

Thus, inasmuch as both the Philistines and hair express the idea of excess, the Philistines are situated spiritually proximate to the location of hair. Indeed, elsewhere (Likutei Torah on Samuel I) the Arizal points out that the numerical value of the Hebrew word for "Philistines" ("Pelishtim") is also 860:

"Pelishtim" is spelled: pei-lamed-shin-tav-yud-mem = 80 + 30 + 300 + 400 + 10 + 40 = 860.

It is known that [the Philistines] derived from [the partzuf of] Leah.

Leah signifies thought, as opposed to Rachel, who signifies speech….

The partzuf of Leah is situated opposite the upper half of Zeir Anpin, particularly opposite his head or intellect, for Leah signifies thought, as opposed to Rachel, who signifies speech. Although both thought and speech serve and express the intellect and the emotions, thought is used more for intellect and speech more for the emotions.

As we saw above, the medium-length hair of Zeir Anpin originates in bina of Zeir Anpin and forms the encompassing light around the partzuf of Leah. It is evidently these hairs that serve as the thematic connection between the Philistines and Leah. The inner dimension of bina is joy: joy accompanies the full integration of the insight of chochma into the individual's overall worldview, revitalizing his life, and this is accomplished by bina. As a result of this joy, the individual can have an emotional response to his new intellect, as alluded to in the phrase, "the mother of the children is joyful" (Psalms 113:9), which can be read, "the mother [bina, Imma] of the children [the midot] is joy."

But [the Israelites] were now proceeding toward the Land of Israel, which is associated with [the partzuf of] Rachel.

Thus, just like a person has to think before he speaks, the Jews had to pass through the partzuf of Leah (manifest in the Land of the Philistines) before entering the partzuf of Rachel (manifest in the Land of Israel).

[G‑d] feared that if they would go through the place of Leah, where there was hair, they would return to Egypt. For [the territory of Leah] is also a type of "Egypt", and [perhaps] they would become entangled and caught there.

He therefore led them around "by way of the desert of the Sea of Reeds", that is, via Rachel, who is the "end of the levels".

chanoch adds: In todays world the land of the Philistine is Gaza. The people who live there are called Palestinians and the potential Egypt still applies.

The Sea of Reeds expressed Rachel….

The word for "reeds" is "suf", which is spelled exactly the same way as the word for "end", "sof". Rachel is the partzuf of malchut, which is the last and lowest of the ten sefirot and is therefore termed in the Zohar "the end of all levels". Thus, the Sea of Reeds expressed Rachel.

Now Moses, who personified yesod of Abba, could only enter the Land of Israel, which expressed Rachel, by [being channeled through] yesod of Zeir Anpin, which was personified by Joseph.

We have seen previously that Moses personified yesod of Abba. While yesod of Abba can couple with Leah, for they are at the same level, it is too high to couple with Rachel. It therefore has to descend to the level of Zeir Anpin and be vested in it in order to couple with Rachel. We have seen previously that Joseph - the paradigm of sexual purity - personified yesod of Zeir Anpin.

Scripture therefore states that "Moses took Joseph's bones with him". This means that Moses, who personified yesod of Abba, became vested in Joseph, who personified yesod of Zeir Anpin. In this way, he was able to descend to "the end of all levels", i.e. to enter Rachel.

At this point, it was still assumed that Moses would enter the Land of Israel.

chanoch adds: This always amazes me, how the ARI relates the simple story to the Sefirot. Then everything becomes simple and everything unifies.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Likutei Torah, parashat Beshalach; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."