A Man of Insight

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

Joseph decreed that all of the Egyptians who came to procure grain fulfill the commandment of circumcision.

And Joseph said to Pharaoh, "What G‑d is doing, He has told to Pharaoh… Now Pharaoh should seek out a man of insight, a wise person." (Gen. 41:25,33)

This is difficult to understand. Had Joseph been appointed royal advisor? Yet he said to Pharaoh, "Now Pharaoh should seek out a man of insight, a wise person…" It would have been sufficient for him to do what was asked of him and interpret the dream, as requested. Furthermore, what is the meaning of the word "now" [in the latter verse]? Also, the first verse should have stated, "What G‑d will do [in the future], He has told…" for at that stage the years of plenty and the years of famine had not yet begun.

However, the answer to all these questions may be found in the statement of our Sages: "There are three things which G‑d Himself, not an emissary, announces. They are: famine, plenty and a proper leader over the community. What is the source for famine? - As the verse states, "G‑d has called for a famine…." (II Kings 8:1, Berachot 55a)

The 130 years that the Israelites were in Egypt prior to the birth of Moses were spent in gathering in the sparks of holy souls…

This is why the verse states, "What G‑d is doing," in the present tense rather than in the future, for He is continually announcing the advent of famine or plenty. And so He disclosed these matters to Pharaoh. But since two of the three matters that the Holy One Himself announces were about to be fulfilled, it was proper at this point to also fulfill the third one - and appoint a proper leader over the community. That is why Joseph said, "Now Pharaoh should seek out a man of insight, a wise person…" (Shaar HaPesukim)

Pharaoh said to all of Egypt, "Go to Joseph. Do whatever he tells you!" (Gen. 41:55)

Our Sages say that Joseph decreed that all of them fulfill the commandment of circumcision. They went to ask Pharaoh's advice and he told them to do whatever Joseph had commanded. (Midrash Rabba, Miketz 90, 91; Yalkut Shimoni, Miketz, remez 148)

As we have explained elsewhere (Shaar HaKavanot, drushei Pesach, drush 1), the 130 years that the Israelites were in Egypt prior to the birth of Moses were spent in gathering in the sparks of holy souls which Adam had discharged by wasting his seed in the 130 years prior to the birth of his son Seth, who was the very same aspect as Moses. (Shaar HaMitzvot, parashat Shoftim)

Initially, these souls had been incarnated into the bodies of the people who lived during the time of the Flood. However, they wantonly spilled their seed upon the earth, following their roots and the place from whence they were drawn. They were then reincarnated in the generation of the Tower of Babel. [But again they did not rectify the sin of Adam and the following generations]. Now, once again, they had been reincarnated as Egyptians.

chanoch adds: Note that these souls are being manifested in end time situations. The Flood - The Tower of Babel – The Time of the Plagues are all birthpangs of Mashiach periods. In my opinion, These same souls have been incarnated again in Syria and Yemen andother locations associated with famine war and other aspects of chaos. Not all of the souls as some have achieved their tikunes and no longer need to reincarnate. For those who do need this additional reincarnation will continue being reincarnated although after 4 reincarnations it will be as a spark.

Joseph had prophetic vision, and he knew that they were the sparks of souls that had been produced from wasted seed. He therefore decreed that they be circumcised, in order to rectify some of the sin of their initial root (i.e. they were produced by a blemish in the place of the holy covenant). After the circumcision they began to be rectified to a degree, and during the subsequent 130-year period [prior to the birth of Moses] they were reincarnated as Israelites. It is for this reason that the Israelites were sentenced to hard labor, in order to rectify, refine and purify them, and particularly to rectify the sin of the generation of the Tower of Babel who built the Tower from mortar and bricks. (Shaar HaPesukim)

The Mixed Multitude were the sparks of holiness which had mingled into Egypt…

This is what is written, "And [Joseph] relocated the people in cities from one end of Egypt's borders to the other" (Gen. 47:21). Those he relocated were those whom he had circumcised, and he moved them around in order to refine and purify them. These are the Mixed Multitude [the "Erev Rav"] of whom the Egyptians said, "the people of the Children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than us" (Ex. 1:9). But a later verse states, "and they [the Egyptians] became dissatisfied with themselves because of the Children of Israel" (Ex. 1:12). [In one verse they are referred to as "the people of the Children of Israel," whereas in the other they are referred to as simply "the Children of Israel." Why the discrepancy?]

The secret of this is that those whom Joseph circumcised, and who lived in the Jewish cities, observed the customs of the Israelites. Jacob had also converted Egyptians, as our Sages state (Bereishit Rabba section 4). All of them also observed Israelite customs. Now Pharaoh noticed [the observances of] those who were called "the people of the Children of Israel," i.e. those who were not the Children of Israel themselves, but the people of the Children of Israel. Therefore another verse states, "He [Pharaoh] said to his nation…" (Ex. 1:9) i.e. other Egyptians, who were not the people of the Children of Israel. But the verse "and they became dissatisfied with themselves because of the Children of Israel" refers to the Israelites themselves.

Now you can understand to a degree why the Israelites were exiled to Egypt - all of this was for the sake of those sparks which the decadent Egyptians had captured.

This is what is written, "also a mixed multitude [in Hebrew, "erev rav"] went up with them" (Ex. 12:38) - mystically, the Mixed Multitude were the sparks of holiness which had mingled into Egypt, and which Moses wished to elevate. But the Holy One saw that they were not yet rectified and fit [to be elevated], and He did not want to extract them at that point in time. However, there were actually two varieties of Mixed Multitude - those who are referred to as "the Mixed Multitude", and also "the mixed minority" mentioned in the Zohar (vol. II, p. 191a-b). The Mixed Multitude derive from supernal daat, which is called "great" or "major", whereas the "mixed minority" derive from yesod, which is called "minor". For this reason the numerical value of "Erev Rav" [Mixed Multitude] is the same as the numeric al value of "daat", for they were those who sinned and uprooted the plantings above, the secret of "the stiff-necked people, as will be explained in parashat Ekev. (Likutei Torah)

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

Time for Tikun

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

Kabbalah teaches that certain periods are ripe for particular spiritual rectifications

This week's parasha, Miketz, alludes to an auspicious date for the advent of the Mashiach. Such a date is called a "ketz" in Hebrew, which means literally "an end" - an end to the exile. In the following excerpt the Arizal predicts that the year 1976 would be a "ketz", at least in the higher worlds…

At the end of two years… (Gen. 41:1)

Two years add up to 730 [days]. Each [solar] year is 365, and when multiplied by two = 730. Now by adding to this the six letters - of the word Shana meaning year - the sum total comes to 736, which equals the sum of the name Ado-nai spelled simply = 65, together with the same name spelled with the milui = 671. [Thus] 736 is called above the "End of Days". (Likutei Torah)

[End of Days…: The apparent intention here is to indicate that the year (5)736, 1976 in the Gregorian calendar, was an auspicious year for the advent of the Mashiach.]

"…Seven healthy cows" (Gen. 41:2)

In Yetzira there is good and evil…

These are the seven heichalot of the world of Beriya, and this is why the cows are referred to explicitly as "beriyot" [meaning "healthy", related to the word "Beriya"]. The "seven other cows" [mentioned in the verse following] are the seven heichalot of the world of Yetzira. [They are] described as "of evil appearance". This is because in Yetzira there is good and evil, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. For this reason the verse states that "[they stood …] on the banks of the river", but not in the river. (Likutei Torah)

[The "river" alludes to bina which "nests" (i.e. is revealed primarily in) the world of Beriya (Tikunei Zohar 23a; Etz Chaim, Shaar 47. ch. 2), as will be explained below. The heichalot of Yetzira are thus "only on the banks" of Beriya.]

"Seven ears of grain… healthy and good" (Gen. 41:5)

These are also from the world of Beriya. Pharaoh is the aspect of malchut of Atzilut, where "all the lights are uncovered". Malchut [of Atzilut] is clothed in Beriya, which is the river and the twelve cattle upon which the sea [of Solomon] stands. This is the meaning of "[Pharaoh was] standing over the river."

The river is also yesod of Atzilut, the river that pours forth its bounty…

The river is also yesod of Atzilut, the river that pours forth its bounty to Pharaoh [i.e. yesod feeds malchut], who is the single stalk of wheat [in Hebrew, "kaneh" mentioned in verse 5]. "Kaneh" together with one for the kolel is the numerical value of 156, the equivalent of the numerical value of "Joseph" [in Hebrew, "Yosef"]. (Likutei Torah)

"…the cows ate up" (Gen. 41:4)

As you already know, all famine and harsh decrees come from the side of Nukva, since it rules over the male aspect [the column of chesed] and has lost her sweetness. This is indicated by the letters [of the Tetragrammaton] in jumbled sequence. This is alluded to by the Torah in the words of the verse "the cows of good appearance, healthy… [in Hebrew, 'haparot yefot hamar'eh v'haberiyot']" for the initial letters of this verse spell out hei, yud, hei, vav. Note that the feminine letters are placed before the male letters thus ruling over them - the hei over the yud, and the second hei over the vav.

Famine…is caused by sins which arouse the harsh judgments of Nukva…

This is why there was famine, which is caused by sins which arouse the harsh judgments of Nukva. Nukva is called "isha" [Hebrew for "woman"], the word formed by the initial letters of the verse "the seven cows" [in Hebrew, "et sheva haparot"]. For it is from this aspect that famine comes. (Likutei Torah; Shaar HaPesukim)

[According to the redactor of Shaar HaPesukim this excerpt was not recorded by Rabbi Chaim Vital, but rather by one of the other students of the Arizal.]

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

Anatomy of the Divine Presence

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

Kabbalah explains the mystical connection between Joseph and Benjamin.

chanoch adds: Joseph is a chariot for Yesod of Zeir Anpin. King David is the chariot to Malchut relative to Joseph. The question is what Sefira does Benjamin represent. Remember the Temple is in the territory of Benjamin. This implies a relationship to Malchut. Can one have multiple chariots to Malchut?

In this parasha, we see how Joseph is reunited with his brothers. Joseph shows particular favor to his full brother, Benjamin, as in the verse:

And he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, the son of his mother, and said, "Is this your younger brother you mentioned to me?" And he said, "May G‑d favor you, my son." (Gen. 43:29)

Know that the numerical value of "Benjamin" is the same as that of the word for "hole" (in Hebrew, "nekev" = 152), for that is his spiritual location, i.e. where "feminine water" unites with "masculine water".

"Binyamin", Hebrew for "Benjamin", is spelled: beit-nun-yud-mem-yud-nun = 2 + 50 + 10 + 40 + 50 = 152.

"Nekev" is spelled: nun-kuf-beit = 50 + 100 + 2 = 152.

"Feminine water" and "masculine water" are the Zoharic terms for Nukva's "arousal from below" and Zeir Anpin's "arousal from above", respectively, in preparation for their union.

The fact that the numerical value of Benjamin is the masculine form of the word Nukva indicates that he plays a role in this union.

…What spiritual level do you personify?

Therefore Joseph said to Benjamin, "What spiritual level do you personify? I know that you embody neither of the two sides (who are party to the spiritual union), for you do not embody any partzuf whatsoever, neither masculine nor feminine."

Benjamin then answered him, "Know, my brother, that I personify the masculine principle, and indeed, I have ascended to the same spiritual level that you did, in order to draw and suckle from the place where you drew and suckled."

Whereas the other brothers personified various aspects of the six midot of Nukva, Joseph personified the yesod of Zeir Anpin. Benjamin also achieved this level.

This is why "Benjamin" is now written fully, with the second yud, for this indicates how he ascended and drew into himself a radiance of the yud. He said to him, "Joseph, know that I now personify the masculine principle, and I have a wife and children."

The name "Benjamin" is usually spelled beit-nun-yud-mem-nun, as above. Sometimes, however, it is spelled beit-nun-yud-mem-yud-nun.

The yud is the principle masculine letter of the name Havayah. (The other masculine letter, the vav, is an extension of the yud, as we have seen previously.)

Joseph said back to him, "What did you name them?"

Benjamin answered, "I named them after (you) my brother…."

The names Benjamin gave his sons all refer to some aspect of Joseph's tribulations or his relationship with his brother Benjamin.

This being the case, it is understood that Benjamin did not conduct marital relations below, at his (original) level, but above, at the level of his brother (Joseph). This is why he named all his sons after (aspects of) his brother('s life).

chanoch adds: Remember the Torah is not written in chronological order. Thus it is possible for Benyamin to not have children when he is sent with Yehudah into Egypt to free Shimon. Benjamin is called Tzadik like his brother. Why? The Ari is teaching us in the paragraph above. Yet this difficult to understand as Benjamin is said to be called Tzadik since he did not leep with his wife. Yet here he is saying he has children.

A further proof of this is that he had ten sons, the number of the lights from which he suckled at his brother's level. This is (also) why his name was originally spelled without the second yud, and is here spelled with the second yud, indicating that he (now fully) personified the masculine principle.

All the 12 tribes constitute a rectification of the Shechinah….

We see that sometimes his name is spelled with the second yud, indicating that he personifies the masculine principle, and sometimes without the second yud, indicating that he personifies the feminine principle. In fact, his name is spelled (in the Torah) with the second yud only five times, for a known reason.

Five times the numerical value of Benjamin spelled with the second yud is 810, alluding to the two Temples that were built in Benjamin's territory and stood in total 830 years. It is for this reason that his name appears with the second yud only five times, as we said.

Beit-nun-yud-mem-yud-nun = 2 + 50 + 10 + 40 + 10 + 50 = 162. 162 x 5 = 810.

Jersualem was in Benjamin's territory. According to the Talmud, the first Temple stood for 410 years (833 BCE - 423 BCE), and the second Temple for 420 years (350 BCE - 70 CE). (Yoma 9a) This gives a total of 830 years.

As to the missing 20 in this calculation, the scribe who wrote it down suggests that we add the 17 letters used in spelling out the word "Binyamin" plus the two kolel's for the two Temples, this giving 19, plus another kolel for the word "Binyamin" itself, giving 20.

Beit-yud-tav nun-vav-nun yud-vav-dalet mem-mem yud-vav-dalet nun-vav-nun - 17 letters.

The Arizal now backtracks conceptually and lays the groundwork for the above discussion.

Know that all the 12 (progenitors of the) tribes constitute a rectification of the Shechinah, and She therefore hovers over them with Her full partzuf.

The Shechinah is Nukva of Atzilut, which constitutes a full partzuf, as we know.

They are: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, personifying Her chesed-gevura-tiferet; Issachar and Zebulun, personifying Her netzach-hod, Naphtali and Asher, personifying Her right knee; Dan, personifying Her right heel; Gad, personifying Her left knee and heel; Judah personifying Her malchut; and Benjamin Her yesod; while Joseph personifies the yesod of Zeir Anpin.

The above description moves freely between the actual nomenclature of the sefirot and their anatomical correlates. Chesed-gevura-tiferet correspond to the right arm, left arm, and torso, respectively; netzach-hod correspond to the right and left legs; malchut corresponds to the mouth; and yesod corresponds to the womb in the female and the reproductive organ in the male.

This is what is alluded to in (Zohar) parashat Miketz, that Joseph personified the masculine principle and the others personified the feminine principle.

When they all saw that Joseph personified the masculine principle and they all personified the feminine principle, they became very jealous of him. Thus we see that the numerical value of "Joseph" (in Hebrew, "Yosef") is the same as that of the word for "jealousy" (in Hebrew, "kina", 156).

"Yosef" is spelled: yud-vav-samech-pei = 10 + 6 + 60 + 80 = 156.

"Kina" is spelled: kuf-nun-alef-hei = 100 + 50 + 1 + 5 = 156.

(Joseph) suckles from the divine name E-l Kana Havayah.

The phrase "E-l Kana" ("a zealous G‑d" or "a jealous G‑d") appears 6 times in the Torah. (Ex. 20:5, 34:14; Deut. 4:24, 5:9, 6:15) The last time is the verse "For a zealous G‑d (E-l Kana), Havayah your G‑d, is among you…".

This (name) signifies the supernal yesod of(Imma, signified in turn by), the first hei (of the name Havayah), also known as the river that issues from Eden.

In the phrase "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden", "Eden" signifies chochma, the "river" is bina, and the "garden" is malchut.

Mystically, the sea is an appellation for malchut….

It happened that (the brothers acted on their jealousy) of his father, for he sent him (to check on them), saying, "Are your brothers not pasturing their flocks in Shechem?" (Gen. 37:13) By this, he meant (mystically) that some of them are situated spiritually at the level of the arms of the feminine principle, which is the meaning of the word "shechem", as in "on his shoulder". (Joshua 4:5, et al)

The word "shechem" literally means "shoulder".

Jacob assumed that since some of them are situated spiritually at the level of the arms (of the feminine principle), they would not be jealous of him nor harm him, for two reasons: First, because the arms are higher than the torso and the procreative organ; "This being the case," he said, "they are higher than you and will not be jealous of you."

The arms can be raised higher than the torso, and therefore they are considered higher than it; they embody chesed and gevura, while the body embodies tiferet.

Even though Joseph personified yesod of Zeir Anpin, which is a higher level than Nukva, Jacob either meant that yesod in general is a lower sefira than chesed-gevura-tiferet, and in this respect, the brothers (at least Reuben, Simeon, and Levi) were higher than Joseph, or that when Zeir Anpin is vested in Nukva, the yesod of Zeir Anpin is situated at the lower extreme of tiferet of Nukva. (Gloss of Rabbi Wolf Ashkenazi )

Secondly, (he said,) "Their source includes loving-kindness and mercy, so they will have mercy on you, and you need not be afraid."

Chesed and tiferet are loving-kindness and mercy, respectively.

But, they did not act according to Jacob's assumption, but instead "they found (Joseph) in Dotan" Gen. 37:17), i.e. related to him with the attribute of strict judgment. In the end, however, Reuben, who personified the right arm, had mercy on him, (Ibid. v. 21 ff) but this did not help since he was a lone voice.

Dotan is related to the word "din", meaning "judgment."

"They cast him into the pit", (ibid. v. 24) this being the attribute of strict judgment, of Isaac, whose numerical value is the same as that of the word for "pit" (in Hebrew, "bor" = 208).

In the context of the three Patriarchs, Isaac personified gevura or strict judgment, and this is seen by the fact that he devoted great energy to digging wells and pits. Whereas chesed and tiferet are characterized by downward movement - the "have" giving to the "have-not" and the "higher" having mercy on the "lower" - gevura is characterized by upward movement, the "have-not" judging itself critically and aspiring to ascend to a higher level. This upward aspiration toward purification was expressed by Isaac's well-digging, where dirt (obstructions, evil) is removed so the hidden good (the subterranean well) can be revealed.

"Isaac", in Hebrew, "Yitzchak" is spelled: yud-tzadik-chet-kuf = 10 + 90 + 8 + 100 = 208.

"Bor" is spelled: beit-vav-reish = 2 + 6 + 200 = 208.

Specifically, (they cast him) into the Nukva of Zeir Anpin, the attribute of Isaac, to the location of its left arm, where Simeon was spiritually located.

As we know, the masculine principle in general is associated with the right side, that of chesed, while the feminine principle is associated with the left side, that of gevura. Therefore, Nukva can be justifiably called the attribute of Isaac, since Isaac also personifed the side of gevura. As was noted above, Simeon personified the left arm of Nukva, i.e. the gevura of Nukva, which is anyway associated with gevura. Thus, the left arm of Nukva is doubly strict.

That is why Joseph acted wisely when Simeon was under his control, and imprisoned him in front of the other brothers (ibid. 42:24) so they would take the hint. But they did not get the hint.

In any case, they later took (Joseph) out of the pit and sold him, and (his purchasers) brought him to Egypt, the "straits of the sea", which is malchut - specifically, the back of Nukva of Zeir Anpin.

The word for "Egypt", Mitzrayim" can be read as the two words "meitzar yam", or "the straits of the sea", and indeed, most of the settled area of Egypt is around the Nile River, a passageway into the Mediterranean Sea. Mystically, the sea is an appellation for malchut, since all the other sefirot flow into malchut just as everything eventually flows into the sea. The "strait" or "constriction" of malchut is the back of malchut, the side exposed to evil.

Egypt is the constriction of…the flow of the expanded consciousness of bina into the restricted and constricted consciousness of malchut….

Thus, he was now on the (central) axis, that of malchut and bina.

Having been thrown off-center to the left side by his brothers, he returned in Egypt to the central axis, where he began (as yesod of Zeir Anpin), albeit in a precarious position, exposed to the evil of Egypt.

This axis is the constriction of "who" (into that) of the "sea", which is malchut.

The Hebrew word for "who", "mi", is the last two letters of the Hebrew word for "Egypt", "Mitzrayim", just as is the word for "sea", "yam". "Mitzrayim" can thus be understood both as "the constriction of the sea" and "the constriction of 'who'".

But the question-word "who" is an appellation for bina, inasmuch as its numerical value is 50 (mem-yud = 40 + 10), and there are fifty "gates" of bina, as we have seen previously. So Egypt is the constriction of bina into the constriction of malchut (the "sea"), or the flow of the expanded consciousness of bina into the restricted and constricted consciousness of malchut. This is where Joseph wound up.

"And Potiphar, the eunuch of Pharaoh, bought him." (Ibid. 37:36, 39:1)

To be continued…

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim;