Dreams of Peace

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

Joseph and his brothers all envisioned themselves as the masters of peace

Joseph's brothers thought that Joseph was the dregs of the dregs, that is, the shell that was rejected from Abraham and Isaac when Ishmael and Esau left them, and that had still not been finally purified.

Joseph's brothers knew that both in the case of Abraham and Isaac, there were two sons, one of which was worthy of perpetuating the consciousness of G‑d in the world, and the other of which was too egocentric to do so. They further knew that in both cases, the unworthy son had to be sent away, i.e., eliminated in some way from the family in order that the purity of the ideal not be contaminated by the poisonous egocentricty of the contender.

Joseph, they felt, was the embodiment of the impurities of Jacob…

Similarly, they perceived Joseph as the unfit contender in their generation. The original light of Abraham had been purified of its impurities by the rejection of Ishmael; when this light was passed on to Isaac it still contained some secondary impurities that had to be (and were) eliminated by the rejection of Esau. Joseph, they felt, was the embodiment of the impurities of Jacob that similarly had to be rejected. They thus considered it their sacred duty, for the sake of the perpetuation of the divine message entrusted to Abraham and his descendents, to eliminate Joseph from the picture.

This was in particular because they felt Joseph was blemishing the sefira of yesod, diverting it to the left channel, G‑d forbid, by slandering them to their father, this being the antithesis of peace.

As we are told in the narrative, "Joseph brought their evil report to their father." (Gen. 37:2) Rashi notes, "He told his father that they were eating flesh torn from a live animal, that they made fun of the the sons of the handmaidens (Bilhah and Zilpah), calling them slaves, and that he suspected them of illicit sexual relations.

Peace is associated with the sefira of yesod…

In the idiom of our sages, peace is termed the ultimate vessel for containing blessing. This is clear because acrimony will cause any blessings - whether of health, prosperity, or fulfillment - to be squandered. Thus, peace is associated with the sefira of yesod, for yesod is the vessel through which the divine beneficence flows into malchut, the spiritual precursor of the Jewish people. By slandering them to their father, Joseph was undermining any chance for peace in the family, and thus sabotaging the chances for G‑d's blessings to flow to them.

Yesod is also the principle of the tongue, and slander blemishes it.

It is stated in Sefer Yetzirah that there are two covenants, that of the tongue and that of the sexual organ. Both organs are instruments through which a person articulates himself to the outside world.

Both the spoken word and sexual energy possess the power to build or destroy…

They are both very powerful, for both the spoken word and sexual energy possess the power to build or destroy. Unharnessed speech, like unharnessed sexuality, can wreck havoc in a person's life and the lives of all those he meets. Conversely, properly channeled speech and sexuality can elevate an individual to lofty levels of spiritual consciousness and inspire all those with whom he comes in contact. Thus, while yesod generally is associated with the sexual organ, it is also - for the same reason - associated with the organ of speech, the tongue. Improper or evil speech blemished the sefira of yesod.

[In fact, however,] there are many expounders of the Torah who say that [Joseph's brothers] ate flesh torn from the body of living animals and looked at the daughters of the land, [both transgressions]. All of this is connected to yesod.

It is explained that the motivation for eating flesh torn from the body of a living animal is the ecstatic, even orgasmic pleasure this brings, the ingestion of raw, unrectified (i.e., by ritual slaughter) life-force. This power-high assumes sexual proportions in the mind/body of the one doing this, and is therefore a blemish in yesod.

Thus, it was in reality not Joseph who was blemishing yesod but his brothers. By reported their behavior to their father, Joseph was in fact trying to safeguard the integrity of yesod.

They also derided [their half-brothers,] the sons of the handmaidens, and this is clearly a violation of the principle of peace. They called them slaves when they were in fact free men, the opposite of slaves.

If there is any element of self-orientation or egocentricity…it cannot be true peace…

Here again, they were in fact guilty of what they were accusing Joseph of. Of the twelve brothers, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Isaachar, and Zebulun were the sons of Jacob's first wife, Leah; Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of his second wife, Rachel; Dan and Naftali were the sons of Rachel's handmaiden, Bilhah; and Gad and Asher were the sons of Leah's handmaiden, Zilpah. The six sons of Leah taunted the four sons of the handmaidens as being slaves by birth, i.e., unworthy of being bonafide members of the holy family.

Yesod is called "everything", for it includes all the emotional attributes.

In the verse, "Yours, O G‑d, is the greatness, and the power, and the beauty, and the victory, and the glory, for all that is in heaven and earth (is Yours)," (Chronicles I, 29:10) the first five nouns are the first five emotional attributes (greatness, chesed; power, gevura; beauty, tiferet; victory, netzach; glory, hod), implying that the subsequent phrase ("…all that is heaven and earth") corresponds to the sixth attribute, yesod. Thus, this verse expresses explicitly the notion that yesod is the channel through which all the higher attributes coalesce and descend further, into malchut.

They thought that they themselves could complete what would be lacking [by excluding Joseph]; that they could supply his attribute of brotherhood. They therefore plotted against him.

As we have seen, the dispute between Joseph and his brothers focused on the sefira of yesod, the vessel of peace. Joseph felt that he was the guardian of yesod, that he was the long-term peace-maker, while his brothers felt that he was an obstacle to peace. They, of course, were wrong; peace is meaningful only if it is predicated on submission to G‑d's will. Otherwise - i.e., if there is any element of self-orientation or egocentricity in the so-called peace - it cannot be true peace and will fall apart sooner or later.

Peace is a means, a vessel, not an end…

This egocentricity will eventually surface, and as soon as it does, petty self-interests will outweigh the motivation for peacefulness. Thus, although the brothers were correct in their vision of peace as being crucial to the perpetuation of the divine ideal, they were wrong in giving it precedence over the more fundamental issues of divine service. Peace is a means, a vessel, not an end. Only when recognized as such can it be meaningful, and therefore endure.

They further felt that the ten of them would complete [the spiritual configuration necessary for eliciting] the direct light, and Benjamin would complete [what was necessary to return] the reflected light.

Here, we find the sons of Leah including the sons of the handmaidens as their equals. The six of the former plus the four latter would form a unit of ten, reflecting the ten sefirot, and thus serve as the proper and fitting conduit of divine beneficence into the world. Benjamin, the son of Rachel, whom Jacob loved most, would provide the means through which man's service of love from below could arouse this flow of supernal beneficence.

Their mistake was that even though yesod includes the other attributes, it is nonetheless an attribute on its own as well.

It is therefore not enough, as we said, to simply impose artificial harmony on the other attributes; there must be the purity of intention (signified by the purity of sexual energy, the energy of yesod) as well.

Furthermore, it is well known that the tribes were not meant to reflect the ten sefirot but rather twelve extremities, which exist in malchut as the twelve cattle, as is explained elsewhere.

chanoch adds: In Malchut there is a Zeir Anpin which is known as six ends. Each end has a beginning which is also considered an end since this beginning finalizes as an end without continuity.

It was known in ancient times that a central prerequisite for establishing the people of the covenant, the family that would develop into the nation that would carry the divine message to the rest of humanity, was a family of twelve sons, all of whom would be worthy of this mission. Thus, we see, for example, that Abraham and his brother Nachor both sought to expand their families to this number of sons by taking concubines. In fact, however, it was Jacob who was the first to actually father twelve sons who were all righteous, and thus he became the father of the Jewish people.

The reason why 12 is the magic number here is because while the number ten represents the perfection of the archetypal structure of the ten sefirot in the world of Atzilut, the number 12 represents the way these principles are projected into lower reality, i.e., the worlds subsequent to Atzilut. It is in these lower realities that time and space first begin to become real, as the dimensions within which consciousness operates in these worlds. Atzilut-consciousness transcends the limitations of time and space; not so consciousness from Beriya downwards.

Space is defined by three dimensions (height, width, and length), each of which extends in two opposite directions (up-down, north-south, east-west), giving six "extremities". These six directions are manifestations of the six emotive attributes from chesed to yesod. Of course, these attributes exist in Atzilut as well, but the overwhelming consciousness of G‑d that obtains in Atzilut precludes any development of these attributes into a context within which consciousness can be circumscribed. Only in the realms of lesser awareness of divinity do these attributes assume the role of defining the limits of awareness.

These six directions can be envisioned as a six-sided cube. The number of lines used to draw such a cube is twelve. Thus, the number 12 represents the translation of divine perfection into divinity that can be manifest in a lower reality. As such, this number represents as well the purpose of creation, i.e., of making the lower reality into a home for divinity.

In Solomon's Temple, the laver was situated on twelve statues of cattle. Cattle represent the animal soul, which is primarily emotion-oriented, as opposed to the divine soul, which is primarly intellect-oriented.

Thus, here too, the brothers misunderstood their calling. They envisioned themselves as personifications of divine perfection; they were shepherds, disassociated from society and the material world in general. In contrast, Joseph personified yesod, the divine perfection as it penetrates and succeeds finally in ruling even Egyptian society while staying true to its spiritual integrity.

Adapted from Sefer HaLikutim, and Likutei Torah

Caught By the Throat

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

Kabbalah demonstrates how the circulatory and respiratory systems manifest spiritual channels.

In parashat Vayeshev, Joseph is brought to Egypt after his brothers sell him to a passing caravan. The beginning of the Egyptian exile was due to this, since it caused Jacob's entire family to eventually settled in Egypt, where they were later enslaved. The Egyptian exile is the prototype for all subsequent exiles and for all states of spiritual exile, and thus understanding its details is prerequisite to understanding the dynamics and flow of spiritual life.

We have to explain now a number of expositions that are included in this exposition, as you will see.

It is known that initially, in its immature state, Zeir Anpin possesses three facets of intelligence, expressed as three names Elokim: spelled out with the letter yud, spelled out with the letter hei, and spelled out with the letter alef. These three letters form the mnemonic acronym "yehei" [meaning, "may it be"].

The name Elokim always signifies a contracted or constricted state of affairs relative to the name Havayah. Elokim is spelled alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem. This may be further spelled out as follows:

The regular gematria of the Name Elohim is 86.

Elokim spelled with the letter alef has a regular gematria = 291

Elokim spelled with the letter hei has a regular gematria = 295

Elokim spelled with the letter yud has a regular gematria = 300

"Yehei" is spelled: yud-hei-alef.

Later, when [Zeir Anpin] matures, its intelligence is expressed as the name Havayah. When these mature states of mentality enter its consciousness, they expel the immature intelligence and push it downward, as we have explained elsewhere. There we explained that the first place they descend to is Zeir Anpin's throat.

Now, the following requires an explanation: All a person's other limbs correspond to one or another of the ten sefirot. The three aspects of his intelligence correspond to the first three sefirot: chochma, bina, and daat. The lower seven sefirot correspond to [the parts of the body] from the right arm and below, covering the whole length of the body. But there is no sefira corresponding to the throat!

The explanation of this phenomenon is understood from what we just said, namely, that when the three immature states of intelligence are expelled [from the brain] and descend, they descend first to the throat.

Rather than corresponding to a specific sefira, the throat is just the respository of the initial state of the head.

chanoch's Commentary

The following comment is my opinion based on intuition and spiritual law. The spiritual law states that as something evolves from one state to another there must be a state that has aspects of both.Here the two states are head and body. I will leave it too students of Kabbalah to resolve for themselves what are the attributes as head and body. There are hints written below.

Since the throat is a narrow and thin organ, the immature mental states get stuck there….

Since [the throat] is a narrow and thin organ, [the immature mental states] get stuck there.

Now, it is known that three vital channels or pipelines pass through the throat: the trachea, the esophagus, and the jugular veins, through which all a person's blood and life-force passes, as is known, and as is stated in the Talmud: "Take care with the jugular veins, in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, who said that [the slaughterer] must cut through the jugular veins." (Berachot 8b)

Kosher slaughtering demands that these veins be severed, in order to effect instant death to the animal. If the slaughterer does not sever these veins together, the animal is considered to have been killed piecemeal, not ritually slaughtered, and is thus rendered unfit for Jewish consumption. We see, therefore, that in order to completely and instantly bring the animal from a state of life to death, these vital conduits must be severed.

chanoch adds: All kosher animals have a different structure of the blood vessels in the brain of the animal than other animals. When the jugular veins in the neck are severed the blood flows from the animals neck which causes the brain of the animal to lose blood within their brains causing instantaneous brain death.

These three channels are formed from the three aspects of immature intelligence that descend there. Specifically, the trachea is formed from the immature chochma, the esophagus is formed from the [immature] bina, and the jugular veins are formed from the immature daat.

To explain: The right lobe of the brain, the seat of chochma, spreads through the trachea, which is on the right side [of the throat]. This is the significance of the statement in the Zohar that the lung absorbs all types of moisture. (Zohar III:218b, in Raaya Mehemna) This is a very curious statement, because we know that if even a drop of water enters the trachea, the person will die. We also see that the lower end of the trachea extends into the lungs and the heart, and there is no passageway there through which water that enters the [upper] trachea could exit [elsewhere].

chanoch adds:

  • Link to deeper explanation regarding Binah Shofar Esophagus relationships
  • The trachea is similar to the World to Come, in which there is neither eating nor drinking….

    The meaning, rather, is that the esophagus carries food and drink and all types of moisture [downward], while the trachea is used only for producing the voice and speech, as is mentioned in the Talmud (Berachot 61a; Zohar III:227b) and in the passage from the Zohar in question. (III:232a, in Raaya Mehemna). [In this respect,] the trachea is similar to the World to Come, in which there is neither eating nor drinking, etc.

    The air that enters the body via the trachea is used to produce sound. Presumably, the Sages do not mean to say that the air entering the body via the trachea is not used for any other purpose, such as providing oxygen for the lungs, but merely that it is not used at all for carrying fluids.

    Nonetheless, when the fluids and moisture descend through the esophagus and reach the location of the lungs, the intensity of the heat of the fire issuing from the flame of the heart toward the lungs, as is known, causes the lungs to absorb the distilled and pure liquids via the membranes of the esophagus and the lungs. The lungs then pass these liquids to the heart to cool off its intense heat. It is known that the esophagus is attached to the trachea and the lungs until it descends lower, to the location of the stomach.

    Therefore, the moisture in the esophagus can pass into the trachea via the membranes in their attached walls.

    chanoch adds: in my opinion, while not generally known, this transfwr of humidity is used to balance the humidityn in the air to make sure Your voice box and throat does not move out of balance and become to dry.

    Since the lungs absorb the fluids and water, which are manifestations of chesed, the right side, the immature right [lobe of the] brain, the seat of chochma, therefore extends through the trachea and descends into the lungs. This is as is stated in Tikunei Zohar, that the element of water, which is manifest in the person as the white fluids, originates in the lungs.

    All forms of nourishment originate in gevura….

    Water is associated with chesed because (1) life is dependent upon it and (2) it flows downward freely. The fact that the lung absorbs moisture means that it is associated with chesed, and since the trachea is attached directly to the lungs, it, too, is associated with the right side. Therefore, the right side of the intellect (chochma) passes through it.

    The [lobe of the] brain of bina extends through the esophagus, which is on the left side, and through which the food passes. As is known, all forms of nourishment originate in gevura, this being the mystical significance of the Sages' statement that "[Providing] sustenance for people is as hard [for G‑d] as splitting the Sea of Reeds," (Pesachim 118a ) and as is mentioned in the Zohar. (II:170a)

    Since nourishment and sustenance is associated with difficulty and obstacles, it requires gevura to overcome these.

    The middle [stem] of the brain, the seat of daat, extends via the jugular veins, which are an intermediary between the trachea and the esophagus, and which transport [the blood, the vehicle for] the chief life-force of the person. For the blood, which is [important because it carries] the animating-soul [nefesh] of the person, passes through them.

    In this view, just as trachea and esophagus carry air and nourishment from the upper part of the body to the lower, the jugular veins carry the "soul" from the head to the rest of the body. We are accustomed to think of life-giving blood as the oxygenated blood that travels through the arteries, while the blood that travels through the veins is the deoxygenated blood that has been used by the body and is merely in transit back to the heart to be replenished. Here, however, the imagery centers on the spiritual life-force from the soul, rather than the physical life-force from the oxygen, and we are to envision the blood leaving the head through the jugular veins as having been not only depleted of its oxygen but also "charged" or "vitalized" with the animation of the soul, which is manifest first in the intellect in the brain.

    We have previously explained, on the verse "Whoever sheds the blood of a person will have his blood shed by another person," (Gen. 9:6) how the yesod of Imma is signified by the name Eh-yeh, and that the numerical value of the regressive iteration of this name is the same as that of the word for "blood" [in Hebrew, "dam" = 44], and that this iteration becomes vested in the letter vav of the name Havayah of Zeir Anpin - this being its tiferet - when this name is spelled out to equal 45, i.e. with the letter alef. The letter alef used in spelling out the vav alludes to the name Eh-yeh [vested in it].

    The name Eh-yeh is associated with Imma - bina - as we have seen previously many times. The name Eh-yeh is spelled alef-hei-yud-hei, and its regressive iteration is as follows:

    alef – alef hei – alef hei yud – alef hei yud hei = 44

    The numerical value of the word for "blood", "dam", is also 44; it is spelled: dalet-mem = 4 + 40 = 44.

    The 45-name Havayah is:

    yud – yud-vav-dalet = 10 + 6 + 4 = 20

    hei – hei-alef = 5 + 1 = 6

    vav – vav-alef-vav = 6 + 1 + 6 = 13

    hei – hei-alef = 5 + 1 = 6

    Total = 20 + 6 + 13 + 6 = 45

    This name is associated with Zeir Anpin, as we have seen previously. We see now that the alef used in spelling out the vav in this name alludes to the presence of the name Eh-yeh (which begins with an alef) within it.

    The blood is therefore the presence of the name Eh-yeh….

    The blood is therefore the presence of the name Eh-yeh, signifying bina, in the vav, or the midot, of the individual. Relative to each other, the intellect is "dead" while the emotions are "alive"; an emotional person is likely to be described as an "animated" person more than an intellectual would. True, it is the presence of the intellect in the emotions that makes the latter alive, but pure intellect not vested in emotions is not manifest life.

    This [presence of the name Eh-yeh in the name Havayah] is known as the person's blood, for the yesod of Imma is the garment of daat, which includes states of chesed and gevura that descend via these veins in the form of ten types of blood, as we have mentioned in our exposition of Pesach and the Exodus from Egypt. (Shaar HaKavanot, 1st exposition on Pesach)

    chanoch adds:This essay has not yet been added to the nYeshshem website. Look for it during Pesach 2019.

    There are five states of chesed and five of gevura within daat, as we have seen previously. These become manifest in the life-force carried by the blood as ten "types of blood", or ten variations of life-force that animate the person.

    This is the mystical meaning of the verse "and the rooms will be filled with knowledge [daat]." (Proverbs 24:4) [This] refers to the blood, the life-force of a person, which extends throughout the entire body via the veins, which are called "little rooms".

    The veins are thus filled with the states of chesed and gevura originating in daat.

    It follows that the blood found in the jugular veins is the immature brain-stem, the seat of immature daat, as it descends there [i.e. to the throat] during maturation, as is known.

    So we have now explained the throat and its three channels, and how the latter are formed from the three immature mentalities that descend there, as we have described. This is why this narrow part of the body is called the "throat" [in Hebrew, "garon"], for the numerical value of this word is equal to three times the numerical value of the name Elokim [plus the kolel], which signify the trachea, the esophagus, and the jugular veins. The throat includes all three, as we have explained in our exposition of parashat Vayeitzei.

    "Garon" is spelled: gimel-reish-vav-nun = 3 + 200 + 6 + 50 = 259.

    "Elokim" is spelled: alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem = 1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40 = 86.

    3 x 86 = 258.

    To be continued…

    Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaPesukim, parashat Vayeshev; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."