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."

    The Flame and the Glowing Ember

    Joseph was the revelation of the mystical dimension of Jacob

    From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

    "These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren…" (Gen. 37:2)

    The Zohar explains that anyone who looked at the face of Joseph remarked on his uncanny resemblance to Jacob. The Torah purposely did not describe Reuben or any other brother as the "toldot", descendants, of Jacob.

    The missing letter vav in the name of Jacob, was added to the name Joseph, on occasions such as in Ex. (1:5) (or altogether, since that name too could have been spelled defectively).

    The "small" vav in the word shalom, meaning "peace", in the verse, "Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace" (Num. 25:12) alludes to another verse: "…and the truth and the peace they loved" (Zachariah 8:19). The attribute which distinguishes Jacob is "emet/truth", whereas the attribute "habrit hashalom/the covenant of peace", is the one that distinguishes Joseph.

    We name something or somebody because we desire the name to reveal their nature. Joseph was the revelation of the mystical dimension of Jacob, the secret of how the covenant between G‑d and man influences the ability of determining the nature of him who is about to be born.

    Jacob contains an allusion to the letter vav in the four-lettered ineffable Name…

    Bereishit Rabba goes as far as to say that G‑d told Jacob: "Just as I am G‑d in the Heavenly Regions, so you are 'god' in the 'lower' world. The meaning of this statement is that because Jacob's "bed" was pure, his descendants could serve as the chariot, or carrier of G‑d's Presence in this world. Just as "G‑d is One and His name is One" reflects His Essential qualities, so Jacob and Joseph are one, i.e. their essential qualities are the same.

    How does this work in practice? Jacob fathered twelve tribes, and he is the only one "above" them. They are considered like branches of Jacob. Eight of these tribes were from his regular wives Leah and Rachel, the other four from his Zilpah and Bilhah. When you look at the letters in the word "echad" (meaning "one"), Jacob corresponds to the letter alef, the sons of Leah and Rachel correspond to the letter chet, and the sons ofg word.

    chanoch adds: Jacob connects to nthe alef with its gematria of 1; The sons of Leah and Rachel connect to the chait of Echad with its gematria of 8 for the 8 sons; The 4 sons of the concubines connect ton the dalet with its gematria of 4. 1 + 8 + 4 = 13. Thus the 13 people of Jacob andn his 12 sons are a unified whole. Whole in the tikune = correction of the illusion of the separation between people and the recognition of nthe unityn of all members of mankind.

    Something similar is true of Joseph. Although Joseph himself is a branch of Jacob, he did father two of the regular tribes, i.e. Ephraim and Menasseh, whom Jacob compared in status to Reuben and Simon. (Gen. 48:5) When we look once more at the word "echad/one", we will find that Joseph was unique in having a close connection with both the letter chet, i.e. the brothers of Jacob's major wives, seeing he himself was one of those, as well as being closely attached to the sons of Jacob's concubines [i.e. the letter dalet of "echad"], since the Torah describes Joseph as being raised primarily among the sons of Zilpah and Bilhah. (Gen. 37:2)

    In the expression, "and he was a lad", also stressed in that verse, we find in it an allusion to something I have previously mentioned, namely that Jacob contains an allusion to the letter vav in the four-lettered ineffable Name. The name "Joseph" must then be viewed as a miniature edition of that same letter in G‑d's name. The scriptural allusion to this concept is found in the phrase, "and a lad will write them down". (Isaiah 11:6)

    The significance of the throne is the mystery of Beriya…

    The Torah reports Joseph as being 17 years old. This number was not reported without good reason. We have explained how Jacob in his capacity of representing the sefira of tiferet, which is the "home" of the four-lettered Ineffable Name, embodies that name, and how in particular the letter vav in that four-lettered-Name alludes to Jacob. We have also described Joseph as a miniature dimension of that letter vav, and how Joseph too serves as a kind of vehicle for G‑d's Name in a "miniature" way. That "miniature" is the mystical dimension of what we call "mispar katan", the numerical values arrived at by omission all digits "0". The mispar katan of the name Havayah amounts to 17 (yud=1;+hei=5;+vav=6;+hei=5; total 17). A way of remembering this is that in the verse "Praise G‑d for He is good [in Hebrew, 'hodu l'Hashem ki tov']"; the numerical value of "good" ["tov"] is 17. This is why the Torah reports Joseph's age when he was 17.

    The Torah adds that he was still a "lad" [in Hebrew "na'ar"]. The Pardes Rimonim mentions that the "miniature" number is a reference Chanoch (otherwise known as the angel Metatron) who is also called "na'ar", and whose function is alluded to in Solomon's Proverbs: "Educate the lad in the manner appropriate for him". (22:6)

    When the souls of Jacob and Joseph respectively expanded from the world of Atzilut, their origin, the features of Jacob remained engraved on the throne of G‑d. This throne is immediately below the region we have called Atzilut. Joseph is immediately below his father in the domain of Metatron whose activities emanate from beneath that "throne". The significance of the throne is the mystery of Beriya, whereas the significance of Metatron in the same scheme is the mystery surrounding Yetzira [a more advanced state of the creation of matter. Ed].

    Concerning this latter aspect of Metatron's activities, the Torah describes Joseph here as 17 years old, i.e. a "junior". Kabbalists also refer to Metatron as "eved" [meaning "servant"]. The Zohar points that out on Gen. 24:2, where Abraham instructs "his servant the senior member of his household", to get a wife for Isaac. I have explained this at length in my commentary on Chayei Sarah.

    Our Sages identified that angel with Metatron…

    The expression "eved" ["servant"] also occurs in Joseph's life when the latter is sold by his brothers. G‑d sent His angel along to protect Joseph on his various journeys. This guidance was of a similar nature as that described in the verse, "Here I am sending an angel ahead of you to protect you on the journey". (Ex. 23:20) Our Sages identified that angel with Metatron, as mentioned by Rashi on that verse. [The fact that Rashi mentions that the numerical value of Metatron is Sha-dai = 314, clearly establishes that Metatron is active in matters of Yetzira, an activity requiring the attribute of Sha-dai – Ed.]

    Let us return to the statement, "G‑d is One and His Name is One". The mystery of G‑d's unity, and the oneness of His name, is compared in the Sefer Yetzira and all other Kabbalistic texts to the relationship between a flame and a glowing ember. The same relationship exists between Jacob and Joseph; Jacob is the glowing ember, the fire attached to the coal, whereas Joseph is the [disembodied] flame. Scriptural proof for this idea is found in the verse where the prophet describes "the house of Jacob as fire and the house of Joseph as flame". (Obadiah 1:18) The letters of the word "aish", [meaning "fire"] are also the respective first letters of "emet" [meaning "truth"] and "shalom" [meaning "peace"], which are the attributes of Jacob and Joseph respectively.

    Esau was the exact opposite. He represented "kina" [meaning "jealousy"] and "sina" [meaning "hatred"]. Jealousy is the exact opposite of truth. The attribute of truth is defined as a preparedness to admit that something is objectively so, without one denying it or misrepresenting it (even if one puts oneself in a bad light thereby). When the prophet Obadiah in the verse quoted describes the house of Esau as becoming straw [in Hebrew "kash"], the letters in that word are the respective first letters of "kina" and "sina" [kuf and shin].

    From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

    Reincarnation and Retribution

    The torture of the Ten Martyrs rectified the hate for Joseph's brothers

    From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

    Because the brothers became guilty of being jealous of Joseph and hating him, (as we know from Gen. 37:4 and Gen. 37:11) they became victims of Esau in this world. Since ten of the brothers were guilty of such feelings, the Romans tortured ten outstanding Jewish scholars to death, the ones commonly known as the Ten Martyrs, whom Jewish liturgy eulogized in the poem Eylay Ezkira, recited on the Day of Atonement. The ten scholars involved were reincarnations of the ten brothers of Joseph who had taken part in selling him. This is stated in the book Heychalot.

    Rabbi Yishmael said:

    The day the instructions came to torture Jewish sages to death was on a Thursday. Originally, four sages were to be arrested, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha the High Priest, Rabbi Yehuda ben Bava and Rabbi Yehuda ben Damah. Eight thousand scholars in Jerusalem were prepared to offer themselves in lieu of these four leaders. When Rabbi Nechunya ben Hakana realized that the decree would not be revoked, he 'lowered me' to the Merkava [Divine Chariot], and I interceded with the [angel] Sar HaPnim -'Minister of the Interior'- he told me that the Supreme Court in Heaven had decreed that ten eminent scholars were to be handed over to Samael, the Celestial representative of Rome. The reason for the decree was to carry out on the bodies of leaders of Israel the penalty imposed on kidnappers as per: "If someone kidnaps a person, sells him and is found out, he shall be executed." (Ex. 21:16)

    [According to Sanhedrin 85, the words 'found out' mean that there were witnesses to the deed already before the sale. Ed.]

    The Heavenly objective was to wipe out the residual guilt of the brothers…

    According to the Kabbalists, the Heavenly objective was to wipe out the residual guilt of the brothers which had not been atoned for when they sold Joseph. We can find numerous allusions in our parasha, which relate to the manner in which these Ten Martyrs were killed. According to tradition, Rabbi Yehudah ben Bava had three hundred lonkuyot, lances, stuck into his body. The word "vayitnaklu", meaning "they conspired to kill him" (Gen. 37:18) is an allusion to this; the letters are simply a re-arrangement of the word "lonkuyot".

    Joseph said to his brothers, "As for you, go up in peace to your father." (Gen. 44:17) The word "atem" [meaning "you"] in that context was used advisedly. Joseph meant that the brothers themselves could come to their Father in Heaven safely, i.e. they would not in This World suffer the execution as kidnappers who sell their prey. On a future occasion, however, their reincarnated selves would have to pay for the crime with their lives. The Ten Martyrs mentioned were the ones who had to pay with their lives for that sin which had gone unpunished for so long.

    The allusion in the verse just quoted serves some Kabbalists as the reason why Reuben, who had not been a party to the sale of Joseph, was included among those who were executed for the crime. His sin had been of a different nature, namely the incident described involving Bilhah. (Gen. 35:22)

    Reuben's own words provide us with a hint of this when he said after discovering that Joseph had been removed from the pit "v'ani ana ani ba/Where can I go to?" Rabbi Abraham Saba in his Tzror Hamor comments on this that the letters in the words "ani" and "ana" are the respective first letters of the verse "E-l nekamot Havayah, E-l nekamot hofiah/G‑d of retribution, Lord, G‑d of retribution, appear!"(Psalms 94:1) The re-incarnations of Joseph and Benjamin were not amongst the Ten Martyrs described.

    There is a group of Kabbalists who do not include Reuben amongst the Ten Martyrs, but substitute Joseph as the tenth. Their reasoning is that, after all, Joseph was the root cause of the crime committed against him. It was Joseph's tale-bearing which triggered the brothers' sin.

    Rabbi Akiva's torture was due to the fact that he represented the Shechinah…

    I have also heard that some Kabbalists consider that Rabbi Akiva was the re-incarnation of Joseph. This is the reason he is known as Akiva ben Joseph. When we consider that Joseph represents "One", as explained earlier, this is all alluded to in the report in the Talmud that Rabbi Akiva ended his life pronouncing the word "echad", meaning "One", in the "Hear O Israel" prayer. The soul that departed from him at the time would be the soul of Joseph who was "One".

    In this connection I have heard a mystical explanation that, in reality, only nine of the Martyrs were reincarnations of people who had lived in a previous period. This was so since neither Reuben, nor Joseph, nor Benjamin had committed that kind of sin. When the brothers included the Shechinah at the time they entered into the conspiracy, Rabbi Akiva's torture was due to the fact that he represented the Shechinah. According to this view the tradition that he ended his life with the word echod is that he ended his life "because of the echad".

    Rabbi Akiva…more than any other scholar, had penetrated into the hidden aspects of G‑d…

    The reason that of all the people it had to be Rabbi Akiva who was singled out to suffer the punishment on behalf of the Shechinah, was that in the course of his studies he, more than any other scholar, had penetrated into the hidden aspects of G‑d. In other words, he had experienced the "wings" of the Shechinah as being immediately above him.

    In my humble opinion, this latter tradition need not contradict the statement that Rabbi Akiva was the re-incarnation of Joseph. Inclusion of the Shechinah in the brothers' conspiracy of silence is equivalent to including Joseph, who we have described as a junior merkav, carrier of the Shechinah. Rabbi Akiva was the reincarnation of Joseph, and this is demonstrated by the former's close association with the Shechinah. Joseph was the carrier of the Shechinah when he descended to Egypt, which was the beginning of Jewish exile according to the Zohar. We also have the tradition that when the Jewish people descended into Egypt, the Shechinah accompanied them. (Mechilta Beshalach on Gen. 46:4) Something similar occurred before every other exile; in this particular instance, G‑d inspired Joseph before the rest of his father's family came to Egypt. We see that Joseph's essence was a divinely inspired one, which made him a partner of the Shechinah, for he was the carrier of the Divine Presence. If Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph breathed his last by saying "echad", this means that his soul departed while it was immediately "below the Shechinah".

    [Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]

    From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

    Brothers Reincarnated

    Kabbalah teaches that atonement for Joseph's brothers could only come via reincarnation.

    From the teachings of Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

    "…It was about that time that Judah descended." (Gen. 38:1)

    The paragraph describing a levirate marriage was appended to the paragraph describing the sale of Joseph, as both paragraphs deal with the subject of "gilgul", a form of reincarnation, complete transformation of one's fate. The sin committed by the brothers was of the type that could be atoned for by nothing less than reincarnation of their souls in different bodies. This is also the mystical dimension of the levirate marriage (when the widow of a man who died without having sired children marries one of his surviving brothers; compare Deut. 25:5-10).

    By dying a martyr's death, the millennia-old sin overhanging them was finally expiated….

    The mystical dimension of the levirate marriage is the same as the mystical dimension of reincarnation of the souls in a new body. The ten martyrs whom the Romans chose to expiate for the sin of the brothers having sold Joseph were none other than reincarnations of the brothers' souls in different bodies. By dying a martyr's death, the millennia-old sin overhanging them was finally expiated.

    Er and Onan, the sons of Judah who died prematurely for committing a sin, were similarly reincarnated in the bodies of Judah and Tamar's twin sons Peretz and Zerach (verse 29). This is the deeper meaning of the sequence, "Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan, and the sons of Judah were..." (Num. 26:19-20) Here, too, this secret is alluded to through the sequence in which the Torah relates these events, something which the intelligent reader will comprehend.

    From the teachings of Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

    Adam's Look-A-Like

    Rabbi Akiva's life was the culmination of Adam, the first man, and our forefather, Jacob.

    David Sterne, based primarily on Shem miShmuel.

    Parashat Vayeshev tells us that, after the death of Rachel, Jacob settled in Hebron where, according to the Kabbalah, he continued his work of rectifying the world. Unfortunately he was not able to complete this mission.

    Jacob physically resembled Adam, the first man, because his task was to rectify the sin of Adam, and in particular the sin of lust and illicit relationships. That aspect of Adam's misdeed lived on in Esau, Jacob's twin brother, and this was what Jacob had to oppose and rectify, though he succeeded only partially. It wasn't until the arrival several generations later of another Jacob – Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest Jewish sages who lived in the era of Rome – that this particular aspect of Esau was fully rectified.

    We see that in his name – the Hebrew letters of Akiva are those of Jacob, plus the letter aleph for Adam. Thus Rabbi Akiva's life was the culmination of Adam, the first man, and our forefather, Jacob. Rabbi Akiva managed to achieve what both Adam and Jacob wanted to achieve, but were unable. He put back together the pieces which Adam had broken, in a way which even Jacob, because of the blessings which Isaac gave Esau, could not do.

    We also see Rabbi Akiva fulfilling another aspect of his task on earth by becoming the arms-bearer for the Jewish warrior of the generation – Bar Kochba (Bar Koziba). The Jews rebelled against the rule of the Romans (who were descendants of Esau) at that time, and Bar Kochba was the leader of the rebellion. Rabbi Akiva saw in this warrior the soul of the Mashiach and not only joined him in battle, but also carried his weapons for him.

    From "Inner Lights from Jerusalem" based on Shem miShmuel and other Chassidic and Kabalistic Sources, translated and presented by Rabbi David Sterne.