This Week’s Torah Portion | December 25 – December 31, 2016 – 25 Kislev – 2 Tevet, 5777
In A Nutshell
The portion, Miketz (At the End), begins with Pharaoh’s dream about seven healthy and well-fed looking cows coming up from the Nile, followed by seven meager and malnourished looking cows. In a second dream, Pharaoh sees seven plump and wholesome looking ears of grain, followed by seven ears that were thin and scorched, and the thin ears eat the plump ones.
None of Pharaoh’s counselors could solve his dreams. The chief cupbearer, who was saved, remembered Joseph and his gift for deciphering dreams. He took the opportunity and asked to bring Joseph out of prison. Joseph came and solved Pharaoh’s dream. He said that there would be seven years of wealth and abundance in Egypt, immediately followed by seven years of hunger, and that Pharaoh should prepare for them.
Joseph also suggested how Pharaoh should prepare for them. Pharaoh appointed Joseph in charge, second only to the king, so he would set up the warehouses.
Indeed, the seven plentiful years were followed by seven years of famine, and the entire nation turned to Joseph to relieve their hunger and help them through it. Everyone, including Jacob’s sons, who were in the land of Israel, came to Egypt due to the hunger.
Jacob’s sons came to Joseph and did not recognize their own brother. At first, Joseph thought they were spies. Afterward, he sent Simeon to prison and said to his brothers, go back, but without Simeon. Joseph hid a goblet in Benjamin’s belongings and declared that if the thief who stole the goblet is caught, he will be put to death, and everyone will be punished.
The brothers returned to Jacob and told him of Joseph’s request that their brother Benjamin should go down to Egypt with them. Initially, Jacob refused to send Benjamin back to Pharaoh because he has already lost Joseph and Simeon, but he finally agreed to let him go.
The portion ends with everyone being in Egypt, Benjamin is accused of stealing the goblet, and Joseph decides to keep him as a slave.
Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman
These stories represent different states that we must go through as we advance in the correction of our souls. The Torah tells us how we must perform the correction.
There is no need to correct our bodies because they are part of the animal kingdom and exist as do all other animals. Our souls, however, we must beget out of the current state, and this portion narrates how we should approach the correction and achieve the birth of our souls.
It is written, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice.” In other words, our foundation is the evil inclination, our ego. When we recognize the ego and begin to work with it, we experience first hand the entire process the Torah describes.
The previous portions dealt with the point in the heart that awakens and develops in a person. This portion deals with how that development takes place. We all come from a broken Kli (vessel), which must be corrected, connected. This is the correction by which we achieve the rule, “love your neighbor as yourself; it is the great rule of the Torah,” inferring the connection of all of us into a single Kli, when all the people are as one.
First, the people of Israel will achieve unity. Subsequently, it will serve as “a light for the nations” and will connect everyone to that Kli. Thus, “They shall all know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Jeremiah 31:33). Knowing means attaining, as it is written, “And the man knew Eve, his wife” (Genesis 4:1). This is the goal we must reach, and it is achievable only through unity.
When we connect, we discover how wicked we are, how undesirable connection is to us, and how we prefer to avoid it. Who among us thinks these days about brotherly love, about “love your neighbor as yourself”? Although it is written in the Torah, although it is the great rule on which the entire Torah stands, no one engages in actual implementation of it.
We have virtually forgotten that single rule without which the whole Torah is meaningless. The portion explains how we should approach the correction stage by stage. All the Mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah are but internal corrections of ourselves toward achieving the principle that is the great rule of the Torah, and shift from love of man to love of God, as Baal HaSulam wrote in Matan Torah (the Giving of the Torah) and The Arvut (the Mutual Guarantee). Love of man is the Kli within which appears the Creator’s upper light, and the revelation of the Creator to the creatures is the purpose of creation, as it is written, “And they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.”
Whether we want to or not, we go through states in which we descend to a state called Pharaoh. In that state, the ego appears. Pharaoh, the ego, appears precisely when we want to unite, when we understand that the purpose of creation is to obtain the connection, the unity. The more we try to accomplish it between us, the more we discover Pharaoh within us. Pharaoh is a great and important degree in our progress toward attainment of the spiritual degree, the human level.
Life as we know it is on the animate level. To reach the human level we must be connected like Adam HaRishon (Adam, the first man) who included the whole of humanity within him. Adam’s soul divided into 600,000 souls, which then multiplied so that in each of us there is a spark of Adam HaRishon. The human level is the level of collecting those sparks in each of us. However, we are still on the animate level and must elevate ourselves by ourselves from the animate level to the speaking level.
The portion explains that we can rise to the speaking level by recognizing Pharaoh within us, with the egoistic desire that wants only to receive, and to give nothing. We approach it and come to know it precisely when we are in a state that he “feeds” us and we are helpless against him.
It is the same in our lives today: if we leave our egos, we will have nothing to eat. If, for example, we abolish all competitiveness between us, the envy, lust, and pursuit of power and respect, the world will stop developing. Therefore, we need these forces, as it is written, “Envy, lust, and honor deliver man out of the world.” These forces deliver us from this world, and into a higher, more spiritual world.
We must come to know Pharaoh, our ego, in a deeper sense. We must bring ourselves to want it although we naturally do not. That desire contradicts our natural inclination.
If we aim toward connection with people, understanding that the purpose of creation is to achieve love and connection, we seemingly oppose it. Therefore, the ego necessarily appears in us. On the other hand, the ego understands that we must use all of our good qualities.
This situation instigates a split into two forces—the force of Jacob and the force of Pharaoh, or the force of Joseph and the force of Pharaoh. Gradually, we learn to discern between those two forces in us and understand how they complement one another, how Joseph mingles with Pharaoh, and how Pharaoh mingles with Joseph.
Joseph is “the righteous Joseph.” He is Yesod, who collects all the good, all of our good qualities of bestowal—the giving and the love. Pharaoh is the correction of all the bad, egoistic qualities. These two qualities must unite in order to complement one another so the bad qualities become as good ones, so the evil inclination becomes as the good inclination, as it is written, “The angel of death is destined to become a holy angel.”
These processes happen within us. We notice that we are confused, like to Pharaoh, who is confused by his dream. A dream is a very high degree in one’s progress. It occurs when a person is confused and disoriented. In the transition from state to state, a person does not understand what is going on, having left the previous state but not yet reached the recognition, the new understanding, and therefore one is confused.
Anyone who engages in self-scrutiny, or even in more superficial research, experiences periods where one is still not in control of the new perception. At the same time, the researcher must leave the previous perception or he or she will not be able to rise to the new level. This is why that state is called “a dream.” Similarly, in our world, between each two days there must be night, darkness, departure of the intellect, reason. The dream comes to help us prepare to perceive what the new day holds in store for us.
Here we can see the mingling that exists between spiritual qualities, the qualities of the Creator and the qualities of the person, the creature. The qualities of the Creator, who aims only to bestow, are called “the right side.” The qualities of the creature, who aims entirely to receive, are “the left side.” The connection between them occurs when Jacob and his entire household go down to Egypt.
Jacob is in Egypt and mingles with the Egyptians in order to later elicit from there all the Kelim (vessels), to elicit all the power from the ego, except for the ego itself. This state is called “And afterward they shall come out with great substance” (Genesis 15:14).
The entire portion deals with the descent into that state. A person may have good desires but will still be unable to progress with them because these desires are too thin.
When we begin to study, we uncover a desire to advance and understand ourselves, to know the reality that governs us, the upper reality. On the one hand, we feel we do not have this power. On the other hand, we feel that the process we are going through is preinstalled in us, so it is inevitable that we should discover the evil inclination, Pharaoh within us. Our good qualities are included in our egoistic qualities, and this is called, “for the famine was in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 42:5). Therefore, we have no choice but to go down to Egypt.
When we do not see spirituality as a strong foundation, we become included in our will to receive. The will to receive then grows and becomes crueler and more intense, to the point that it seems as though it is about so swallow us. But when we advance in the right direction, we find Joseph that already exists within our will to receive.
Joseph is already in Egypt, and through it, a person becomes included in the ego. This is why there is always a kind of partition between the qualities of bestowal and the qualities of reception.
Joseph says to Simeon that the brothers are spies, and sends the rest of the brothers to their country. However, they have no choice but to return to Egypt. It happens because we have no choice but to work with the ego, the will to receive, or there will not be any progress.
Our ego is help made against us. If we do not invert it to work in order to bestow, we will not be able to enter creation and discover the upper world.
In fact, we work only with our own qualities. This is why this wisdom is called Hochmat HaKabbalah (the wisdom of reception), since we nonetheless receive within the vessels of reception, the Kelim that were once cruel. We will feel the spiritual world only after we correct our Kelim.
As just said, the brothers return to Joseph for the second time. However, this time Joseph gives them a Kli, his goblet. What he received from Egypt, the goblet, he hands over to the house of Jacob, thus pulling all of them back, and all the children of Israel go down to Egypt. Joseph connects to Egypt in a special way—in the quality of Yesod that characterizes him. This quality concentrates within it all the upper qualities that enter Malchut—our will to receive—through it.
Joseph marries the daughter of one of Pharaoh’s spiritual advisors, Osnat, and has two sons, Ephraim and Menashe. This means that with the entrance of the children of Israel to Egypt, Pharaoh begins to change. It seems as though a connection is made that works in Pharaoh’s favor, since the whole world comes to him, to Malchut—the only one who can provide nourishment. But this nourishment is actually received from the first nine Sephirot, not from Malchut.
The first nine Sephirot are included in Malchut because they first have to be included in Pharaoh, Malchut. A person absorbs these qualities as one who acquired new good qualities and good behavior, and uses them in order to receive. Such a person uses what he or she has acquired in one’s own favor—deceiving people, penetrating good environments and stealing wherever possible.
We must go through such a period when our the good qualities are “captive.” And although we use them for our own pleasure, they still gradually work on us, just as with the children of Israel in Egypt. When the children of Israel came to Egypt, they connected to Pharaoh so that afterward, when the plagues would come over Pharaoh, they would still feel that they can no longer stay with the general will to receive and work in favor of their egos, and then they would run with great substance.
The connection is between the qualities of the Creator and the qualities of the creature. The nine Sephirot of the Creator enter the tenth Sephira (singular for Sephirot), Malchut, the quality of the creature, our ego, but it does not happen instantaneously, but gradually.
In this portion, Joseph tests his brothers, separating them. They overcome it and reunite, then he separates them again. It seems that currently the world is in a similar situation: we understand that we have to connect, but we can’t, due to our egos. What can we learn from this portion about the direction that the world should take today?
This portion serves as a big warning sign, especially to the people of Israel. The people of Israel have to come down to Pharaoh. That is, we must go out to the world and help it rise. If we fail to do it, it will be bad because this is not the way of Torah.
We must direct all of our teaching, all the light, toward disseminating the wisdom of Kabbalah throughout the world. It is called the “Messiah’s horn.”
It is written in The Zohar that only through the power of The Book of Zohar will the children of Israel come out of exile. However, we are still not in exile; we must first enter it. Exile is a state where we want to connect but do not know how to do it because something is stopping us. We search for the ego, which is stopping us, and we must find the Pharaoh within us and between us. This is why we must first connect among us as much as we can, as in “all of Israel are friends.”
We must circulate the Integral Education of “love your neighbor as yourself,” throughout the nation and explain in a scientific manner everything that Kabbalah discloses—that we must obtain unity and mutual guarantee or our situation will truly be desperate. We must convey to the world the same message, too, or the whole world will come to us with demands. They will not even know why, but they will be right because it is according to the laws of nature. This demand of the world is “the war of Gog and Magog,” the war of the end of days.
This is why the house of Jacob goes down to Egypt, and this is what we, too, must do. We should begin with connecting among us, with feeling our inner Pharaohs, and begin to tend to them. Through the light that reforms we must study the Torah in such a way that it becomes to us a reforming light. In other words, we will draw light through our desire to unite.
When we study Torah, we aim only for connection. We do not aspire for knowledge or wits, but only for unity among us. It is the rule that the Torah requires of us, “love your neighbor as yourself; it is the great rule of the Torah.” It is the only reason why the Torah was given.
“I have created the evil inclination; I have created the Torah as a spice because the light in it reforms it.” We must observe it, and today the whole world demands it of us.
Thus, we will finally arrange our nation. Our nation was founded on the unity of exiles from Babylon around Abraham. Maimonides writes that they connected based on the rule, “love your neighbor as yourself,” and that this is why they became a nation. Once we have lost that principle, we have stopped being a nation. Instead, we have become a collection of exiles. We are still in exile, in a kind of collection, so we must circulate these words and notify everyone as quickly as we can.
If we circulate through all the nations the method for connecting everyone in mutuality, as nature requires, as the current crisis is demanding, according to the wisdom of Kabbalah, we will see how differently everyone begins to relate to us. They will be willing to connect and to help.
What do years of abundance and years of hunger mean, and why is the number seven mentioned twice?
It is a process we must go through, in ascents and descents, once on the animate level and once on the vegetative level. It is similar to the shattering of the two Temples. In a descent from above, from the degree of Jacob, we need to descend once on the level of Mochin of Haya, and once on the level of Mochin of Neshama. It is the same as with the two Temples, the first Temple and the Second Temple, the same as the ruin that happened to us in the spiritual world, the world of Nekudim.
Will every person have to experience it personally?
To an extent, each and everyone experiences this process. But when we advance together toward connection it is not a problem; we can go through this entire process with joy.
If we disseminate the wisdom and the world hears and understands, will it still be necessary for the world to go through this process?
It is the recognition of evil. This is how we come to know our disease. Just as a physician uses diagnosis to determine a person’s illness and prescribe the proper medicine, we rise to a higher degree. Therefore, we need not be afraid. If we all march toward mutual guarantee, toward unity, we will have no problems along the way because even things that will seem undesirable will work toward our attainment of the degree that has been prepared for us— Yashar El (straight to God), toward unity.