This Week’s Torah Portion | December 18 – December 24, 2016 – 18 Kislev – 24 Kislev, 5777
In A Nutshell
In the portion, VaYeshev (And Jacob Sat), Jacob dwells in the land of Canaan. The protagonist of this portion is Joseph, Jacob’s youngest son. Joseph was gifted with a knack for prophetic dreams. In one of them, he sees himself ruling over his brothers. He tells them about it and turns their envy against him.
His brothers lead the cattle to Shechem to graze there, and his father sends him to them. On his way he meets a man and asks him about his brothers: “I seek my brethren” (Genesis 37:16). By the time Joseph finds his brothers they are already conspiring to kill him because of their envy. Reuben manages to prevent them from committing the murder and the brothers decide to throw Joseph in a pit, instead, in order to sell him to the Ishmaelites. A convoy of Midianites that passes by takes Joseph with them down to Egypt.
When Joseph arrives in Egypt, he hides in the home of Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, Potiphar. Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph but he refuses. She avenges by saying that Joseph tried to force himself on her, and he is thrown to the dungeon.
In the pit, Joseph meets Pharaoh’s two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. He also discloses his gift for prophetic dreams. He predicts that within three weeks the chief cupbearer will be released, and the chief baker will be hanged. Joseph asks the chief cupbearer that upon his release he will go to Pharaoh and tell him that he, Joseph, is jailed for no reason and that he should be released.
Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman
This portion contains a profound spiritual message. It narrates the correction of the soul, which is man’s purpose in life, and the reason why the Torah was given. Initially, the evil inclination appears, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination, I have created for it the Torah as a spice,” for “the light in it reforms it.” “Reforming” means returning to a state of “love your neighbor as yourself.” That is, it brings a person back to the quality of bestowal, similarity with the Creator. This is what we should achieve, as it is written, “Return, Oh Israel unto the Lord your God” (Hosea 14:2).
The Torah demonstrates how the ego, the will to receive, keeps changing until it is corrected. In the example shown in this portion we see how all our qualities connect, then separate, manifesting imbalance among them until they beget more advanced qualities, closer to bestowal.
Jacob is the beginning of the quality of bestowal within us. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the three patriarchs. Jacob is actually the senior, containing both the desire to receive and the desire to bestow within us, as it is only possible to elicit the middle line using both. The middle line, Jacob, is still not attributed to the level of execution in us, but to the level of decision making.
The expression of Jacob’s execution level is his sons, from Reuben, the eldest, to Joseph, the youngest. And precisely in this hierarchy do the qualities within us hang down. This is how our ego, in all its (still incorrect) forms, is corrected. The one who completes them is Joseph, the righteous. He gathers all the previous qualities into the quality of Yesod (foundation), which is called “the righteous Joseph,” or “a righteous, the foundation of the world” (Proverbs 10:25).
On the one hand Joseph is using all his previous qualities—Keter, Hochma, Bina, Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, and Yesod—but on the other hand he needs to lead them into Malchut. Malchut is the egoistic will to receive, Pharaoh, Egypt, symbolizing the entirety of our ego.
Once a person has reached a state of discovering within these qualities of bestowal—from Abraham, the quality of Hesed, through Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, and through Yesod, who is Joseph—it is time for one to part from the fathers and belong to the will to receive. First, one needs to permeate the will to receive, and then the will to receive permeates the person.
Once we are permeated with both qualities—reception and bestowal—we must see that first the quality of bestowal enters the quality of reception and begins to correct it. Only then does it begin to take out of the quality of reception, the part of the will to receive that can be corrected.
It is similar to an educator working with a band of criminals. He can take several of the more advanced members of the group, who are willing to work with him, and bring them out to correction. In other words, when entering the will to receive, it is exile. And when exiting it, one comes out with “great substance,” meaning with several “felons” who desire correction and consider it redemption. Once they are corrected, a person has “great substance” because one has acquired additional power in the general quality of bestowal.
Thus, through all those exiles and redemptions we correct the entire evil inclination. This is also how we understand the whole process, how we come to know the plan of creation, and how we become similar to the Creator. Joseph the last of the qualities of bestowal, goes through many processes in order to detach from the quality of bestowal and prepare to enter the quality of reception, i.e. Egypt.
This is the reason for his contention with his brothers. They hate him and reject him because they cannot understand what he wants. They do not understand how the youngest son can be the greatest. But Joseph is different from them.
Banim (sons) is three times Yod–Hey–Vav–Hey, in three lines. These are the twelve sons. Not only is he the greatest because he is willing to connect with them, but they also bow to him, surrender to him. As long as they do not enter Malchut, while he is already mingled with Egypt, they accept it because they see how that situation will later be realized in the will to receive for the purpose of correction. It follows that we go through stages that seem to us completely incorrect and bad, just as we do not understand the brothers’ conduct with Joseph.
Jacob is suffering but is helpless. The brothers wish to kill him and lie to Jacob, and strangers save Joseph from the pit, albeit their intention is to sell him. This is how we become detached from our previous qualities. We accumulate those previous qualities within the qualities of Yesod, the quality of Joseph, and we separate ourselves from using them. Put differently, we leave the land of Canaan and enter Egypt.
In Egypt, when we come in contact with the will to receive, when the quality of bestowal enters the will to receive, the will to receive immediately senses how much it can gain and profit from it. If it were just another form of reception it would not matter all that much. But if you can bestow in order to receive, as well, then you are like a merchant. You calculate every manner of bestowal that you add to the will to receive by connecting to everything, and through negotiation you can gain profits from them for yourself.
In this manner we discover that the quality of Joseph can be very lucrative to the will to receive. Such a person feels that he or she becomes shrewder, more powerful, more useful, and more successful than others. One does not behave aggressively in order to receive, but rather obtains by deliberation: “I will sell you this and you will sell me that.” It is a development of the ego.
This is why when the quality of Joseph mingles with our will to receive, as Joseph mingled with Egypt, it brings great profits to those who are with him in Egypt, according to the story, or to the person, meaning to one’s self-centered form.
In fact, the profit is so great that a person develops a desire to use it in order to receive, but the human in us cannot agree to it. This is what happened when Joseph arrived at the house of Potiphar. When he arrived at his house it was fine, but with his wife it was past the limit because here the human in us sees there is a desire to exploit it in order to receive, meaning to cut the person from one’s foundation, and this is something to which one cannot agree. When a person disagrees with it, one feels helpless, imprisoned, incarcerated.
That sensation lasts a long time and grows through the alien “forces,” the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, in the state of being in prison. These qualities within us are in touch with the Joseph in us. They bring him to Pharaoh and accompany him. The quality of the chief baker is destroyed because it belongs to the ego’s forces of bestowal, with which Joseph understands he cannot work. But the ego’s forces of reception—the chief cupbearer, which is tantamount to wine—are the ones that awaken. The chief cupbearer does not save Joseph right away, but only after a person awakens from the fall, from the descent.
In order to rise from one degree to the next, we dream. A dream is a state of losing the previous state and attaining a new one. A person needs to be inverted, to be reborn.
There are three states in a person: laying down, sitting, and standing. Laying down is the state of dreaming. When in that state, the head, body, and legs are all on the same level, indicating that a person has neither intellect nor wisdom. But it is precisely in this form that one acquires the Kelim (vessels) of the next degree and becomes inverted, just as a newborn baby emerges from its mother’s womb: while in the womb it is with its head up, toward birth it turns upside down, and once it’s out, it turns upward once again.
Laying down means losing all the Mochin (light of Hochma, wisdom) within a person. It is in this way that one should transfer from one state to the next. On the one hand, the previous degree is lost, and on the other hand, one begins to acquire the next degree, which becomes a whole new world for that person. This is the inner vision with which one begins to understand the meaning of “tomorrow,” the next degree to which one enters.
It is nothing like the dreams in our world. Rather, here the Torah is telling us about the entrance to a higher level. In the dream state, one sees oneself in more advanced forms, knows how to use such qualities as the chief cupbearer, the chief baker, and Pharaoh, and can advance with them because they are already formed within.
In the end, when Joseph is incarcerated because of Potiphar’s wife, he discovers within him the qualities of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. Precisely because he kills the chief baker and nurtures the quality of the chief cupbearer, he arrives at the house of Pharaoh.
Throughout the evolution of the generations there is hatred between brothers—between Cain and Abel, between Isaac and Ishmael, and between Jacob and Esau. This hatred is defined as Klipa (shell/peel) and Kedusha (sanctity/holiness). In this portion, there are twelve brothers, Jacob’s sons, which are man’s qualities, but there is such hatred among them that they are willing to kill the quality called Joseph.
However, the hatred is only toward Joseph. They understand one another. Each of them represents a different quality within us. We have many qualities, but no knowledge how to integrate them together in the middle line. We cannot understand how to work with the various qualities together, meaning with our egos, our will to receive.
The interesting thing about Joseph is that he tells his brothers, “A person has an egoistic desire, not the qualities of bestowal that you have. That is, I can connect your qualities to the egoistic desire; I know how to do it.” Therefore, each one who represents a certain quality knows that through bestowal he will achieve something, from the right or from the left—to Hesed, to Gevura, to Tifferet, to Netzah, to Hod, except for Yesod.
The entire structure of twelve brothers, twelve sons of Jacob, is that they all work above the ego, above the will to receive, bestowing in order to bestow. It is so because the middle line, Jacob, who still belongs to the Rosh (head), to the degree of the patriarchs, begets all the qualities of the brothers except for that of Joseph, and they are all in bestowal, too, from below upward.
Questions and Answers
So why did Jacob understand it and even love Joseph?
What does it mean that each brother represents a certain quality?
The twelve sons of Jacob are qualities that relate to bestowal. Actually, they are eleven because Joseph has no quality; he is merely a collection of those qualities.
The idea behind the quality of Joseph in us is that one can take all those qualities, merge them in different combinations, and use them with one’s ego. In other words, one can begin to work with the ego so it would work with those qualities, as well, so it would support them. In this manner one can correct oneself. These qualities do not understand how it is possible to steal in order to bestow.
What is a quality? Is stealing a quality or are anger and laziness qualities?
Hesed, for instance, is the quality of bestowal. In a state of Hesed, a person is in Hassadim (mercy). Such a person gives, contributes, and does all that he or she can. This begs the question, “How can one’s ego join one’s Hesed?” A person can give but only if it is in order to gain profits. In fact, this is how Joseph is used in Egypt, first in Potiphar’s house, then with Pharaoh.
However, the qualities of bestowal themselves do not understand how it is possible to use the ego in order to support them. This is the essence of the contrast between Abraham and Isaac, who loved Ishmael because the pure quality cannot maintain its clean form and at the same time connect with Malchut, the will to receive.
There is a very special and complicated process here of hatred and misunderstandings between them. But Joseph can connect the qualities of bestowal to the will to receive so that eventually it will benefit the qualities of bestowal. The brothers—qualities of bestowal within us—do not understand how this is possible, so they object. We, too, do not understand how this is possible.
The wisdom of Kabbalah teaches us how to use the qualities of bestowal correctly in order to correct our egos. Besides Kabbalah, no one deals with it because no one has the three-line method. All religions, faiths, and methods are seemingly above the ego; we ostensibly rise above the ego as though we are not selfish and are all in bestowal.
Does that mean that the “self” lives between the two lines?
Yes, only the qualities of Joseph and Jacob. Jacob is in this quality in the middle line in the Rosh, and Joseph is at the end of the middle line, at the entrance to Malchut, because he is Yesod. In Joseph there is contact with the house of Pharaoh from the start, and then with Pharaoh himself. This is why he is misunderstood; the brothers cannot feel what he wants to do. They think that his contact with the ego, the will to receive, will harm them.
We, too, are the same inside, and so is human society. We can see that everyone hates the wisdom of Kabbalah. No one understands what it does, and no one even knows what it’s for because Kabbalah deals with strange things—man’s correction, the correction of the soul. It seems unreasonable for one to take those sublime qualities—bestowal and Godliness—and connect them to the ego, to the desire to steal, rape, to the worst levels of the ego. But it is for this reason that this method is called “the wisdom of Kabbalah (Heb: reception),” as it teaches how to use the worst will to receive in order to achieve love precisely through it.
All other methods cannot achieve man’s correction, a state of “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is why everyone forgets this rule of the Torah and do not deal with it. Only the wisdom of Kabbalah corrects us. We must remember that all those who work “above” the ego, every kind of religion and faith, do not understand how it is possible to correct man’s ego, so they perform superficial gestures without diving into the ego and genuinely tending to it. They do not deal with the essence: “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice.”
In this portion we see for the first time how difficult it is to deal with it. Henceforth there will be a reason to all the ruins, transgressions, the problems in the desert, and all the wars. The problem that still remains is how to properly join the qualities of bestowal with the qualities of reception in us—to correct our egos.
Can we deduce from that regarding what is happening in the world today? After all today the world is also in a type of slavery—we are slaves to our egos. Who is today’s Joseph?
Today’s Josephs are those who have the method for correcting the ego, which is appearing in the world through the upper force. In other words, it is those who study the wisdom of Kabbalah, as it is written, “I have created for it the Torah as a spice” because “the light in it reforms it.” The method of the light is the wisdom of Kabbalah, and it is very difficult to explain it to the world. It is also difficult to accept that there is a way to correct the ego, the mutual hatred, the crisis we are experiencing, which is a result of our egos.
Joseph was not trying to explain anything; he was simply sold to slavery, went into Egypt, and mingled there. Why do we need to explain it today?
Today this is what we need to do—explain by disseminating the wisdom of Kabbalah, which is called “the Messiah’s Shofar (horn).” We must circulate it and spread it throughout the world because by that we become included in the nations of the world like Joseph in Egypt. In this manner we sow the sparks of bestowal that will make everyone begin to understand the reason for all the troubles until they, too, can rise.
The troubles are intensifying and there is no way to avoid them because our hanging down, our evolution, is continuing. There will be many more troubles we will not be able to avoid. The present state of affairs is a cause for war. The war of Gog and Magog stems from the same reason, as do all our wars. We are standing at a tipping point, and this portion is very pertinent and meaningful.
The focal point of the problem is hatred among brothers (unfounded hatred), and this is the state we are in today. On the one hand, it seems as though there is nothing we can do; hatred exists among people, as well as toward the wisdom of Kabbalah. Moreover, it is expected to intensify because it is hard for people to understand the wisdom of Kabbalah despite all the explanations. On the other hand, this very point reveals the two opposites within us: the soul and the body. It is impossible to disconnect them, and Joseph is the point that connects them.