This Week’s Torah Portion | January 1 – January 7, 2016 – 3 Tevet – 9 Tevet, 5777
In A Nutshell
In the portion, VaYigash (Judah Approached), Joseph asks his brothers to leave Benjamin having discovered the silver goblet that he himself hid in his belongings. Judah explains to Joseph that he cannot leave Benjamin behind because he is responsible for him and he promised his father to bring him back safe. Judah tells Joseph that they had already lost one brother, not knowing that Joseph is the one managing the event behind the scenes.
Joseph decides to expose himself to his brothers. He tells them how his selling for slavery turned out for the best, and that now he can support his family because he is in charge of all of Egypt. After the reconciliation, Joseph sends the brothers to Jacob with carts and goods, and asks Jacob to come to Egypt.
At first, Jacob cannot believe the story. But once the brothers present him with Joseph’s gift, he is delighted and wants to go to Egypt to see Joseph before he dies. On the way to Egypt, Jacob stops and offers sacrifices. The Creator appears to Jacob and promises him that his descendants will be a great nation in Egypt, and that eventually they will all return to the land of Israel.
Jacob and the brothers arrive in Egypt, in the land of Goshen, where Joseph meets them. He bursts in tears when he sees his father after all those years. Joseph tells them that Pharaoh wants to meet them.
To prepare for the meeting Joseph tells the brothers and Jacob to say that they are shepherds and wish to live in a separate place from the Egyptians, in the land of Goshen. Joseph introduces his father and brothers to Pharaoh, who agrees that they will live in the land of Goshen.
The hunger continues and Joseph provides for everyone. The Egyptians and all the others give up their money and eventually themselves as slaves to Pharaoh.
Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman
The portion describes both the internal process of man’s development, and the general process in the correction of the world. Man and the world are one, the particular and general are equal.
This is a special portion, which is still pertinent. It deals with the spiritual force entering an ordinary person and beginning to correct that person.
For the purpose of connection, a person needs both the physical force and the spiritual force, like heaven and earth. The two forces—of the Creator and of the creature—conjoin, and the human will grow out of them. This is really the purpose of our development, to connect the material substance with the human form, which is similar to the Creator.
It is not simple to make those two forces meet. Creation consists only of these two forces—the giving force, the Creator, and the receiving force, the creature, which the Creator created on purpose as a replication of Himself.
The two forces have to join so the creature becomes included in the Creator, and the Creator becomes included in the creature, where there is understanding, a connection between them. In that connection, the creature can present requests to the Creator, who understands them and bestows upon the creature through the mutual connection, through the part of the Creator that is in the creature, so the creature, too, can understand the Creator.
It is similar to relationships between people. Assume that we have no connection between us. But when we begin to tell each other about ourselves and sympathize with each other’s feelings, each of us receives a part from the other. The connection between us was made through the parts we share in common.
In the material world, too, we must regulate instruments to make them work on the same wavelength, so they “understand” one another. For example, for one computer to “understand” another, there needs to be a modem with certain limitations, certain registrations, and so forth.
It is likewise with the connection between the Creator and the creature. The whole purpose of creation is for the creature to ascend in Dvekut (adhesion) to the degree of the Creator. They achieve Dvekut according to their equivalence of form, equivalence of their qualities. In the end, the human must have the qualities of the Creator.
“The inclination in a man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). We are Pharaoh; it is our nature, our “self.” The first quality of the Creator that appears in us is called Abraham. This is why he is called “the father of the nation,” meaning the quality of bestowal in a person.
Subsequently, out of the line of Abraham, the right line, the line of Hesed, emerges the quality of Gevura, Isaac. Finally, the quality of Tifferet—which is Jacob—comes out.
Jacob is the beginning of the formation of the right connection between Abraham and Isaac; this is what makes him the most special of the fathers, the senior one. He can combine the two forces, bestowal and reception, and arrange them within him in the middle line.
However, it is not enough. We must learn by ourselves how to implement these three lines that comes to us from above, from our creation. The portion describes how the upper force gradually permeates us like water percolates into the ground to get to the place where it is dry, to Egypt.
The heart of the problem lies in Jacob’s qualities, which are in his sons. With the exclusion of Joseph, they do not understand what they must do. Joseph understands that there is a need to unite all the sons. He tells them: “You will all bow to me because I am the Yesod, the foundation that unites all of you.” But they do not understand.
Although we contain all the qualities, and begin to connect them together, we do not understand how to do it. This is why the selling and buying teach us how to work with those qualities within us.
The wisdom of Kabbalah does not deal with historic events. Rather, it deals with man’s correction from within. Our whole process of work is about correction. First we absorb the quality of bestowal, love, affinity to others. Accordingly, we draw nearer to the Creator, we change, and we correct ourselves.
The portion tells us how things unfold, beginning with the selling of Joseph to Egypt. Joseph is the force of bestowal, while Egypt is our vessels of reception, the desires to receive. The desires to receive can work only as simple farmers, but Joseph is a quality that already knows how to exchange tools with others, how to sell and buy. He gives crops and receives something from the outside in return, from people who produce, such as instruments.
Through negotiation, giving and receiving, it is possible to connect, to gain wealth, and to ascend in degrees. The quality of Joseph enables it because it knows how to connect egoistic parts that cannot otherwise connect. This is what happens in the Egypt within us; this is also what happens in the physical Egypt.
We can see it throughout history. Jews who lived among the nations worked and operated in education, culture, but especially in commerce, which is a connection of all the nations. Once they developed commerce, they began to develop industry, just as it happened in Egypt, which suddenly began to thrive. Along with prosperity came a problem—the more you grow, the more you are prone to decline, to fall, to reveal the new evil.
This is where the years of abundance and the years of hunger come from. Only the force of bestowal within us can manage them. The more we advance in our correction, the more we go through the process in a good and proper manner. In this way, all the previous qualities of bestowal, the house of Jacob, move into Egypt, into the will to receive, which is enriched by them to the point that when Jacob comes with his family to Egypt, Pharaoh understands how much he gains by it.
When we begin to work with the vessels of bestowal—I help you and you help me—our ego develops. One who knows how to connect with others and exchange with them, similar to what happens within us, knows how to work with the force of reception and the force of bestowal together.
At first, this work is called Lo Lishma (not for Her sake), since a person is still profiting and thinks that all is going well, and therefore works with both forces. When the upper forces are included in a person, one begins to discover the development of the process, which leads to the sensation of exile and the exodus from Egypt.
This happens despite the fact that for the time being the two forces—force of bestowal and force of reception—work in us in favor of the ego, and Pharaoh is gaining riches. In other words, the part of Malchut, the fifth part of out of Keter, Hochma, Bina, Zeir Anpin, and Malchut, is truly being filled.
Our ego receives twenty percent of the general profit, and thus grows. It is the same for all the Egyptians, our egoistic qualities—they live and grow. The house of Jacob grows, too. It multiplies by adding to itself more of the Egyptian’s ego, the will to receive.
We add to the ego, growing and advancing, as preparation for the process of correction. A person who studies the wisdom of Kabbalah while still in this world enjoys this world as well as the spiritual world, gaining from both. While in this world, a person comes to understand and to feel what is happening to him or her, and seemingly rises above others. Such a person gains also from the wisdom of Kabbalah, thus feeling that one has profited from both worlds. However, it changes after some time.
For now, however, both the house of Pharaoh and the house of Jacob are gaining riches. The profit goes to the qualities of the Creator and to the qualities of the creature; the will to receive and the desire to bestow mingle and work together. There is a great connection between them until they come across a crisis point that does not let them continue.
This is where the whole world currently stands. Until now we have been using the force of bestowal to develop technologies, techniques, instruments, and so on. We are in a global network of industry and commerce in almost every realm. And yet, we have reached the recognition of evil—the understanding that we must be better connected among us in order to advance further. But our egos prevent it from us.
This is what the children of Israel discovered in Egypt—the point that was to push them further, to a higher level, to the land of Israel. Our world, too, will have to emerge from this crisis and into the level of the general land of Israel, for everyone.
The world is now moving into the years of hunger, yet the majority of people refuse to recognize it. Where is today’s quality of Joseph, the quality that says we must collect during the good years so we have something to keep us through the years of famine?
At the time of abundance everything was great. Joseph was in Malchut, in Egypt. But when the hunger begins, begins the second half of the exile and in Egypt, and we are feeling the exile. This is when Joseph completes his role, he is no longer here.
The nine Sephirot—Keter, Hochma, Bina, Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, and Yesod—are the descent of abundance from above downward. Joseph is the ninth; he collects the previous eight Sephirot and brings them to Malchut. This is why he is called Joseph (from the Hebrew word Osef [collecting]). Malchut is our entire ego, the will to receive, the quality of the creature, us. Joseph includes all the previous qualities, the qualities of the Creator, abundance and light for all.
What does it mean that “a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8)?
It is the beginning of the process toward Moses. There are several stages in the process: first, the children of Israel discover that they are in Egypt. There is a difference between one’s personal work and the general process in the world; they are very different.
What is happening in the world today?
The current situation in the world is that we are at a tipping point. We must understand that henceforth Pharaoh takes control, so we will experience states of hunger and states of abundance. Joseph comes and says to Pharaoh that he has no choice but to establish a new order in Egypt, where everything is under his complete control. However, he must give them seeds and take twenty percent in taxes from them, and divide it so that Israel are poor.
In other words, our egoistic desires need to feel poor, that they have nothing other than belonging to the ego, for their mere survival, and what maintains them is the connection with Joseph. Joseph gives them seeds, the sustenance, life, and receives from them the tax. This is how we, too, must feel—that only our force of connection throughout the world unites us into one and allows us to advance, live, revive our souls, and that otherwise we are doomed.
First we must study these things. We must go through this entire process and advance toward the revelation that we must correct ourselves, including the Pharaoh in us. We must rise above him and escape from Egypt. The whole process aims toward escape.
The correction of Egypt entails two states: if we want to correct a certain quality in us, we must first stop working with it completely. Afterward we can advance toward it and work with it in a new way; perhaps less than before. For example, if we are forbidden to eat salt for health reasons, we first avoid salt completely, then resume eating small amounts of it.
We must escape Egypt so we can truly and finally unite. We cannot unite while in Egypt. Within Egypt, only the children of Israel can unite, and only in a certain manner. When we are in our egos and we try to build ourselves properly, to be in accord with nature, we suddenly discover that we are building Pithom and Raamses. Everything we build is swallowed up in the ego, the will to receive, so we never gain anything. Today we are seeing how everything we have built throughout the world is under a threat of tsunamis that will leave no trace of our work, and we have no guarantee as to the future of our children and grand children.
Can we know where this will lead?
Yes. After all, we can learn from studies that there is no point having children anymore. If there were no plan from above in that regard, one that we trust, it would really be so.
Joseph gave a special treatment to his family. He planned what they should say and how. This shows that he cared for them personally. In the spiritual world, is there such a thing as being “the favored one”?
Egypt cannot exist, and the world cannot exist without the children of Israel. Likewise, we personally cannot exist without contact with the upper abundance, and we are truly about to feel it. Only by joining everyone together, including the Egyptians, meaning the entire world, will we be able to advance.
Joseph says that the children of Israel should live only outside of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. It is so because to advance, a person needs to separate one’s vessels of reception from the vessels of bestowal. Otherwise, one might find that one is working only for the ego and will never be able to come out of it.
To manage Egypt properly, the qualities of bestowal must be outside of Egypt. This is why the children of Israel, who are in the land of Goshen, outside of Egypt, work in jobs that seem undignified in the eyes of the Egyptians, such as shepherds, since with them they seemingly nurture the qualities of bestowal in the qualities of reception. The Egyptians work in such a way that all the qualities of bestowal are good to fill the qualities of reception in them, the ego. For the Jews, the work is different; their entire ego, the qualities of reception, work to develop the qualities of bestowal.
It seems as though Joseph favored his family, as though he gave them preference.
This is correct, but even Pharaoh understood that it was for his own good, until the moment when they separate. As long as they are both in the will to receive, it is worthwhile for a person. It is a period called Lo Lishma. You have a part, and I have a part. You may have some more and I may have a little less, or the other way around, but we get along. We cannot do without each other.
This is how we advance until we reach a crisis, a barrier we must cross with effort. That transition will happen at the foot of Mt. Sinai, where the human is born.
From The Zohar: Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama
“Then … approached him” is the approaching of world in a world, the approaching of the lower world, Nukva, Nefesh, Judah, to the upper world, Yesod de ZA, Ruach, Joseph, so that everything will be one. Because Judah was a king and Joseph was a king, they approached each other and united in one another.
Zohar for All, VaYigash (Judah Approached), item 22
There are many discernments throughout the process of Joseph, beginning with his selling, his arrival in Egypt, the sending away of the brothers and the reacceptance. In this process we connect within us the two qualities, that of the Creator and that of the creature.
The problem of connecting the qualities of bestowal with the qualities of reception in a person is not so simple. We see it in our friends, especially among beginners. We see how difficult it is for them to accept these spiritual qualities, which they have never felt before. They begin to feel that there is bestowal, love, and connection here, a new way of perceiving the world, through new “spectacles,” and it is not so easy.