Sunday, December 23, 2018

Yosef, Making The Redemption Possible

Dear friends,

I am sorry that I wasn't able to get this out before Shabbos. I was having trouble with my eye gaze computer. Try as I might, I couldn't finish it. Hashem had other plans. I hope you enjoy it.


At the end of this week's parsha, Vayechi, Yosef tells his brothers about the redemption out of Egypt, "And Hashem will surely remember you and take you up from this land..." Yosef was the one who brought them down to Egypt in the first place, and now he foretells about the redemption. The words of Yosef are not merely a prophecy or a sign, but they are what make the redemption possible. Why is Yosef so connected to the Egyptian exile, from the beginning to the redemption? 

To understand this, we first have to get a deeper appreciation of who Yosef was. Since Yosef was, in a way, greater than both his brothers and his father, it came out in the physical realm as well, he was like a king. And that is why his brothers bow to him, and even his father, Yaakov, bows to him at the beginning of this week's parsha, as it says, "And Yaakov bowed down at the head of the bed." They bow to him, because he is greater. 

Everything that is found in the physical realm, is there because it is that way in the spiritual realms. This is specifically true about the forefathers and Yaakov's sons, the twelve tribes, their lives were completely spiritual, because they were Tzadikim, and the lives of Tzadikim are completely spiritual. So surely the physical interactions that they had were rooted in the spiritual. Bowing down to Yosef is a clear indication, that spiritually he was greater. 

Our forefathers and the tribes lived a life of spirituality, that is why they chose to be shepherds, so that they could use most of their time to serve Hashem. Yosef, on the other hand, was the viceroy of Egypt, that means that he was very much involved in the day to day lives of the Egyptians, and yet, at the same time, he was able to maintain a total oneness with Hashem, even deeper than his brothers. 

That is why "they didn't recognize him," because they didn't believe that one of them could be so much involved in the physical world. They couldn't believe that it was him, even if he resembled Yosef. Because their way of serving Hashem, was by separating themselves from worldly matters. 

This will help us understand the verse, "And these are the children of Yaakov, Yosef..." And it doesn't mention the other brothers, because Yosef was the continuation of Yaakov, he was able to take Yaakov's highest accomplishments in spirituality, and for that matter, Avraham's and Yitzchak's spiritual accomplishments, and bring them down into the lowest physical place, Egypt. 
Why was Yosef able to do it? Because he was higher, he was able to draw it down, following the rule that "anything that is higher (spiritually), goes down lower (in the physical)," and as will be explained. 

We will understand this according to what the Zohar says, that the three major holidays are connected to the forefathers, Avraham is connected to Pesach, Yitzchak is connected to Shavuoth, and Yaakov is connected to Sukkos, and he says that Yosef is connected to Shemini Atzeres. 

If Yosef is a holiday of his own, why isn't he also one of our forefathers? Because he doesn't stand for a new path in our service to Hashem like the forefathers, rather the ability to draw the spiritual service that our forefathers gave us, into the most physical levels. 

And that is what Shemini Atzeres is all about, to take the spiritual gains that we got over the holidays and integrate them into every part of our physical lives. The Yom Tov of Sukkos begins with seven days that we are in a Sukka, that surrounds you. The G-dly light that is in the Sukka surrounds us, and on Shemini Atzeres we don't eat in the Sukka, because the G-dly light that surrounds is drawn inside and we integrate it. 

Shemini Atzeres is a Yom Tov of its own, but at the same time, it is called Shemini, the eighth, which means that it is part of the first seven. This is similar to what it says, "And these are the children of Yaakov, Yosef..." In one way, Yosef is a person of his own, but at the same time, he is an extension of Yaakov. 

One of the translations of Atzeres is collection and absorption. Again, the collection and absorption of the holiness of the holidays. 

The holiday is called Shemini, the eighth. In Kabbalah, seven is the number of nature, like the cycle of the week, and even the spiritual realms of the world work in cycles of seven. Eight is the number that represents extra-worldly, even outside the spiritual realms of the world. That is the reason that Shemini Atzeres is so powerful, since it is higher than both the physical and spiritual realms, it can merge the two. Hence it helps us integrate the G-dly holiness of the holidays. 

The same was with Yosef, because he was rooted higher, he was able to draw the spiritual service that our forefathers did into the lowest physical place. 

Now we will understand why Yosef was so connected to the Egyptian exile, he was the one who brought the Jewish people down to Egypt and he makes the redemption possible. Because the main reason for the exile, was to remove the G-dly sparks that were hidden in the physical, in other words, working with the physical and uplift it to Hashem. In order to do this, we have to be higher than the world, and it is Yosef who lifts us up above, because he is the head and the body follows the head. 

It says, "Like the days of the Exodus from Egypt, I will show you miracles." Meaning, that the redemption in the time of Moshiach, will be like the Exodus. When we will finish our work, collecting the last few sparks, we will surely see the ultimate redemption, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Egyptian Exile Begins, A Quantum View

Print        All Vayigash
In this week's parsha, Vayigash, Yosef revealed himself to his brothers and said, "Hashem sent me ahead of you to ensure that you survive in the land, and sustain you in a great deliverance. So now, it was not you who sent me here, but Hashem, He made me... ruler over all Egypt." And he continues to tell them to tell their father, Yaakov, "This is what your son Yosef said: 'Hashem has made me master of all Egypt, come down to me, do not tarry.'" 

from Yosef's words to Yaakov, we understand that it wasn't just a good idea to come down to Egypt because Yosef was in charge of the place, and he was not just showing them Hashem's hand in the brothers sale of Yosef, but even more than that, he was saying that it was time for the Egyptian exile to begin, therefore, "come down... do not tarry." And what was the proof? The proof was, that Yosef was the "ruler of all Egypt." 

We know that Avraham was told by Hashem that his children will be in a land that is not their own for four hundred years, and Yosef was certain that this was the sign that it is the time for it to begin. Why was he so certain that ruling over Egypt was the sign? And why would he be excited for the Egyptian exile to begin? 

At the bris bein habesarim (the covenant between the parts), Hashem told Avraham that his children will be in a land that is not their own, "and they will enslave them, and make them suffer"  for four hundred years, "And after that they will go out with great wealth." The promise that "they will go out with great wealth," isn't just a reward for their enslavement and suffering, but it is the purpose of their whole exile. 

What is the proof that the whole purpose of the Egyptian exile, is that "they will go out with great wealth"? 

One of the reasons for the plague of darkness that descended upon the Egyptians, was so that the Jewish people would be able to enter Egyptian properties and search out their valuables, in order to know what they have, because Hashem commanded "And they should borrow, a man from his friend, and a woman from her friend, silver vessels, and gold vessels," And Rashi brings the words of the Talmud, that this was in order that, "And after they will go out with great wealth." - "So that the righteous one (Avraham) shouldn't say," that Hashem kept the part of His promise about, "they will enslave them, and make them suffer," but He didn't keep the part about, "And after that they will go out with great wealth." 

This doesn't make sense. No one wants to stay in bondage, in exile, even for one extra moment. As the Talmud tells us, that when Hashem said, "And they should borrow, a man from his friend, and a woman from her friend..." The Jewish people said, "if only we could leave ourselves (empty handed)." And the Talmud explains, that it is like a person who is in jail, and he is told that tomorrow he will be set free, and he will be given riches. And he responds, "let me free now and I will forgo the riches." The Jewish people would have rather left empty handed, than stay one more moment in Egyptian servitude. So why would Hashem keep them suffering in bondage longer than necessary, just for a payout. 

And even Avraham would certainly forgo Hashem's promise, just to let his children out of their suffering. 

We must conclude, that going out "with great wealth," in this case, was so important, that it was worth staying in oppressive bondage for it, and even Avraham would agree to it, because it was the reason that they were there to begin with. 

And this is what Yosef was saying to his brothers, go tell our father, "Hashem has made me master of all Egypt." And because of that, the wealth of all of Egypt is under my jurisdiction, therefore, "come down to me, do not tarry." Because Hashem's purpose in sending us to a land that is not our own, has come to pass. The foundation is laid for us to "go out with great wealth." This is especially poignant now, because of the great famine, the wealth of the whole world has made its way into Egypt, as it says, "And Yosef collected all of the silver (money)," and the Talmud explains that it means "All of the silver (money) in the world." 

Now we have to understand, what is so important about this wealth, that it is the purpose of the Egyptian exile? 

The Collection of Holy Sparks 

In the teachings of Kabbalah and Chasidus it tells us of a world that existed before this one, called Tohu. The light of that world was too great, it couldn't withstand it, and it shattered. The pieces of that world were incorporated into our world, Tikkun, in the form of 288 spiritual sparks that are hidden in the physical. Our job is to extract those great sparks, and raise them up to Hashem. We do this by using the physical for Torah and mitzvahs, and to serve Hashem. When we finish collecting all these sparks, Moshiach will be here. When all the lights of Tohu will be incorporated into the vessels of Ttikkun.

Every one of us has a part in the world that we are meant to work on and extract the sparks that are hidden within, and when we are done with the extraction, we come away with it in the form of physical possessions. We are all directed by Hashem, to the exact time and place, and we are given the physical objects that we need to work on, in order to complete the mission.

It is obvious that these sparks are very great, and it takes many of us and a lot of effort to extract one of these sparks.

In Egypt there were 202 of these sparks, and that is what the Jewish people took out with them, that is why they were there to begin with. This was the "great wealth" that Hashem promised Avraham, and that was worth staying in oppressive bondage longer for. The physical manifestation of these sparks were in the form of gold, silver, etc.

The remaining 86 sparks are spread over the rest of the world, and we are spread across the globe to do the work of extracting the rest of the sparks. Because of our servitude in Egypt, we only have 86 left.

That is why Avraham agreed to the bondage, and that is why Yosef was excited for the Egyptian exile to begin. Because what we would come out with, the "great wealth," would put us far ahead, on the road to completing the Jewish mission, to make this world into a home for Hashem, Tohu in Tikkun.

This is also the reason that the money and the possessions of the Jewish people are very precious to Hashem, because in them are found these holy sparks that we are meant to uplift.

It goes even deeper. Every one of our neshamas are connected to a specific spark or sparks, and it is the essence of the neshama that is connected to the spark. Even deeper. The reason that the neshama was created, was to extract its specific spark, and as long as the spark is not extracted, it remains in exile and the neshama that is connected to the spark remains in exile with it. So in order to free our neshamas, we must free our specific sparks. It was to the benefit of the Jewish people that they stayed longer, even in servitude, because it ensured that not only did their bodies go free, but also their neshamas.

Where do we find these sparks?

Hashem said, that we should borrow vessels of gold and silver, "a woman from her neighbor, and from the one who lives in her home."

"A woman" refers to the neshama. And she should borrow "vessels," which are holy sparks, "from her neighbor," like a neighbor who she comes in contact with from time to time, meaning the people and the things we interact with once in a while, "and from the one who lives in her home," meaning the people and the things we interact with every day.

All these people and things that you come in contact with, it's not by chance, rather, Hashem put them with you, because they are your charge, they are connected to your neshama. And you are meant to have a positive impact on them, an impact of Torah and Hashem's ways. This way you uncover the G-dly spark hidden within, and you uncover the wealth that is there.

A person may think to himself, "What do I need this for? I don't want anything to do with the exile, I will ensconce myself in a place of Torah and Teffilla, and I won't have anything to do with the world and this exile."

This way of thinking is a big mistake for two reasons. First, although it sounds noble, he is in a holy and spiritual atmosphere, it is all superficial, he might feel free of the exile, but he is really prolonging it, because his part is not being accomplished, and the essence of his neshama that is connected to his part, his mission, is stuck in the exile.

Second, what is all the holiness worth, if he is not doing what Hashem wants, and he is not accomplishing what he was created to do?

The culmination of the Exodus from Egypt happened at the splitting of the sea. Our sages say, "Greater were the spoils of the sea, than the spoils of Egypt." The Egyptians would adorn themselves, their horses and their war chariots with gold, silver, etc. when they would go out to battle. And when they drowned in the sea, Hashem made a miracle, that all the Egyptian valuables washed ashore. All the Jewish people had to do was pick it up. According to the Midrash says, there were at least eighteen million Egyptians who went out to chase the Jewish people, so it was a lot.

It was when they crossed the sea, that the spoils of Egypt, that were officially "borrowed," became their's, because the Egyptians drowned.

May we merit to see the coming of Moshiach, when we will see the fruits of our labor, our struggles and our suffering in this exile. And we will once again go out with great wealth, greater than when we left Egypt, spiritual and physical, neshamas and bodies. May it happen soon. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Chanukah, A Lesson In Shalom Bayis

Print       Chanuka        Mikeitz
At the end of the Laws of Chanukah, the Rambam says, "If he has before him (the choice between purchasing) lamps for the home (Shabbos candles) or lamps for Chanukah, or (the choice between purchasing) lamps for the home (Shabbos candles) or (wine for) kiddush, lamps for the home come first." Because Shabbos candles is for shalom bayis, peace in the home, and the Rambam concludes, "great is peace, for the entire Torah was given to make peace in the world." 

Rashi tells us that the term, "lamps for the home" means Shabbos candles. 

It seems that this law of shalom bayis should be written in the laws of Shabbos, although it mentions Chanukah lamps, it is a law pertaining to Shabbos, especially since he says, "or (the choice between purchasing) lamps for the home (Shabbos candles) or (wine for) Kiddush," which is clearly a law that pertains to Shabbos and not Chanukah. Why does the Rambam put this law in the laws of Chanukah? 

Also, why is the term, "lamps for the home," used to say Shabbos candles? 

To understand this, we first have to understand the difference between the three types of lamps we are obligated to have lit, the lights of Shabbos, lit by women and girls, the lights of the menorah in the Temple, lit by the Kohen, and the lights of Chanukah, usually lit by the husband or the father of the home. 

In the Temple, the menorah was in the Holies, where nobody really could see the lights, and it was lit in the afternoon, specifically during the daytime. They were lit in a place where the revealed light of G-dliness shined openly, it could only be lit in a place where it was free of negative outside forces. That is why, when the Greeks entered and defiled the Temple, the lighting of the Temple menorah ceased. 

The Chanukah lights, which commemorate the miracle that happened with the Temple menorah, are specifically lit after sunset, when it is dark and placed where everyone can see it. The Chanukah lights are not so we should be able to see in the dark, rather that people should see them. It is specifically lit when it is dark, lighting up the outside spiritual darkness, the darkness of the exile, and the darkness of the negative forces. As the Talmud says, that the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah lights is "until the Tarmudai finish coming from the market." Tarmud in Hebrew has the same letters as the word moredes, treason, meaning, that the lights of Chanukah even effect the furthest away from Hashem, the ones who go against Him.  

The main reason that Shabbos candles are lit in the home, is so that people can see, and they won't get hurt and upset, maintaining peace in the home. 

In a way, the lights of Chanukah are greater than the lights of the Temple. As the Ramban says, that the lights of the Temple ceased to shine when the Greeks entered the Temple, however, the lights of Chanukah, "will never cease." They continue to shine, lighting up the darkness of the exile. 

Similarly there is an advantage of a Baal teshuva over a Tzadik. A Tzadik has nothing to do with the bad and the darkness of the world, but the Baal teshuva has the ability to transform the bad into good, even his greatest sins can be transformed into merits. 

The number of lights also show the greatness of the Chanukah lights over the Temple lights. The Temple menorah had seven lamps, seven is the number of the nature of the world, for example, the cycle of the week. Even the spiritual realms work in a cycle of seven. The Chanukah menorah has eight lamps, eight symbolizes above the world, beyond both physical and spiritual realms. 

In the Temple, where there was open G-dliness, there was no need for more than the light that is within the worlds. But in the mundane world, in order to overcome the darkness, we need the light that is beyond the worlds. 

Although the service of the Baal teshuva is extremely powerful, we can't do without the pure service of the Tzadikim, which is in a way greater than that of the Baal teshuva, because it comes from a place of purity, void of any possibility of negative or evil. 

In order to have the most powerful service, we need the fusion of both Tzadik and Baal teshuva, which will be the norm when Moshiach comes. As the Zohar says, "In the future, Moshiach will have the Tzadikim do teshuva." This fusion can only be brought about by a light that is higher and greater than both the Tzadik and the Baal teshuva, since it is higher it is able to unify the two. 

This unifying factor is symbolized by the lights of Chanukah, which dispels the darkness of the night and the exile, and at the same time, it was established because of the Temple lights, to commemorate the miracle that happened with them. 

This is hinted in the number eight, which hints to the time of Moshiach, as it says about the leer of the time of Moshiach, that it will have eight strings, as opposed to now, it only has seven. In other words, music now has seven notes, in the time of Moshiach, there will be an eighth note. How will this be possible? Because at that time, we will draw the essence of Hashem, which is higher than the worldly realms, Tzadik, and even higher than the realm that is beyond the worldly realms, Baal teshuva, therefore, it will be able to unify the two. So in the world, which is a world of seven, seven days of the week, seven musical notes, and cycles of seven in the spiritual realms, will also have the influence of what is beyond the worlds, an eighth note. It doesn't mean that it will be only in music, rather, every aspect of our lives will be infused with a higher spiritual meaning. 

Now we will understand why the Rambam brings this idea of shalom bayis, peace in the home, and peace in general, in the laws of Chanukah. Because peace is the bringing together of opposites, sometimes even diametric opposites. And in our case, we are talking about several unions. The unification of the home, in order to make it into a home for Hashem. The union of husband and wife, which could be diametric opposites, as the Torah calls the wife "ezer kenegdo," that she could be "kenegdo, against him," but hopefully an "ezer, a support to him," if they are at peace. Shabbos candles help bring that peace. Then you have the opposites of the darkness and light. And finally the opposites of worldly and extra-worldly. 

Chanukah represents the ability to bring opposites together, it is all about peace, therefore it is apropos that the passage about peace in the home, be brought in the laws of Chanukah. 

And it calls Shabbos candles, lamps for the home, because when a woman lights Shabbos candles, she is bringing peace to her home and that is what makes it a home. 

The Rambam is telling us that although Chanukah lights do amazing things, lighting up the darkness and fusing the service of the Tzadik and the Baal teshuva, and worldly and extra-worldly, but when you have to choose between Shabbos and Chanukah lights, you should choose Shabbos candles, because shalom bayis is more important. 

May we have peace in our homes, and may Hashem feel at home in our homes. The Shechina only rests in a peaceful place. This will surely affect everyone in the home, which will affect everyone they come in contact with. And in this way, we will effect the whole world, making it into a home for Hashem, and usher in the time of Moshiach, when we will have the essence of Hashem, and the aforementioned fusion. May it happen soon.