Divrei Torah To Warm The Jewish Soul

Rabbi Moshe Zionce

Vayigash means to approach. Yehuda approaches Yosef. The deeper wisdom explains that each of the 7 shepperds (Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aaron, Yosef and Dovid) have their own persona. Yosef¹s distinct characteristic is to bring close and to join. This week¹s parsha begins with Yehuda coming close to Yosef.

There are many examples that illustrate Yosef¹s power of attraction. Yaakov “loved Yosef more than all the other sons”, Yosef found “favour” in his master¹s eyes and Eishes Potifar wanted to be with Yosef. Yosef found favour in the prison warden eyes as well. In fact, the entire world approached Yosef to receive the Egyptian produce he disseminated.

Yosef Hatzaddik (the righteous) is the sixth of the seven sheppards. The letter vav, six, is a conjunction in Hebrew. Like Yosef, it is the letter that joins two things together. The vavim in the Mishkan (tabernacle) were hooks that joined. In fact, graphically the form of the vav resembles a hook. Mystically, six is the characteristic called Yesod. It means foundation. In the construction of a building, a foundation is one that links mortar to ground, or it is the fusion of higher to lower. This is the power of a tzaddik. He brings down the flow from heaven to earth. Similarly, Yosef sustains the entire world through the Egyptian produce. It is the secret behind the Chasidic custom of giving the Rebbe the sixth aliya. ³Tzaddik yesod olam², the righteous are the foundation of the world.

The Vilna Gaon explains and the Bnai Yissachar echoes the same approach; the true characteristic of anything in the Torah is revealed the first time it is found. ³Hakol holech achar harosh,² everything follows after the head (the beginning). In the nucleus of a fetus is everything genetically that the child will be for life. For example, if a genetic disease is manifested at age 50 in a person, it was originally there 50 years earlier, as infinitesimal information. Only an expert knows how to read the genes in vitro and can decipher what their meaning and impact will be. So too with the Torah. Our Rabbis teach us to look at the first time a letter is used, in order to get a glimpse into the letter¹s true nature. ³Histakel borisa obara olma.² Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world. Through the Torah, all came to be. Like the genes of an embryo, the Torah holds the “data” that is all of reality.

The first vuv in the Torah is in the very first posuk (verse). ³In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth.² This first vuv is in between the words ³heaven and earth². The tzaddik is represented by the this letter vuv/six . He brings down the G-dly flow from heaven to earth. (In this pussuk the vav is connected to an apparent superfluous word es. The word es is comprised of the first and last letter of the alphabet, representing all the letters. Perhaps it is alluding to the creation of heaven and earth through the words of the Torah/alphabet).

The Baal Shem Tov teaches; the name reveals essence. In Tehillim (Psalm 81, it is the shir shel yom of Thursday), Yosef¹s name is written with an extra hey. The gemora (Sotah 10a) says Yosef sanctified Hashem’s name in private therefore he merited that one letter of Hashem’s name was added to his name. In addition, the Arizal explains that the gamatria (the numeric value) of the word Yosef is 156. That is 26 x 6. 26 is the numeric value of Hashem¹s name and six is the number of attachment. Through the very name of Yosef one can see his dynamic. I would like to suggest Yosef¹s name alludes to the G-dly power that he brings down from above.

The medrash relates, it was in the merit of Yosef that the sea split. The sea did not part until Moshe brought the bones of Yosef before it. Yosef is the power of fusion, not separation. What is the deep connection of the sea splitting and Yosef? In addition, a similar question can be asked; the gemora (Sotah 2) says “It is as difficult to match (two people in marriage) as it is to split the sea.” Matchmaking is a union, the splitting of the sea is a separation? What is the connection between these two apparent opposite dynamics? I would like to further ask, which was the bigger salvation; the sea splitting or the sea uniting?

I believe the answers lie in a tremendous secret of life. Closeness can only be achieved through distance.

Water and fire are opposites. When combined, each one will overpower the other. How does one unite the two? There is one way …a pot. It is only through a separation (the pot) that fire and water can unite. This is the deep lesson of the laws of the holy Jewish family as the gemora explains.

One wants to leap over a fence. However, he stands directly below it. There is one way for this to be accomplished. He must back up. Through momentum, he can now make a running jump over the fence. Backing up, is going in the exact opposite direction that is desired, however, it is the only way to go forward. In Shemona Esreai we take three steps back in order to take three steps forward.

In heaven the two Neshamos (souls) are one. They are separated at birth. Only through marriage are the two reunited.

All of the above is only a parable for the true great lesson. Before birth, on high, the neshama is one with Hashem. Hashem detaches it from His essence and breathes it into us. The soul is a chelek elokah memaal, a piece of Hashem. After 120 years the neshama is once again united with Hashem. What is accomplished through the soul¹s journey as it travels in an apparent full circle?

Our task in this world is to find Hashem. The world can seem very dark. Each and every moment we are tested to find Him and reveal Him. If we endure, when we approach Hashem on the day of reckoning, the sweetness of the union will be far greater than it was before the separation. The velt (world) says, ³Absence makes the heart grow fonder.² It is only through the trial and tribulations of this world that an even deeper connection is made to our creator.

The water splitting was not the true salvation at the sea. The Egyptians could have continued to pursue. I would like to suggest it was the separation in order for the union. The death of the Egyptians through the water crashing back together, is the true salvation.

Perhaps this is the true characteristic of Yosef; a separation for a greater union. It is only after Yosef is separated from his brothers for 22 years that there is true unity and love amongst the brothers.

This is the greatness of a baal teshuva. Through a deep void and lack of G-dliness, an intense reunion is achieved upon return.

Good Shabbos
Rabbi Moshe Zionce

Rabbi Moshe¹s weekly lectures can be accessed at www.torahmedia.com

5 comments on “Divrei Torah To Warm The Jewish Soul

  1. Ron, I’m impressed by your profound reflections on this profound Torah. To speak of how our inner children act as anti-Yosef forces, demanding immediate comfort in the dark, is a powerful simile indeed. Reminds of the Rash”y re. how Yaacov’s insistence to find serenity in this world leads to all the terrible nisyanos that follow. The same Yaacov that couldn’t wait until the morning for his “pachim katanim” and thereby exposed himself to the spiritual forces of Esaav.

    So too do we find young Yosef impetuously “sharing” his dreams… until his Egyptina ordeal teaches the ONLY way to get a handle on the pleasures of this world: Prishus.

    But let us never forget. As the author says so well – it’s separation for the sake of a deeper unity.

  2. This divrei Torah was very powerful and helpful to me, thank you!

    I wanted to share how I came to read it. I was rushing during lunch to read all my emails and skim through the blog posts in my feed reader. I saw your divrei Torah and thought it was too long for me to read now, so I skipped it. But it kept popping up in my feed reader! I decided that Hashem must be telling me that I needed to read this divrei Torah right now. So I did. The idea of backing up to go forward really spoke to me and helped me figure out something that I have been struggling with. Thank you!!!

  3. Much food for thought. Your thesis is very valuable, Rabbi, and beautifully expressed.

    It runs contrary to our intuition and to everything the world we live in “teaches” us today. We want to run to what attracts us, but this never leads to satisfaction beyond the moment, and ultimately the satiation of temporary desire leaves us only jaded and searching for another “hit.” This is what, if I may switch modalities for a moment, the mussarniks call an “addiction” to what the world calls “pleasure.” Your explanation of the value of prishus, separation, is hard to internalize, especially for moderns such as us, in such a place.

    In many respects this is the essential lesson of adulthood. The child within us all is, however, afraid of the dark of which you and I have both spoken this week. Some of our “inner children” are very demanding! The greater the man, we learn, the greater the yetzer; hence the level of separation employed by the greatest of men, and the greater the risk to those with greatness in them who spurn this lesson.

    Thank you for it.

  4. INREDIBLE Torah. Thank you.

    (I just tried sending in a longer comment, but it didn’t get through, so I’m now trying again, with changed user name, which is supposed to help. Perhaps I can explain more next wk the powerful way these words have spoken to me and a some parallel Torah).


  5. Rabbeinu, you’ve shared a TREMENDOUS piece of Torah! I can’t thank you enough for the chessed you’ve done for me here. Perhaps when I have a bit more time I can detail… but in the meantime let me just emphasize that by making it clear how much “backing up in order to go forward” is indelibly apart of the Torah, and particualrly Yosef, a certain klippa by me has been punctured.

    May i offer in return a little chiddush: R’ SR Hirsch speaks in the parsha about Yishmoel about the phenomena of how the vavs work in the word Toldos. Only 2 places have both vavim: By Tol. of Shomaym v’Aretz and by Peretz (progenitor of Moshiach). By Yitzchak it’s inside (first vav) but not outside. By Esaav its the opposite.

    Then the clincher: By Yaacov-Yosef Toldos is spelled without Any! Just like by Yishmoel. Its because, says Hirsch, the yerida that was going on then by bnei Yisroel.

    I guess they were resisting the back-up of which you so eloquently speak. the back-up which Yishmoel does for its own sake!


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