Vayeishev – Torah Themes

Parshas Vayeishev

Cloak of Perfection

Yaakov was trying to fix the pgam of Adam who was covered in kosnos ohr, a covering of light. When Adam sinned he was stripped of this spiritual light and was covered instead with kosnos ore, a covering of flesh. The only difference between the two words is whether it is spelled ‘ohr’ with an ‘alef’, which means light or ore with an ‘ayin’ which means flesh. Adam lost his light and instead turned to flesh.

The Yalkut Reuveni brings down from the Megaleh Amukos that this was why Yaakov gave Yosef the kesones passim, a garment representing the kosnos ohr of light to fix the pgam of Adam. When Yosef disappeared, Yaakov dressed back in sackcloth fearing that he failed to fix the pgam and he therefore put back on the flesh, sackcloth.

The dichotomy of flesh versus light is the entire challenge of our existence in this world. Hashem gave us earthly challenges and our mission is to transform the earthly into spirituality. Yaakov taught all of his children to do this and he felt that based on Yosef’s unique capabilities that he would be the one who would rule and utilize this skill. When Yosef met Pharaoh, he announced, “Only Hashem can answer Pharaoh.” That was Yosef’s creed, no matter who he was meeting with. The king is someone who unites the people and serves as a role model for proper service of Hashem.

From Bais to Alef

Rav Tzadok Hakohen explains why the Torah starts with the letter bais, which has the numerical value of 2, instead of an alef, which means one. He explains that this world appears to be a place of plurality, one in which man and God are two entities, where Hashem can have His agenda, but man can have his own as well. The creation of the world allows for this space of freewill to exist. But it is not the reality. The truth is that Hashem Will is supreme and the only option for life. We are only successful if we turn towards Hashem goal and get in line with His world plan. The letter alef, one, represents the unity of coming back to this recognition. It is only when we unite with Hashem and become one with Him, that we are fulfilling that purpose. That is why the Aseres Hadibros begin with an alef (“Anochi, I am Hashem your God”). The Jews accepted the Torah and reached a level of “God, the Jews and the Torah are one.” Thus, the letter alef, shows how from the creation of the world that allowed for an appreance of duality, the bais of Bereishis, we can elevate ourselves to the alef, the oneness, of Anochi, connection with Hashem. This ends the elaboration of Rav Tzadok’s words.

As the Ramban explains, “naaseh adam, let us make man,” Hashem invites man to unite and partner with him to gain perfection and ultimate elevation.

This is the alef of kosnos ohr, the light that spreads throughout the world.

Inspiring Thoughts

Yalkut Reuveni shares two interesting insights about Yosef and his challenge with the wife of Potifar. Firstly, the verse tells us that Yosef came to the house “to do his work.” The Zohar comments on this, “man’s work in this world is to learn Torah and to fulfill the commandments.” What should be noted is that this is the antidote for Yosef stopping himself from the sin. It was only because he combatted the desire with his commitment to Torah and mitzvos that allowed him to overcome the temptation.

Secondly, Yalkut Reuveni brings down that some say an image of Yaakov appeared to Yosef at that time (Gemara Sotah) and others say that Yosef saw his mother Rachel at that time (Derech Eretz Rabbah and Yerushalmi). It very well could be that Yosef saw both of them. What is interesting to note is that one of the ways for one to raise him or herself up to higher levels is to think about great people in his or her life and to aspire to be like them. Hence, Yosef was tapping into that power and committing himself to be better and to live up to his high ancestral standards.

Hashem’s Dwelling Place

Why did Binyamin merit to have the Beis Hamikdash built in his portion? Because he did not have a hand in selling Yosef (Midrash quoted in Yalkut Reuveni). The Beis Hamikdash is a place of connection and comradeship, with Hashem and with our fellow man. One who does things that contradict that comradeship could not be a host for Hashem as well. Bein Adam Limakom, between man and God, and Bein Adam Lichaveiro, between man and his fellow, are related and must both be worked on together.

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