In this week’s and last week’s parsha
the Torah tells us of a number of dreams: the dreams of Yosef that led
to his brothers’ jealousy, which led to his descent to Egypt; the dreams
of Yosef’s prison mates and those of Pharaoh, which led to Yosef’s elevation
to viceroy of Egypt, which eventually led to the descent of Yakkov and
his sons to Egypt, the beginning of the Egyptian exile.
It is not a coincidence that the first
and father of all exiles (Arizal) came into being through a series of
dreams. What is the relationship between dreams and Exile?
Dreams accommodate impossibilities. They
allow opposites to coexist as one. This is because the part of the brain
that discriminates between what can and cannot be does not function when
one is asleep. All that remains is the power of imagination and fantasy,
which allows for such imagery as a boat flying through the air (as in
Rambam’s Eight Chapters, 1) or an elephant going through the eye
of a needle (Berachos 55b). In a dream one can imagine oneself
killed or dead while at the same time alive, or present in two places
at once. Yet, the logical absurdity is lost on the dreamer.
So it is with the exile of the G-dly spark
in the soul of man: it is asleep, its power of discrimination silenced.
The life of a soul in exile is rife with contradiction. In the morning,
during the prayer service, it experiences an awakening of love for G-d
and a desire to leave its physical trappings and cleave to its Source.
Yet it spends its entire day immersed in the mundane rituals of making
a living. The meditations of the morning on the fact that nothing exists
but He and the response of the heart to this awareness, quickly dissipates
after prayer and the focus becomes the needs of the body. True, the Torah
instructs man to work the field and gather its produce; but the intention
of such work must be to utilize the physical world and direct it towards
its Divine purpose. This, however, is not always the intention of the
exiled soul when it leaves the world of prayer and enters the world of
The soul is liable to grow depressed,
thinking that its prayer was an exercise in falsehood. Not so.
Let not a man’s heart fall, saying that
his inspiration during prayer and his meditation were merely empty delusions.
For exile is a dream-world; opposites can coexist. While he prays, he
imagines that he has transcended an earthly consciousness and experienced
a true love of G-d. But in fact, he has not transcended his self-love,
thus it returns in full force after prayer. During the prayer of the exiled
soul, self-love and love of G-d—which are mutually exclusive—exist in
harmony. This coexistence may not make sense, but it is not falsehood;
it is a dream. It is the nature of Exile.
In fact, the source of such a dream-like
psyche, stems from a sublime source, the level of Iggulim, Circles.
The level of Circles is a nebulous “place”
of latent potential that is beyond division. Like a circle, which has
no beginning or end, the level of Circles does not contain higher and
lower levels, nor right and left, kindness and restraint; all is one and
(As the Talmud says regarding the differing
opinions among the sages: “Both are the words of the living G-d.” [In
other words, as the law exists on the level of Circles, there is only
one opinion. However, as the law descends through the worlds of division,
the law itself branches out to different but equally valid strains of
kindness and severity, as in the arguments of Hillel and Shammai.])
[Iggulim and Yosher: Creation is
described in Kabbala as a process including “circles and straightness,”
iggulim and yosher (see Eitz Chaim, drush
iggulim v’yosher). In short, iggulim describes the
Divine light that does not conform or tailor itself to the recipient of
the light. It remains “undefined” and infinite like a circle that has
no beginning or end. Yosher represents the Divine light that conforms
to the recipient; it is also called the “kav,” or “line,” which
entered the “hollow” space of Divine concealment after the original tzimtzum.
Yosher refers to the manifestation of Divinity through the ten
sefiros as they are in the form of a man, the triads of Chesed,
Gevurah, Tiferes etc.
One of the examples given for Iggulim
is the soul’s powers as they exist within the soul, before they descend
and manifest in the respective, and different parts of the body. The quality
of energy that the soul delivers to the eye is different than that which
it bestows to the foot. Yet as these powers exist within the soul, before
their manifestation in the body, they are one and indivisible. (The proof
for this is the fact that the energy of the brain, which is “cold and
moist” exists side by side with the “heat and flame” of the heart. If
these powers existed within the soul in a defined form, the “water” of
the brain would douse the “fire” of the heart and vice versa. Thus it
must be said that these powers exist in undefined form within the soul
and can therefore coexist.) See Derech Mitzvosecha 76b.
Iggulim “surrounds” its subject (makkif) and is not internalized.
Yosher, on the other hand, is identified with ohr pnimi,
a light that is internalized by its recipient.
Iggulim is associated with transcendence, faith, beyond nature
and rules, while yosher relates to immanence, intellect and emotions,
internalization, and the natural order.]
This level is expressed in a concealed
way on the earthly plane—where there are differences, and right
is the opposite of left—during a time of “sleep,” when the discriminatory
mind absconds: the time of Exile, when opposites coexist. On the superficial
level this takes place because during Exile the soul’s vision is disturbed.
But on a deeper level, it is because the source of Exile is the level
of Circles, where all is indeed equal and non-contradictory (Torah
This explains a perplexing matter in the
story of Yosef’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream.
Firstly, what was the great genius of
Yosef’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream? And why were the Egyptian wizards
incapable of such a simple interpretation?
Secondly, after interpreting the dream,
Yosef tells Pharaoh to appoint someone to oversee the stockpiling of food.
Why is Yosef giving advice to Pharaoh on how to run his country? He was
asked to interpret a dream, not to dictate domestic policy.
And finally, Pharaoh reacts only to Yosef’s
suggestion—“and the matter was good in his eyes”—not to his interpretation
per se. Why is this?
The main problem with Pharaoh’s dream
was the fact that it contained opposites. The seven fat cows and the seven
lean cows existed together at the same time, before the lean cows ate
the fat cows. Thus the Egyptian wizards were thrown off. If the dream
meant that seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine,
why was there a time when both cows existed together, implying that there
would be plenty and famine simultaneously?
Thus they came up with other interpretations
(such as the one cited by Rashi) that sought to account for this contradiction.
They said that seven daughters would be born to Pharaoh and seven of his
other daughters would die, at the same time. (It is not
implausible that Pharaoh would have 14 daughters at the same time, since—as
the king of the most decadent nation—he presumably had many wives and
Yosef, however, saw the contradiction
as the key to preparing for the upcoming famine. The simultaneous presence
of both types of cows meant to say that during the years of plenty, Egypt
should be conscious of the upcoming famine and prepare for it.
Conversely, when the years of famine would arrive, they would simultaneously
experience the years of plenty by drawing on what had been saved during
So Pharaoh’s dream, which ultimately led
to the father of all Exiles, contains within it the motif of contradiction,
the symbol of Exile, when the “years of plenty”—love for G-d—stand side
by side with the “years of famine”—spiritual lethargy.
And it is Yosef, who stems from the level
of Circles, that sees beyond the immediate contradiction of the dream,
and sees it its source, the level of Circles, where it is not a contradiction
(That Yosef stems from the level of Circles,
i.e., beyond the natural order, can be seen in the fact that he is punished
for asking the butler to mention him to Pharaoh instead of relying entirely
on G-d. Although, normally, one must create natural vessels for G-d’s
blessing—as indeed Yaakov did by sending presents to appease Eisav instead
of relying on miracles—Yosef was different, beyond nature, and was therefore
punished for resorting to natural means (Toras Chaim, Vayechi).
This is also why, unlike his brothers and father, who were all shepherds,
living separate from the mundane world, Yosef was capable of living within
mundane Egypt and at the same time remained Yosef the tzadik. Because
he was beyond nature, he was able to live within it and above it at the
same time. (This is the meaning of “the brothers did not recognize him”—they
could not conceive of a person immersed in the physical world and yet
remain a tzadik (LS 1, Miketz.))
Yosef’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream
is therefore a fitting introduction to the Jewish people’s long history
of Exile: with his interpretation he implanted the seeds of redemption—the
ability to unveil the dream of Exile and reveal its source, the level
of Circles (LS vol. 15).
(This is also the concept of the silver
goblet that Yosef placed in Binyamin’s pack. Kabbalistically, this means
that Yosef implanted the power of redemption within the Jewish people,
which would give them the power to fulfill their mission throughout their
exiles, from Egypt through the subsequent exiles. See Maamorei
Admur Haemtzai, Miketz; Vayigash 5670, and
next week’s essay.)
& [Adapted and
summarized by Rabbi Yosef Marcus.]
From a discourse of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, "the