From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of
13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben
14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben
16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe
Alshech of Tsfat
17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya
18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim
"And he offered sacrifices unto the G-d of his father Isaac"
This verse contains a secret, which the Rabbis revealed to us there in
Bereshith Rabbah: When Jacob was about to go down to Egypt he saw that
the exile was beginning for him and his children, and he feared it, and
so he offered many sacrifices to the Fear of his father Isaac in order
that Divine judgment should not be aimed against him. This he did in Beer
Sheva which was a place of prayer for his father, and from there he had
taken permission when he went to Haran.
Now Scripture uses the word zvachim (a term connoting peace-offerings),
to inform us that they were not burnt-offerings. On account of his fear
of the Eternal, Jacob offered specifically peace-offerings (and not burnt-offerings
as did Noah) in order to bring all Divine attributes into accord towards
him, even as the Rabbis have expounded: "They are called sh'lamim
(peace-offerings) because they bring shalom (peace) into the world."
Now his original intent was directed at the Divine attribute of power,
this being nearest to Isaac. This is the explanation of that which the
Rabbis mentioned in Bereshith Rabbah, i.e., that the duty of honoring
one's father is more imperative than that of honoring one's grandfather.
This explanation applies to that which the Rabbis have said there in yet
another form: "First you greet the pupil and afterward you greet
It does not say here, "and he offered sacrifices to the Eternal,"
(but instead it says, "to the G-d of his father Isaac), " to
show that now in Beer Sheva Jacob had already become privileged to possess
his own portion (and needed only to bring all Divine attributes into accord
towards him but was no longer dependent on his father's merit), as it
is said, Thou wilt give truth to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as Thou hast
sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.
"'It's too much!' said Yisrael
As long as his prophetic spirit had not been restored to him, the Torah
referred to him only as Yaakov. Now that he had regained this additional
spiritual dimension he is once more referred to as Yisrael. We have 18
instances from here until the end of the Book of Genesis where Yaakov
is referred to as Yisrael, such as 46:1; 46:5; 46:8; 46:29; to name but
a few. The reason that G-d called him "Yaakov" in 46:2 whereas
the Torah (G-d Himself) had referred to him as Yisrael in the same verse
was because the journey to Egypt was a voluntary exile on the part of
Yaakov and it was not appropriate that the name Yisrael which denotes
authority, victory, etc., should be applied to someone who exiles himself
and subordinates himself to a human ruler. Once G-d had called him by
the name Yaakov, it is not surprising to see that the Torah reverts to
use of the name (compare 46:5, 46:6, 46:8, 46:19, 46:26; 46:27, etc.).
When the Torah (46:5) nonetheless speaks of "the sons of Israel
carried their father Yaakov, etc.," the message of the Torah is that
Yaakov's descent to Egypt involved both his names, i.e. although at this
stage he had become an exile, ultimately, --through the exile experience
in Egypt-- he (his people) would be redeemed there and would emerge as
more deserving of the name Bnei Yisrael than before. This is the reason
that in the verse mentioned the sons of Yaakov are referred to as Bnei
Yisrael rather than as the Bnei Yaakov. The Torah could have
simple written "Yaakov's sons carried him, etc." We have this
concept repeated at the beginning of the Book of Exodus where the Torah
speaks of: "these are the children of Israel who came down to Egypt."
The same verse goes on naming them as "Yaakov and his sons."
These are the very ones who in the future would be called "the children
"I am Yosef! Is my father still alive? ....I am Joseph your brother.
You sold me into Egypt...." [45:3-4]
Why does Joseph immediately ask 'is my father still alive'?
Why did Joseph have to repeat "I am Joseph your brother!?"
Joseph, who had reached a stage when he could no longer suppress his
tears, because his pity had been stirred up, called out 'I am Joseph'.
In order that his brothers should not think that what was uppermost in
his mind was the abuse he had suffered from his brothers, he immediately
asked about his father. He did not want his brothers to think that his
tears were for himself, but to know that they were for the anguish his
father had suffered. In the event the reader would think that the brothers'
inability to respond was due to their not believing Joseph, the Torah
explained that they felt too ashamed to make a reply.
Alternately, Joseph expressed amazement that G-d had not made him privy
to the fact that his father was still alive although the holy spirit had
departed from him until he received the news that Joseph was alive (45:27)
and, "the spirit of their father revived."
Once the brothers that Joseph had not changed his name, that he referred
to himself as Joseph, they approached him to examine his features and
to confirm that the tzelem elokim, the image of G-d, was still
visible on his face. When the brothers saw that his face shone, reflected
spiritual purity, they were overcome.
Regarding the rulership of Joseph, its only purpose was to enable the
Jewish people to be forged into a single nation, and the kingdom of Judah
[from David] to be established. The brothers did not understand this.
They believed that Joseph wanted royalty for its own sake, for both himself
and his descendants. This is why they went to Dotan to devise legal schemes,
to judge him according to Torah law. They all came to the conclusion that
he was guilty of death. Even the sons of Zilpah and Bilhah, who were Joseph's
closest friends, agreed that from the point of view of justice, Joseph
He had disputed the authority of the kingdom of David. Anyone doing so
is guilty of death. Insubordination against the kingdom of David is equated
with insubordination against the Shechina itself.
This is why his brothers wanted to kill Joseph when he revealed himself
and they saw that he had become king. The fact that he had realized [what
they believed to have been] his ambition made him only more guilty in
"Do not be afraid
for I will make you into a great nation
In order to understand the whole concept of exile, I must preface by
quoting a tradition we have in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and
his colleagues (recorded in Likutey Torah, Miketz).
The purpose of the various exiles is to isolate segments of sanctity
which are scattered within various branches of the klipah, the
"peel" surrounding the kernel which is all sanctity. Inasmuch
as Egypt was full of abominations [manifestations of such klipah]
and impurity had its "headquarters" in that country, it was
no more than natural that many such segments of sanctity were scattered
throughout that country. In fact the amounts of such scattered segments
of sanctity are usually proportionate to the amount of impurity and defilement
that abound in a certain area or environment.
This phenomenon originated as soon as Adam sinned. It has been Israel's
task to "rescue" all those splinters of sanctity and to make
them part of a whole. Our sages (quoted in Likutey Torah on Parshat Vayeshev)
have said that the nation that left Egypt and experienced the revelation
at Mount Sinai was previously captive within this klipah called
Egypt. It is to such a nation that Moses said in Deut. 4:8: "who
is a great nation possessing such righteous statutes, etc."
G-d told Jacob that the purpose of Israel spending time in exile in Egypt
was to enable it to develop into this great nation. "The great nation"
[all the fragments of sanctity] at that time was "lost" amongst
all the Egyptians and it had to be isolated and then led out from there.
Unless Jacob descended to Egypt at this time, there would be no hope of
accomplishing this. It was because Jacob represented sanctity in a powerful
and concentrated form that he could become the "magnet" which
would attract the various scattered segments of sanctity that still abounded
in Egypt in an ineffectual form.
This is the meaning of the statement in Bereshit Rabbah 79,1 that Jacob
did not depart from this world until he had seen 600,000 descendants.
These 600,000 were the ones who endured persecution there and were ultimately
refined in what our sages are fond of calling the "iron crucible,"
which welded the Jewish people into a nation and enabled them to leave
Egypt after having been refined.
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher
and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or
'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in
the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated
English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B.
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The
Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu
Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding
pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple
of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have
been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech,
the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed
in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served
as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as
the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916,
Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the
city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem
and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus
opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book
with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his
formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim:
the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated
by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco,
on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of
Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was
on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker,
hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only
to his Torah commentary.