Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yosef - The Blessed River

"Behold, out of the River there emerged seven cows, of pleasing appearance and healthy flesh, and they were grazing in the marshland." (Bereishit 41:2)

The Zohar discusses Pharaoh's dream, in which he saw seven fat cows emerging from the river, which were swallowed by seven emaciated cows.  He then saw seven sheaves of full healthy stalks of wheat which were swallowed up by seven sheaves of withered and emaciated wheat.

The only image in Pharaoh's dream that is not interpreted by Yosef is the river. The river is taken to mean the Nile, which was the source of sustenance for all of Egypt.

What is the meaning of the river in Pharaoh's dream?

It is the river from which all of the levels below are blessed, because this river is drawn down and goes forth to irrigate and nourish them all - Yosef is the river for whom all of Egypt was blessed.

(In Kabbalah, the river that sustains all of the lower levels is the attribute of Yosef - the sefira of yesod of the world of Atzilut, which draws down the waters of the world of Atzilut into Beriya.)

The Jewish people came down to Egypt to elevate the holy sparks that fell into the physical world when the world of Tohu shattered. This is what was being shown to Yosef in Pharaoh's dreams.


The Miracle of Chanukah - Who Knows Eight?

The number 'eight' calls us to see miracles in the order of nature

 The miracle of Chanukah, that the lights of the Menorah lasted for eight days, is not accidental, but intrinsic.
The number eight represents G-d's transcendence above and beyond this world.

Who Knows Eight?

By Avraham Sutton

That the overt miracle of Chanukah, the lighting of the Menorah, lasted for eight days, is not accidental, but intrinsic. The Torah informs us that G-d created the world in six days and ceased working on the seventh, the Shabbat. The number six can thus be said to represent the natural world that was created in six days (time) with its six spatial directions (east-west, north-south, up-down). The number seven represents G-d's immanence, the hidden presence of the Divine at the heart and core of this world. In other words, seven is the very soul of six, permeating it, instilling it with (transcendent) holiness, and elevating it to its perfection. The next number, eight, represents G-d's transcendence above and beyond this world. Like all miracles, Chanukah happened from the level of "eight", that which is beyond natural law. However, being the last miracle of its kind until the coming of Mashiach, Chanuka had to embody "eight" in a unique, special way. It had to breathe "eight". This oil represents…the Jew's potential to awaken from the deepest slumber of exile

In Hebrew, the word shemonah (eight) has the same exact letters as hashemen (the oil), neshama (soul), and mishna (transmitted teaching). As recorded in the Talmud, the Syrian-Greeks had entered the Temple and sullied all its oil. This oil represents the deepest level of the Jewish soul. It represents the Jew's potential to awaken from the deepest slumber of exile, to come to life even (and perhaps especially) under the most trying circumstances. Only one jar of pure oil was found, sealed with the seal of the Kohen Gadol (high priest), the holiest Jew, who embodied the level of "eight" by virtue of the eight special garments he wore when serving in the Temple.

The siddur informs us that it was Mattityahu the Chashmonai (Mattithiah the Hasmonean) and his sons who rallied the Jews to defend the Torah and fight against the Greeks. The name Chashmonai has two components, the letter chet, the eighth letter of the aleph-bet, followed by the word for oil, shemen. Thus, the Cha-shemonai family embodied the power of Eight. Eight beckons us to transcend the constrictions of time and space

"Eight" beckons us to transcend the constrictions of time and space, to see through a world that disguises G-dliness and threatens to engulf our souls in materiality. "Eight" calls us to see miracles in the order of nature, in confusing events of our individual and collective lives, in the hidden pathways of Divine Providence that guide us.

"Eight" can rouse us from our collective slumber. By reminding us of the time when G-d did indeed overtly "interfere" with and "alter" the "natural" course of history, it quickens our anticipation of the revelation of G-d's salvation that we await in our time.