Topic: Kabbalistic Concepts | Posted:November 27, 2013
It says in the Zohar that Joseph, Yosef HaTzadik, did not achieve the level of being righteous until he stood strong against the advances of the wife of Potiphar. And from there, we learn two important ideas: one is that a person cannot have a connection to Yosef HaTzadik, to the level of Yesod, without standing up to his or her innate desires, specifically when it’s sexual desires. Second, is that the only way Joseph achieved greatness was by breaking down this desire.
It says in the portion of Miketz that Joseph achieved the level of being the ruler in the land. This does not just mean that historically thousands of years ago Joseph ruled over Egypt, but also it’s talking about every single one of us. How can we become the ruler? How can we become somebody who really has control over things – to not only have the power to rule over our own lives, but also the ability to give over this Light, strength, and blessings to others?
It says in the Midrash that Joseph merited to be both the shalit and the mashbir, both the ruler and the one who can give over these blessings to others, because he was able to fight his desire to be with the wife of Potiphar. The word mashbir indicates the ability to give over, to be a channel, and comes from the word lishbor, “to break.”So what the Midrash is teaching us is that only if we are breaking our desires can we merit to be a shalit, a ruler, in our own lives. Meaning, a person can be doing all kinds of great spiritual work, and helping, he thinks, all kinds of people. But if he’s not breaking his own desire he cannot be a person who’s truly giving over blessings to other people.
It wasn’t just that Joseph became ruler over Egypt and the channel for both physical and spiritual sustenance for all people at the moment when he fought his desire to be with the wife of Potiphar; it was because from that point on, the rest of his life was a breaking. Joseph was constantly breaking his desire, and was therefore able to consistently be a conduit of sustenance – both physical and spiritual – to all the world.
We know that the Light is ever flowing. However, as Rav Ashlag explains, there are masachim, barriers, between ourselves and the Light. When a person has a daily test of desire, it is a masach, a barrier between himself and the Light. If you break down that barrier, you’ve opened up Light for yourself. Often when a test comes, we think, “I don’t know why it’s coming. But it’s coming and I have to fight it.” A person might fail or succeed in this test. But we have to understand it’s the other way around; the reason why a test comes is because there’s great Light about to come. Every time great Light is going to come into a person’s life the Negative Side is given the opportunity to build the barrier to that Light. And the barrier to that Light is the test, an awakening of negative-based desire.
So now we realize that every time a test comes it’s because this great Light needs to come, and the Negative Side is given the opportunity to block that Light by giving us a test that we can fail. But if a person breaks that desire, he breaks down that wall that was going to be put out by the Negative Side, and the Light that was supposed to flow to him flows. Because every day, in great ways and in small ways, the Light of the Creator is awakened to flow to us. The desires that we have are the beginning of the putting up of that barrier between ourselves and the Light. And if we break that desire then we merit the Light that was already on its way to come to us.
This is an idea that’s important for this Shabbat and important for Chanukah. What it does is really clarify where we are in our spiritual work. Because all the lies that we tell ourselves about all the great things that we are doing and all the spiritual work that we are doing mean nothing if we are not breaking. That’s the question to ask ourselves all the time: which masach, which barrier, which desire, am I constantly breaking? Put aside all the spiritual work that you’re doing, and just ask yourself that question. Because what we learn from Joseph is the only way to become a ruler, the only way to become a mashbir, to be somebody who can be a conduit, a flow of great Light and blessings to other people, is if a person is breaking his desire.