Topic: Personal Transformation | Posted:December 2, 2015
In the beginning of the portion Vayeshev, Joseph tells his brothers what seem to be grandiose dreams about himself, which is surprising because Joseph knows they are very jealous of him. He says of one dream, "We're gathering wheat in the field and my stalks stand up, and all of your wheat bows down to mine,” indicating that somehow Joseph is more important than the rest of them, and will come to a way of ruling over them. However, they all know that shouldn't be true; they know that Yehuda is going to be the leader of the brothers. But Joseph seems to indicate in these dreams that he is going to become the leader.
He then has another dream which indicates that the sun and the moon, representing his father and mother, and the eleven stars, representing his eleven brothers, will also come and bow down towards him. His father, Jacob, seems to get angry at him and asks, “What is this dream? Do you think that myself, your mother who isn’t even here because she has passed away, and your eleven brothers are going to come and bow down to you?”
So the question, of course, is what is the real secret of this dream? The kabbalists explain that there's a time for growing, for revealing Light in the Light. But then there is also a time which is probably even greater: a time for revealing Light in darkness, revealing Light when a person has fallen.
What the kabbalists teach is that when Joseph is speaking of his father, mother, and brothers bowing down to him, it means that even when he is down in Egypt, in the lowest place, the power of his father and his mother will come and support him there. And that actually happened.
We are familiar with the story of when Joseph was tested with the wife of Potiphar, who tried to seduce him. He knew it was the wrong thing to do, but there came a point when he almost fell, and as he was about to succumb to the wife of Potiphar, it says that he saw the face of Jacob, his father. Because he saw his father’s face, he got the strength not to fall further, not to fall with the wife of Potiphar.
The kabbalists explain that assistance which Joseph received in Egypt is what he's referring to in the dream; when Joseph says "…even when I will fall low," he's not only talking about himself, he's talking about all of us. Even when we fall low, the assistance of the Light of the Creator will come down to help us as it helped Joseph when he fell all the way down in Egypt and was about to fall even further with the wife of Potiphar.
The secret of Jacob bowing down to Joseph, therefore, is actually that Jacob brought himself down from his elevated state to the low level where Joseph was at the time, and assisted him from there. So, what we gain from this Shabbat is really the clarity that no matter how far a person falls, the assistance from tzadikim, the assistance from the Light of the Creator, always comes down to that place. But it's even more than that.
It is not a coincidence that this portion comes when we are about to enter into the holiday of Chanukah, because the Light of Chanukah is the same Light that is revealed in the dream of Joseph. The Light of Chanukah is unlike the Light of the other holidays whose connections occur in the beginning of the month. The beginning of the month represents the time when the Light is growing, and the end of the month is the time when the Light is weaning. That's why, for instance, the kabbalists say if a person has a choice to do something important, it is better to do it in the first half of the month, because that's when the Light is growing and that's when the greatest connections are available. This is why all the important connections occur in the beginning of the month. But Chanukah is different. It occurs specifically at the end of the month, specifically in the winter time, when the nights are longer, because it is the time that the darkness is stronger.
Therefore, the secret of Chanukah, which is different than the other holiday connections, is the secret of going down into darkness. On Chanukah is the only time of the year when the Shechinah goes all the way down, which is an assistance to all of us. Chanukah is the elevation of everybody, no matter what.
The secret of the dream of Joseph is that it is an awakening of Jacob and Rachel, of the patriarchs and matriarchs and the Light of the Creator to go all the way down into the darkness, and from that darkness, elevate Light. Therefore, an understanding we need to have about the Shabbat of Vayeshev and this time of year as we prepare for Chanukah is that it's a time for even the lowest souls to receive assistance and elevation. But what's more important is to realize that it's really in the times of darkness and in the times when a person falls that offer the greatest opportunity to reveal Light.