Parsha Vayeshev – Under The Surface of the Patriarchs
I’m going to speak about Parasha Vayeshev. I’d like to bring a few points about it, and the common denominator of all of them is that the Patriarchs always have a lot going on under the surface.
While the rest of us might simply pay attention to what’s happening on the surface level, they force us to pay attention to what’s going on under the surface of human behavior.
Here are my points:
My first point is this – Jacob’s brothers reported to their father Yaakov that Jacob had been killed, and Yaakov heard the news. But for the twenty-two years he didn’t see his son, Yaakov did not believe it. Because the heart of a parent knows the truth about another family member. There’s a natural removal of their presence from the heart, in a painful way, not in any king of a threatening way. We never completely get over our connections, but in this situation Yaakov knew that Jacob must be alive, despite the reports he heard.
Under the surface, the heart knows what is really going on with someone in their own family. We have a mechanism called the labush, which is the metaphysical connection between family members, or a rebbe and his students, or very, very close friends. Labush informs us, and though it may be reported one way on a surface level, under the surface we know better.
My second point is this – the potential husbands of Judah’s daughter-in-law, Tamar, were named Er and Onan. Due to their reluctance or reticence to impregnate their potential wife, they opted to spill their seminal fluid on the ground. They would rather have beauty than a true soul relationship, and they were wrong. They died, and the Torah tells us about the ramifications of their actions.
The lesson we learn is that beauty is more than skin-deep, which is another under-the-surface manifestation.
My third point is this – Joseph was sold to the House of Potiphera in Egypt. Potifera’s wife, one of the elite of Egyptian society, had sexual designs on Joseph, who was running the household. She tried to get him into bed and almost succeeded. What appeared in the mind of Joseph, just in the nick of time, was an image of his father. As a result, Joseph ran from the room and never had relations with her.
Though we may feel impassioned in certain circumstances, underneath the surface there is the voice of sanity, of morality… the voice of our fathers, telling us to keep away from danger.
My fourth point is this – Joseph’s personality personifies the Sefira of Yesod, which represents a very different attitude toward people than his brothers had when they sold him into slavery. Joseph’s brothers did not have the same “people-ing” attitude, the ability to go out and mix it up with the world.
But Joseph did have the ability and the skills, which ultimately led him to become second in control of the most powerful nation on earth. He fed the whole world successfully, while his brothers kept to themselves, away from society, building their holiness in a more modest way.
What’s under the surface in this situation is that both Joseph and his brothers had their unique purposes in Creation. We can’t judge based on the surface level alone. So, we have to understand that what may seem right or wrong has more going on under the surface of the story.
My fifth point is this –Judah and Tamar, who had relations and gave birth to the lineage of King David, ultimately established the line that will lead to Messiah. The incident, which seems contrary to morality, is similar to Er and Onan spilling seed on the ground at home. We learned that these instances help us understand that when Messiah comes he’ll be equipped to understand us all, and to say, “nobody’s got anything on me.” That is exactly why he is able to fix up the world.
Though we may see many issues on the surface, of questionable morality and lineage, under the surface the Moshiach will eventually come forth.
My sixth point is this- We learn a lot from Joseph’s dreams, and one of the most important things is that the truth of a dream reveals the truth of a person. The more truthful a person is, the more believable are their dreams. We see this with great scholars whose full-length, scholarly works on Torah came from their dreams. They were truthful and their dreams were as truthful.
Although a dream is, by definition under the surface, because it is not a waking reality, it can be a powerful manifestation of truth from a truthful person.
Finally, Yaakov spent his first hundred and thirty years with incredible suffering. And though he felt as if he had paid his dues, probably more than any other Biblical character, with the exception of Job, he never got release from anxiety until the last seventeen years of his life. His first hundred and thirty years were miserable, and it showed on his face. But we can’t judge him based on that because he obviously had things to fix up. The lesson here is this – though it may seem as though we deserve a break in this world, that’s not what this world is all about. Under the surface this world is all about fixing up unfinished business, and we don’t have a say in how easy or difficult that’s going to be.
So, we have to simply keep on keepin’ on.
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