From Yosef’s perspective, even if the brothers hadn’t actually violated anything, they were guilty at least of making it look as if they had, and for B’nei Ya’akov, that’s not right. After all, they were the fathers of the future Jewish nation, a people who would have to one day abide by the concept of ma’aris ayin—what appears to the eye—a halacha to never make it look as if you are transgressing, even when you know what you are doing is completely permissible; this applies even in privacy (Shabbos 64b).
Just to show how dangerous ma’aris ayin can be, the Talmud states:
The students asked Rebi Shimon bar Yochai,Thus, Yosef, by reporting his brothers’ actions to their father, had indirectly taught them what our rabbis later expounded:
“Why did the enemies of the Jews (a euphemism for Jews that transgress) of that generation warrant destruction?”
He told them, “You tell me!”
“Because they took pleasure from the feast of that evil one (Achashveros).”
“If so, then only those in Shushan should have incurred death; not those who lived elsewhere.”
They told him, “Then, you tell us!”
“Because they bowed down to the idol.”
“Then why did they merit the miracle?”
“Because they did so only for appearance sake (out of fear), and therefore, God acted towards them only for appearance sake.” (Megillah 12a)
Rebi said: Which is the proper path that a person should choose? Whatever is a credit to himself and earns the respect of his fellow men. (Pirke Avos 2:1)Yosef was teaching them that,
... A person has to appear innocent before man just as he does before God, as it says, “Then you will be absolved before God and Yisroel ...” (BaMidbar 32:22). (Shekalim 12b)However, though Yosef’s charges against his brothers may have been valid, the midrash makes it clear that telling his father constituted loshon hara. And if speaking honorably hastens the geulah (Chapter Four; Pirke Avos 6:6), then speaking unsuitably certainly hastens a golus, and that’s what happened to Yosef and his brothers.
This explains why Yosef was exiled down into Egypt; it does not clarify why Yosef was ensnared by his master’s wife after he got there. For that, there is a different reason:
Yosef was of beautiful form ... (Bereishis 39:6)The “bear,” of course, refers to the wife of Potiphar. However, of all the animals with which to compare a beautiful temptress, the bear seems the least likely—unless, of course, one takes into account that the bear is also the symbol of a nation: Persia (Avodah Zara 2b). Is this another connection between Yosef’s exile and the one into Babylonia forty generations later?As soon as he saw that he was ruler [of Potiphar’s house], he began to eat and drink and curl his hair. The Holy One, Blessed is He, said, “Your father is mourning and you curl your hair (me-sulsel sa’arecha)?! I will let a ‘bear’ loose against you.” (Rashi)
Even the concept of “curling hair” can have special meaning, and be considered connected to da’as:
The rabbis didn’t know what the following meant: “Esteem (suls’leihah) it [Torah], and it will exalt you” (Mishlei 4:8; i.e., why the word “suls’leihah” was used in connection to the Torah), until they heard Rebi’s handmaid say to someone busying himself with his hair, “For how long will you curl your hair (me-sulsel sa’arecha)?” (Megillah 18a)In other words, Torah has to be constantly “turned over” in order to penetrate its depths in search of its soul, in pursuit of sod. This is what the rabbis have taught:We have learned that “curling” can mean searching and turning over. (Rashi)
Ben Bag Bag said: Turn it [Torah] over and over again, for everything is in it ... (Pirke Avos 5:26)This is just like Purim. Purim is a story of appearances, and of how they yield to deeper truths. Megillos Esther does not discuss how God first abandoned the Jewish people, and then returned just in time to save them. The story of Purim is a revelation of how, even when it appeared as if God was ignoring the Jewish people, He had been, in fact, engineering their dramatic redemption ...
Turn it over and over again, for the hand of God is within it ...This is why Purim is a holiday of nepoch (nun, peh, vav, chof)- hu, of events turning around, of the nun—the Nun Sha’arei Binah—turning around:
We already know from the Torah that an upside down nun is associated with punishment (BaMidbar 10:35).
The rabbis taught: When the Aron traveled ... Moshe spoke this parsha and God made markers (i.e., an upside down nun) above and below it, to indicate that this is not its place ... Rebi Shimon ben Gamliel said: In the future this parsha will be taken from here and written in its proper place. Why was it written here? To separate between the first punishment and the second punishment. (Shabbos 115b)Thus, Torah is meant to be “curled,” not hair. Instead of being concerned about his appearance, Yosef should have been concerned about the appearance of the events, and what they were leading to. He should have been delving deeper into the sha’arim, and not his sa’aros. [The root word for “gate” and “hair” is the same: shin, ayin, raish, and according to Kabballah, it is for very deep reasons. The gate here refers to the Fifty Gates of Understanding.] Failure to do so is to bring on golus, and to lengthen it, as we see from the following:
[Interestingly enough, the entire parsha consists of eighty-five letters, the gematria of the word “here” (peh, heh) used in the possuk where Avraham tells Eliezer and Yishmael to stay behind (See Chapter Five).]
Yosef told him [the wine steward] ... “Please remember me when it goes well for you. Have mercy upon me and mention me to Paroah, and bring me out of this place. I was stolen from the land of the Hebrews, and I didn’t do anything [wrong] here either to warrant being put into this pit.” (Bereishis 40:14)What did Yosef do wrong? The Talmud (Shabbos 32a) teaches that a Jew is not supposed to rely upon miracles. Yosef had made a concerted effort to free himself from bondage, so why should he be penalized with an extra two years?And he [the wine steward] forgot him: Since Yosef had placed his trust in him ... he was forced to remain in prison two more years. (Rashi, Bereishis 40:23)
It is the last part of Yosef’s statement that provides the clue:
I was stolen from the land of the Hebrews, and I didn’t do anything [wrong] here either to warrant being put into this pit.From Yosef’s words, it sounded like a bad thing happened to a good person, the quintessential paradox that results from hidden Divine Providence. Emunah in the face of such a tragedy is, from the prophet’s point of view, the essence of Torah:
Chavakuk came and reduced [the mitzvos] down to one [essential mitzvah]: The Tzadik lives with his faith ... (Chavakuk 2:4). (Makkos 24a)All mitzvos are critical, and no one has the right to pick and choose which ones he will perform (unless the Torah itself provides that choice). However, the prophet pointed out, the central theme of all mitzvos is the same:
Shema Yisroel, Hashem is Elokim, Hashem is One.And it is not enough to believe this in one’s heart; all of one’s actions, words, and thoughts must express this belief—this is the true sanctification of God’s Holy Name.
What business did Yosef have revealing to the wine-steward, a complete stranger, the details of how he arrived in jail? All he had to do was ask the wine steward to remember him for favorably interpreting his dream. What a tremendous sanctification of God’s Name it would have been if the wine steward had recognized the hand of God through Yosef, as it was recognizable through the Mishkan.
Instead, the wine steward left prison with a lowly impression of a poor Jew, taken advantage of once again by those mightier than he. It was Shechem all over again. Indeed, the wine steward left with only an impression of hester panim—the kind associated with Purim:
Where is Esther alluded to in the Torah? “And I will certainly hide (hester astir) My face ...” (Devarim 31:18). (Chullin 139b)However, from the midrash, it is clear that just as God used Haman as a vehicle to bring about a great revelation of Divine Light, Providence, so too did the events of Yosef’s life act as a catalyst to elevate him to second-in-command over Egypt. Better yet, Yosef’s struggle, and the suffering of his entire family, have been an critical component of the completion of Jewish history:
The tribes were involved with the sale of Yosef; Yosef was immersed in mournful thoughts about his separation from his father; Reuven was involved with mourning over his sin; Ya’akov was mourning for Yosef; Yehuda was busy taking a wife for himself (Tamar) ... And the Holy One, Blessed is He, was busy creating the light of Moshiach. (Bereishis Rabbah 85:2)Perhaps this is why after the extra two years were over Yosef acted differently. Instead, while standing before Paroah after being released prison, Yosef kept emphasizing to Paroah that any interpretation of his dreams would come directly from God, albeit through him. What a tremendous Kiddush Hashem—sanctification of God’s Name—that must have been!
Yosef was, at that point, completely in touch with Da’as Elokim. Is it any wonder that it was his aron (coffin) that later split the Yum (Yum in Hebrew is equal to fifty) Suf (after the Jews left Egypt), because in his lifetime he had sanctified his vision? (Bereishis Rabbah 87:10; Tanchuma, Parashas Nasso; yum, spelt “yud-mem” equals “50,” and alludes to the Fifty Gates of Understanding.) Perhaps, this is why Yosef’s descendants can never be affected by the ayin harah—the evil eye (Brochos 20a); in the words of the Talmud, he never ate from that which was forbidden to him (i.e., his master’s wife).
Thus, in the course of Yosef’s journey since he had first arrived in Egypt, he had gone from “curling his hair” to “curling” the Torah, to looking deeper into the events of his life in search of the hidden hand of God. And in the process, he had become a vehicle for the light of Torah Sh’b’al Peh, for the da’as of the Fifty Gates of Understanding.
Yosef had indicated all this to his father Ya’akov by sending him the wine as a gift, the true wine that brings peace of mind to the Elders. And, Ya’akov indicated this to Yosef, that he too had reconciled the gap between what he saw of God, and what he knew of Him, but uttering the Shema upon reuniting with his son after twenty-two, long, hard years of separation. (Rashi, Bereishis 46:29)
Forty generations later, when Esther wanted to know why Mordechai was sitting at the King’s gate dressed in sackcloth:
Esther summoned Hasach, one of the King’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordechai, to find out what this (mah-zeh) was all about and why (veh ol mah-zeh). (Esther 4:5)What Esther was really asking Mordechai was:
Perhaps Yisroel has transgressed the Five Books of the Torah, as it says, “The Tablets were written on both sides (mi-zeh u’mi-zeh heim)” (Shemos 32:15). (Megillah 15a)Esther saw the unprecedented crisis facing her people, and understood that it was a Divine message. She knew from Mordechai that Amalek grows only within the spiritual vaccuum left by the absence of Torah-clarity, the absence of clarity on the level of:
Zeh Keli v’anveihu—This is my God, and I will glorify Him.However, she also perceived an abandonment. Where was God? Why was this happening to her and her people? Where would it all end, for good, or God forbid, for bad. Esther was only too aware of what Haman’s rise to power meant, and she sensed the gap between Hashem and Elokim widening.
[Even the battle of Gog and Magog, the final war before Moshiach restores Torah and the Jewish people to their former glory, alludes to this: in gematria Gog (3+6+3=12) + and Magog (6+40+3+6+3=52) is equal to 70.]
Esther wasn’t the only one. Achashveros’ elaborate feast was made to celebrate the end of the seventy years prophecized by Yirmiyahu. It was a celebration over the fact that God had once-and-for-all abandoned His people. It was a ceremony to mark the end of the Temple era—forever. To make this point clear to his Jewish subjects, Achashveros brazenly drank wine from vessels from the Temple—made from the gifts of Jewish hearts (the vessels of Mishkan were called “T’rumos HaLevi,” gifts of the heart; see Shemos 25:1)—and donned the clothing of the Kohen Gadol.
There was no mistaking his message: Judaism is dead—your hearts now belong to me. Your da’as is my da’as, he alluded to the forlorn Jewish nation, and for this reason, Achashveros made sure that the Jews did not become intoxicated at his celebration (Megillah 12a), as if to deny them the sod, of Torah.
Of course, he had been very wrong, and the mitzvos performed on the day of Purim accentuate this point. In fact, all four mitzvos can be understood in a similar vein, as devices to counteract all that Achashveros and Haman had tried to bring about.
The first mitzvah of the day is the reading of the Megillah itself, to which we must play extra close attention and not miss even one word. For, according to the Talmud, Megillos Esther is far more than a recounting of a great miracle, it is Hallel—holy praise of God (Megillah 14a), which is strange when you consider that God’s Name is no where to be found throughout the entire Megillos Esther!
Traditionally, Hallel is a specific selection of Tehillim recited on holidays and Rosh Chodesh to directly praise God. The bulk of Tehillim was written by Dovid HaMelech, who lived for seventy years, who was the source of Moshiach, and of whom it is written:
He was ruddy, with beautiful eyes. (Shmuel 16:12)As the midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 66:3) points out, this was also a reference to the fact that Dovid HaMelech would always consult the Sanhedrin, the “eyes” of the people, when making his decisions.
Two things are clear from Tehillim. The first one is that the author was someone who suffered a lot in his lifetime. Indeed, the lives of God’s chosen are often difficult, but Dovid HaMelech’s was exceptionally hard. Throughout his life, his kingship, and even his lineage, were constantly in question and were not resolved until after his death. (Shabbos 30a) His own son usurped the throne and forced Dovid to flee like a bandit (Shmuel 2:25:1); before his rule, the previous king, Shaul HaMelech, wanted to kill him. One wonders if Dovid HaMelech ever knew a moment of peace!
Yet, through the words of Tehillim, the second point emerges: in spite of all of Dovid HaMelech’s troubles, not only did he not lose faith in God, but he turned each event around to strengthen his trust in the hand of God. Tehillim is a testimony to the level to which Dovid HaMelech took the message of the Shema to heart. In Tehillim, Hashem and Elokim are One.
It is easy to see why Tehillim is the basis of Hallel. The hand of God in each tehilla is revealed and openly praised. However, it is not so easy to see why Megillos Esther constitutes a form of Hallel. The Megillah makes no direct mention of God, so how is that tehilla?
The answer to the question has to do with the difference between the time periods. Dovid HaMelech’s life occurred during the thousand year period of prophecy (2448-3448/1313-313 BCE), whereas, Megillos Esther records events that occurred after the close of that period. In fact, the Talmud discusses whether or not Megillos Esther was written with ruach hakodesh at all! (Megillah 7a; i.e., Divine Spirit.)
During the period of prophecy, during which the hand of God was readily visible to the normal eye when the Jewish people merited it, Tehillim could be written and recorded. It remains to be an overt reference to the hand of God, Who worked overtly in the lives of the Jews.
However, the dark days of Achashveros and Haman posed a different challenge. Then, the challenge was to see the hand of God which worked in the lives of the Jews, covertly. Exile represents the banishment of the vision of God from the physical, outer eye to the spiritual, inner eye—the mind’s eye. It was for this “eye” that Megillos Esther was written, for if the mind’s eye can grasp the mysterious, hidden “exiled” hand of God, then we can redeem it, and make it possible for the physical eye to see and share that vision too.
On that day, God will be One, and His Name will be One. (Zechariah 14:9)For this reason, Megillos Esther is indeed Hallel, but of a different nature. It words were recorded for the physical eye, but its message is an allusion for the mind’s eye. Hence, God is not overtly referred to, but, on the level of hint, the reality of God emanates from each letter and word (an example of this is that every time the Megillah refers to Achashveros as “the King,” as opposed to “king” only, it refers to God), bringing into reality the message of the Shema. [We read the official Hallel on Chanukah since, having occurred in Eretz Yisroel, the hand of God worked more overtly.]
Regarding the other mitzvos for the day of Purim, we learn about them from the Megillah itself:
Mordechai recorded these events and sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Achashveros, near and far, requiring them to annually observe the fourteen and fifteenth days of Adar as days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and the month which had been transformed for them from one of sorrow to gladness, and from mourning to festivity. They were to observe them as days of feasting and gladness, and for sending delicacies to one another, and gifts to the poor. (Esther 9:20)The next mitzvah, referred to above, is Matanos L’Evyonim. The Rambam (Hilchos Megillah 2:16) states that, on Purim, there is a mitzvah to give tzedakah to anyone who “stretches forth his hand” to receive it. However, there is a specific mitzvah on Purim day to give one gift each to two poor persons, in the form of either money, food, or drink; even a gift of clothing fulfills this mitzvah.
Tzedakah is a difficult mitzvah to do properly. Is it a mitzvah to merely help another person out in a time of need, or does it demand something more? The very fact that charity is called tzedakah, which means righteousness, indicates that a “balance” of sorts occurs when tzedakah is given, or, at least it should.
Wealth is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it provides a person with invaluable independence:
And all the substance that was at their feet ... (Devarim 11:6)On the other hand, money can be too great a spiritual challenge, providing too much independence, to the point that one can come to believe in his own greatness. Wealth breeds confidence, since it is valuable in the eyes of man, and confidence so often leads to condescendence. For this reason, the Talmud warns the well-to-do:This refers to the money of a man which stands him on his feet. (Pesachim 119a)
Be careful with the poor, for it is from them that Torah will emanate. (Nedarim 81a)The machtzis-hashekel was an equal obligation on poor and rich alike; a poor person could not give less than one-half shekel, and a rich person could not give more. This emphasized the point that rich or poor, we are all equal before God, differentiated only by how much effort we make to use what we have been given to serve God:
According to the effort is the reward. (Pirke Avos 5:22)Matanos L’Evyonim emphasizes the same message, and is a throwback to the machtzis-hashekel. Its emphasis on equality is a crucial second step along the march to the unity of k’ish echad b’leiv echad, and the da’as of the Fifty Gates of Understanding. However, it is only the second step along this road to unity, for the equality alluded to is mostly symbolic, since most people of means have great difficulty elevating the poorer element of the population in their own eyes.
Mishloach Manos is an important third step, for, it is not a gift from one of means to one in need, but a gift between equals; it is the level of k’ish echad b’leiv echad. The simple halacha is to send two gifts of food to one person, but, in the words of the Rambam (Hilchos Megillah 2:14), the more friends one sends to, the more praiseworthy he is, for unity is the goal of Purim.
Since Mishloach Manos is a gift, but specifically of food, it is an interface of sorts between the previous mitzvah, Matanos L’Evyonim, and the next mitzvah, Seudos Purim.
Seudos Purim is the greatest tikun of the day, since it does not atone just for the seudah enjoyed by the weaker element in the days of Achashveros, but because it is an achilah b’kedusha—a holy eating—to rectify the original eating from the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah. It was that first eating sh’lo b’kedusha that lowered the da’as of all mankind, and forced the Shechina into exile.
The problem was not that Adam atefrom the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah, but when he did, three hours before Shabbos. [Hence the mitzvah of Orlah, of obstaining from eating of the fruit of a tree within its first three years (Pri Tzadik, Erev Yom Kippur, 1).] Eating from the tree on Shabbos would have been an achila b’kedusha, an eating within holiness, within the holiness of Shabbos. In fact, such an eating is considered to be on the level of eating from the Aitz Chaim—the eternal Tree of Life—on the level of the Fifty Gates of Understanding! (Pri Tzadik, Erev Yom Kippur, 1; see also Parashas Chukas, 1.)
The connection to the munn is clear. The Talmud (Yoma 75b) tells us that the munn never resulted in bodily waste, being entirely consumed and used by the body. It was holy food eaten in a state of holiness, an achilah b’kedusha.
As such, it represents pure knowledge, lacking anything in the way of externalities, a metaphor for Da’as Elokim, the da’as of the Aitz Chaim. Indeed, consuming the munn was a way to “absorb” Torah into every aspect of the physical and spiritual being of the Dor HaDayah. (Pri Tzadik)
True, pure, Godly knowledge is strictly p’nimius—essential knowledge crucial for rising to the level of Tzelem-Elokim (Godly image), and thereby, for becoming one with God Himself. (Derech Hashem, 1:2:1) There is nothing superfluous about this level of knowledge, nothing extraneous. This is the knowledge of Torah, and the more one delves into the Torah and approaches the level of sod, the more this is true.
The further one moves away from sod, the more one approaches chitzonius—external knowledge—the knowledge of the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah. [Leshem Shevo V’Achlamah, Dayah, Drush Aitz HaDa’as 3-7. The Leshem states that that the beginning of the chet was Adam’s looking at the tree. Certainly for Chava this was the case, as the possuk itself states.] It is knowledge that does not direclty reveal the hand of God, and, without the knowledge of the Aitz Chaim—of Torah—such knowledge can interfere with one’s relationship with God and reduce one’s ability to see past the veil of nature. (In the Introduction to Derech Hashem, the Ramchal describes the same situation, though in a different analogy.) This is why God found Adam hiding from Him after he ate from the tree, indicative of his newly gained inability to relate to God.
By definition, the knowledge of the Aitz HaDa’as is also an expression of truth. For, the midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 1:2) tells us, the Torah was the blueprint for creation, and every moment of history and every aspect of physical existence is within it. However, without a strong framework of Torah within which to arrange the knowledge of the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah, such external knowledge will do more damage than good, acting as a barrier between mankind and its Creator; thousands of years bear witness to this fact of life.
Thus, Seudos Purim represents a major rectification of all of history. It retrains us to partake of this world in a holy way. From Adam HaRishon we learned that it is not always what you eat, but why you eat it, and when. Even for the Torah-observant Jew, treifah can not only become permissible to eat, but a mitzvah to eat, when it is a question of life or death. But by that point, once the Torah sanctions the eating, it has become an achilah b’kedusha.
That a seudah, particularly an achilah b’kedusha, can rectify so much is not new. The truth is, once a seudah on Yom Kippur was able to accomplish even more than fasting:
Shlomo held a feast at that time (the completion of the Bais HaMikdosh) ... seven days and seven days ... (Melachim 1:8:65). Rebi Parnach said in the name of Rebi Yochanan: That year they did not observe Yom Kippur and were worried that the transgression would cause them to be destroyed. A Bas Kol came out and said, “All of you are destined for the World-to-Come!” (Moed Katan 9a)The feasting that took place that year for fourteen days in honor of the completion of a “house” for the Divine Presence continued right through the holiest fast day of the year! Normally, the fast of Yom Kippur, at best, atones for the previous year; that year, the feast atoned to such an extent that the people secured their portion in the World-to-Come! That Yom Kippur was literally yom k’Purim—a day like Purim!
However, what does kedusha have to with da’as?
Da’as Elokim flows from above down into the appropriate “vessel.” It is God’s “responsibility,” so-to-speak to make da’as available; it is our job to become fitting “containers” to receive that light. We do this by imbuing our lives with holiness, and by sanctifying all aspects of our lives. This is what Dovid HaMelech was alluding to when he wrote:
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. (Tehillim 111:10)The da’as of the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah is readily available, regardless of how refined one’s character traits may be. However, warns Dovid HaMelech, the sod of Torah, the inner soul of Torah, Torah on the level of Aitz Chaim is only available to those who fear God. Fear of God, and the holiness that results, are the only path one can walk to get past the keruvim and “flaming swords” stationed to guard the path to the Aitz Chaim. (Bereishis 3:24)
For what is fear of God, true fear of God, but a vision of how He created the world, and maintains that world every moment, for our benefit? (Mesillos Yesharim, Chapter 25, The Manner of Acquiring Fear. The chapter on Kedusha follows this chapter.) Such intellectual clarity draws the soul out of the person and silences the body and its drives. Such a vision clears the path to even more holiness, and, eventually, to Da’as Elokim. Righteousness is clearly not just a matter of self-discipline, but of acute sensitivity to the master plan of creation, and how each moment goes to fulfilling that master plan.
The secrets of God to those who fear Him. (Tehillim 25:14)It is clear that Purim is an extraordinary day. The rabbis teach that, even at a time in history when most of the mitzvos will lose their significance, Purim will not. From here we can see why this is so, for Purim is a comprehensive expression of all that creation is leading to: On that day His Name will be One and He will be One—in the eyes of all mankind.
Therefore, it does not come as a surprise to find out that each of the four mitzvos correspond to the four levels of “consciousness” than span the gap between God and man:
[Pri Tzadik, Purim.. The far left column refers to the four mitzvos of Purim. The column after that spells the Ineffable Name of God (vertically), the top letter being the first and holiest of that Name. The next column over lists the four worlds, the highest being Atzilus from which God emanates His light to sustain and guide the lower worlds; the lowest world, the one in which we live, is called Asiyah, the “World of Action” (see Nefesh HaChaim, Section One). The next column on the right refers to the possuk from Megillos Esther, “For the Jews there was light, gladness, joy and honor ...” (Esther 8:16). The next column (second from the right) displays the four levels on which Torah can be learned, the bottom being the most shallow level, and the top one being the deepest. The final column on the right is the four basic bodies of Torah learning, and the level to which each corresponds.]
Mikrah Megillah (Megillah reading) begins a process that leads to the highest level of da’as attainable by a human being. As one climbs the “ladder” of da’as in pursuit of the ultimate da’as, Da’as Elokim, he becomes less connected to the physical world, and less vulnerable to an attack from the da’as of Amalek. This is the level to which Yosef had tried to bring his brothers. His entire charade, masquerading before his brothers as an Egyptian viceroy, was a masterful attempt to bring his brothers to tshuva—to the da’as of the Fifty Gates of Understanding.
Yosef’s had not been an act of revenge. Yosef had been trying to reunite the Names of God in the minds and lives of his brothers. Their lack of vision had been the cause of all their errors, and it had to be corrected for all generations to come, as much as was possible at that time. Finally, after much effort, and after falsely accusing and apprehending Yosef’s younger brother, Binyomin, Yehudah sensed the Divine Providence in all that happened, crying:
Yehudah said, “What can we say to my master? what shall we speak? how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the transgression of your servants ...” (Bereishis 44:16)In other words, Yehudah told Yosef, don’t think for one moment that this is an admission of guilt of stealing your cup. Our submission to your plot is an open acknowledgement of God’s hand in all that has occurred to us. There is subtle Divine Providence at work here, and though we had not seen it so clearly at the time we sold our brother into slavery, we acknowledge it now. You are just His instrument of justice for a past mistake for which He is now exacting payment.
After all, the events leading up to the reunification of Yosef and his family had been quite absurd. First, there had been Yosef’s dreams of rulership, two of them in the end. Yosef had not even offered his own interpretation; the brothers themselves had seen the hint at future rulership on their own.
Then, there had been the miracle in the pit, when Yosef had not been bitten by the snakes and scorpions. Then, the Arab merchants who had purchased Yosef happened to have been transporting spices, as opposed to the normal fare of foul-smelling oil. Then, strangely enough, their father refused to be comforted, and mourned over the loss of Yosef the entire twenty-two years. It must have a pretty depressing atmosphere in Ya’akov’s home.
After the famine had set in, and the brothers had been forced to descend down into Egypt to seek food for the family back in Canaan, they had been brought before the viceroy. Did this kind of treatment happen to all those who came to buy food in Egypt?
And as if that had not been enough, the viceroy accused the brothers of being spies! However, had they seen with their mind’s eye, as well as with their physical eyes, they would have seen past Yosef’s Egyptian garb (and beard), and recognized his clue; for the Hebrew word for spies, meraglim (mem, raish, gimmel, lamed, yud, mem), was an acronym for:
Then the viceroy asked all kinds of personal questions. The truth is, this had caught the attention of the brothers, and had given them pause to think. Yehudah later asked:
(mem) me-imi From my mother (raish) Rachel Rachel (gimmel) genavtem you stole me (lamed) l’Midyanim to Midyanim (yud) Yishmaelim [and] Arabs (mem) mechartem you sold me. (Bris Shalom)
My lord asked his servants, “Do you have a father? A brother? (Bereishis 44:19)Other peculiarities had happened along the way as well, and all of them should have been a signal to the brothers that something was up. As Dovid HaMelech said:From the beginning you came with a pretext against us. Why did you need to ask these questions? Were we asking for your daughter in marriage? Were you asking for our sister? (Rashi)
This is from God for it is wondrous in our eyes. (Tehillim 118:23)This is a very important principle of life. The hand of God is working everyday all the time, but sometimes it surfaces in the form of unusual events. Such events do not constitute open miracles as such, since they can be explained according to the “principle of uncertainty.” That is, not all of nature is predictable; sometimes, for reasons man cannot foretell, life goes right when it ought to have gone left. Simply put, it is nature acting unnaturally.
According to Dovid HaMelech, if it catches your attention, it was meant to. If the events around you seem out of the ordinary, analyze. Proceed with caution. Consider the possibility that God’s Reality is over-riding your own personal reality. Take a step back from mundane life, and get a hold of the “Big Picture.” This is also the underlying message of the Shema.
It’s hard to imagine that Mordechai was the only one who was sensitive to all of this. However, even Esther seemed to have had difficulty seeing past the veil of darkness that had enveloped her people of that time. Mordechai had to remind her:
Mordechai said to Esther, “Do not imagine that you will be able to escape in the king’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you continue to remain silent at a time like this, relief and salvation will come to the Jews from another place, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether it was for such a time as this that you attained the royal position!” (Megillos Esther 4:13)The truth is, Mordechai had no doubt about it. His confidence to stand up to Haman while others cowered was indicative of how deeply he believed that the awesome darkness of his time was about to yield to a tremendous revelation of light. He sensed that the events of his day were a set-up, a test of Emunas Yisroel, and he had been determind to “hang on” until the end. In the meantime, he busied himself with all the necessary preparations in advance to make it all possible.
Such is the power of da’as, of being attached to the Fifty Gates of Understanding, of being “rooted” in Torah Sh’b’al Peh. Da’as Elokim allows a person to rise above the natural reality, in order to enter into God’s reality. Then one is able to see history as God sees history, and from His point of view, everything looks different. From that vantage point, the Hamans of history are to be reckoned with, but not undefeatable. They’re built into creation to arouse a sense of tshuva, to let us know when we have strayed from the path of da’as.
Is it any wonder then, that the Talmud concludes that:
Anyone who has dayah, it is as if they built the Bais HaMikdosh in his day. (Brochos 33a)For, it is da’as that transforms the individual Jew into a miniature Mikdosh, a channel through which the light of God can fill the world below. Hence, the prophet wrote, when talking about Yemos HaMoshiach:
“They shall neither harm nor destroy on My holy mount, for the land shall be full of knowledge (dayah) of G-d, as waters cover the sea (yud, mem).” (Yishaya 11:9)This is what Purim teaches, and facilitates. Purim, like Yosef, the Mishkan, the Bais HaMikdosh, and then Mordechai in his day, all came to do the same thing, to remind us that:
If you want it as you do silver, and search after it like buried treasures, then you will understand fear of God—Da’as Elokim you will find. (Mishlei 2:4)