Parashas Vayeishev 5780 The Ultimate Self Control

The jealousy of the brothers culminated after Yosef recounted his dreams. in the first dream, the 11 sheaves of wheat representing his brothers bow to the sheave of wheat representing him. In the second dream, the sun and the moon as well as 11 stars bow to him, which meant that his entire family, including his parents will bow to him [Bereshis 37]. The Ramban points out: that Yosef realized the seriousness of his dreams. As the Pasuk says: “Now Israel loved Yosef more than all his sons since he was a child of his old age,” literally ben zekunim, [Bereshis, 37:3] refers to intelligence and wisdom in Hebrew; Rashi therefore explains that Yosef was able to absorb all the Torah knowledge his father had learnt in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever. If so, it’s difficult to understand why Yosef recounted his dreams, while all he could expect was more jealousy? How was he so sure that they were Divine dreams and not simply teenager fantasies of grandeur? Why were the brothers so skeptical as the veracity of those dreams? Had they any hint as why they would suspect these dreams to be only a wishful expression of grandeur? The Zohar teaches: A regular person doesn’t have complete control over his body or mind. Two parts are beyond his control; His imagination and his reproductive organs. However, the Tzadik has gained control even on them. From here we learn that most of the person downfalls are due to these two uncontrolled parts, and our duty is to control them. Yosef accomplished it at a very young age. The uncontrolled imagination changed the fate of the entire world. Indeed, it was the source of the original sin, the partaking of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The physical manifestation of this loss of control over our imaginations is manifest in the lack of our control over our reproductive organs. The fact that these organs react as though they had a mind of their own is a constant reminder of our descent, and a constant source of embarrassment. That is why they are invariably concealed by all human cultures including the most primitive. This is why right after sinning the first reaction of Adam and his wife was to realize their nakedness, as the Pasuk says “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked; and they sewed together a fig leaf and made themselves aprons.” [Bereshis 3:6] Why were Adam and Eve suddenly so embarrassed by their nakedness after having eaten the fruit when they had not been at all self-conscious about
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walking around naked before? What’s the correlation between the sin and the nakedness? The Zohar explains: before man’s sin, the human body was made of Celestial light just as the Neshama and therefore were joined in a perfect and eternal union. By virtue of the sin, the body materialized and became opaque to the inner spirit, leaving only the eyes to serve as a gateway to the Neshama that lies within. Their unity was forever dissolved, and the body can only live as long as the Neshama resides in it. The out-of-control parts have a common denominator, all they seek is gratification and evil doing. They characterize the worst forms of egocentrism and self-gratification while rationalizing and convincing the person it’s within his rights to act. They have an overwhelming power, basically forcing the person to act against his will, and without the slightest regard to the appropriateness of the moment or the relationship. They are in the direct charge of man’s fantasy and imagination and serve as a living demonstration of the lack of man’s control over these faculties. The question that arises is why the person is then responsible? And what tolls are available to defeat these phenomena’s? The Zohar explains: the person is composed of two wills; “the will to take” and “the will to give”. The Yetzer Hara powers the person to be a taker, while the Yetzer Hatov is teaching the person not to be a taker but a giver. Since birth the person is taught to receive and to take, and only as he grows up, he’s taught of the importance to give. To illustrate the mechanism let’s review a seemingly insignificant detail in last week Parasha, Yaakov sent 580 animals as a present to his brother Esav. If the number was not important the Torah wouldn’t mention it. Interestingly, Tefilin [תפילין ] numerical value is 580, and Seir [שעיר ] has also the same numerical value. Yaakov hinted then to Esav, that he had overcome his “will to take”, he was then in full control and therefore didn’t sin while by Lavan. The Zohar elaborates, that when Esav realized that he became fearful of Yaakov and decided to go welcome him peacefully. Because when a person elevates himself to that level of control, he’s invincible, Hashem defends him and make all his enemies fall before him like dead insects. This is the reason of the miracles of Chanukah. With opulence people became materialistic and started chasing the wrong ideologies. As a retribution, they were invaded by the most materialistic civilization that ever existed. But when they realized that they were on the wrong tracks and this ideology has brought on them only pain and disasters, they decided to make Tshuva. With the power of that general Tshuva it took only 7 Kohanim and their sister to defeat the most powerful army in the world at that time. How is it conceivable that 7 Rabbis and scholars that never bore a sword fought successfully the best trained soldiers of the world? And not only a handful of them but tens of thousands of them till they chased them out of the Land of Israel? This defies any logic.
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Well, not the logic of the Torah. The Maharal says that a baby boy is circumcised of the 8th day, since everything in this world is comprised within the number seven, but the number 8 is above the powers of this world. Therefore, we have 8 days of Chanukah, as it all happened through miracles. Then Pesach should’ve also been 8 days as the miracles were even bigger. Though, there’s a fundamental difference. On Chanukah we deserved them as we went to fight for Hashem, we returned to Him full heartedly because we were in full control then of our minds and body. True happiness and quality of life lies there, when the person in in full control. Therefore, we endangered our lives in order to stop the Greeks from desecrating the Beth Hamikdash and the minds of our fellow Jews and Hashem intervened by giving an incontrollable fear to the Greeks. While on Pesach Hashem came to fetch us in order to prevent us to sink into an irreversible situation. Now we can answer the above questions: The Gemara Sanhedrin [89a] points out that a prophet has the spiritual obligation to deliver his prophetic message regardless of any apparent danger involved in such revelation. And since Yosef had full control over his mind and body, he was sure that his dreams were indeed prophetic. The Zohar explains; that when a Tzadik reaches a certain level, he’s made aware of the Torah secrets taught to his Neshama while he’s asleep. So, while people have fantasy dreams when sleeping, Hashem is making sure the Tzadik is not wasting even his sleeping time without learning the deepest secrets of the Torah. Yosef therefore was the only one who received the title “Tzadik”, as he elevated himself above the Tribes and had patriarchal aspect [see Pachad Yitzchak, Pesach,49]. Yosef serves as the spiritual model for the young Jew all alone in a foreign culture who nevertheless successfully resists the temptation of mingling with outsiders, even in the face of cruel rejection by his own Jewish family. Yosef’s example and the spiritual force that we inherited from him provide the Jewish people with a bulwark against the loss of identity through intermarriage. This incredibly clear sense of identity was the legacy of Yosef. It lies at the very heart of Jewish nationhood and is certainly one of the main factors behind the successful survival of our 2000-year exile. It was Yosef who prepared the way for us in Egypt, it is he who set up our living arrangements there. Therefore, we are called “Yosef’s remnant.” [See Amos 5:15.] His brothers couldn’t fathom that Yosef’s was already at such an exalted level and therefore his dreams were not Divinely inspired prophecies. They perceived Yosef’s dreams as the imaginings of a spoiled, obnoxious teenager with visions of grandeur. To them it seemed that they were living a replay of the Esau-Yaakov saga. Like his father Yitzchak had done before him, Yaakov, the aging patriarch was focusing his affection on the wrong son, the son whose ambition was to rule the roost at all costs instead of cooperating with his brothers to build the Jewish people. In their eyes, Yosef posed a serious threat to the budding nation of Israel that it was their joint spiritual task to bring into being. But in truth Yosef was a true free man after gaining control over his mind and body.
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Yaakov who was learning daily with Yosef, recognized that he was driven on a mission to regain full control of himself. Despite the other brothers were scholars and very pious, none had undertaken a head on war with the Yetzer Hara. Yaakov recognized in his son the very power and attributes he himself used to correct the sin of Adam. He had firstly regained and then over his body. The Torah testifies of it: “Reuven, you are my firstborn, my strength, and my initial vigor” (Bereshis, 49:3). Reuven was conceived from the very first seed that left Yaakov’s body. The Talmud Yevamos [76a] states: during his entire life Yaakov never once spilled any of his seed in vain. The Torah gave us all the tools to reach the eight level by regaining our complete safe control. It is the Mitzva of Tefilin, which we wear on our arm [toward the heart] and our head. If performed properly, this Mitzva has the power to provide us control of our imagination which resides in our brain and heart. By just keeping our awareness of the tremendous gift this Mitzva represents, and by avoiding any futile talk while wearing them, will unleash the magic of the Tefilin. Once the imagination is under control, the body will follow suit very easily. A free man is a man with self-control. How do we realize if we’ve achieved that goal? The answer is simple; if we enjoy giving and hate taking. Sometimes we’re faced with a dilemma, an opportunity presents itself, but for whatever reason we don’t feel like giving at this time, for very good reasons. This is a failure. Opportunities don’t present themselves; Hashem sends them. At times Hashem knows that giving will erase bad decrees, and out of love Hashem puts us on the spot when it’s difficult. It’s our battle to lose! If giving is done happily, that person has gained full self control.

By Rabbi Fridmann * rabbifridmann@badatzmiami.com * 305.985.3461

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