“And Israel saw the big hand which God made in Egypt… and they believed in God and his servant Moses” (Ex 14:31).
In this week’s Torah portion, we are told of the Egyptian Exodus, of the confrontation between God and the Egyptian army at the Sea of Reeds, and of the annihilation of Pharaoh’s forces. The news that Egypt was defeated in this miraculous way was spread all around the pagan nations.
“Terror gripped the Philistines. The chiefs of Edom were frightened. Trembling gripped the powers of Moab. The inhabitants of Canaan are melted away” (Ex 15:14-15).
On one hand, all the nations were afraid of the Power God had given to Israel, covering them with a Cloud of Glory (Ananei haKavod). On the other hand, the people of Israel stopped Sanctifying God’s Name (Kiddush HaShem) and began to complain of every single problem they had to face in their way to Canaan. Even though in each test God performed a miracle for them (Giving them water and Manna among many other things), their complaining ascended to the point in which they doubted God’s existence, which brought down the barrier of protection that God had placed on Israel the day of Passover, when he had said: “Against the children of Israel, not a dog will whet his tongue” (Ex 11:7). Therefore it is written:
“Is HaShem among us or not? And came Amalek and made war with Israel in Refidim” (Ex 17:7-8).
Interestingly the Gematria of Amalek is associated with the word for “Doubt” – Safek.
עמלק = ספק = 240
Our sages say that this is therefore his major characteristic. It was not a casual army that passed around and attacked Israel. Israel’s fame was spread all around the pagan nations, and all of them knew that God was with them. But Amalek attack was against: “God’s throne” (Ex 17:16).
The verse can be read in present form: “Is HaShem among us or not? And comes Amalek and makes war with Israel in Refidim”. The sages explain that Refidim comes from the word:Rifu (ריפו) – weakening; because Israel was spiritually weakened (cf. Berakhot 5b). It’s also connected with Pirud (פירוד) – separation; lack of unity (cf. Keli yakar).
So the cure for this was to create a team who would fight Amalek in Unity, being strengthened by prayer.
“Moses said to Yehoshua: Choose people for us to go do battle with Amalek… Moses, Aaron and Hur ascended to the top of the hill” (17:9-10).
The Acronym of Aaron, Hur, Yehoshua and Moses gives the word: “Akhim” (brethren).
אהרון , חור, יהושע , משה = אחים
Unity and prayer strengthen the people and are the cure for doubt and separation. “And Yehoshua and his people weakened Amalek with the edge of the sword” (Ex 17:13).
The amalekites’ behaviour resembles that of the Snake of which it’s told: “I will put enmity between you [the snake] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed” (Gn 3:15). So it’s written: “God has war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex 17:16).
“Recite it in the ears of Yehoshua; for I will utterly blow out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (Ex 17:14).
This verse hints to Messiah’s attribute called “Sod” (secret).
“Recite it in the ears of Yehoshua” – “Sim beOznei Yehoshua” – “BeOznei” (in the ears) has the same Gematria with the word: “Sod”; secret, as in the verse: “the Secret of the Lord are for those who fear him” (Psal 25:14). Yehoshua has the secret of the final redemption and final victory against Amalek, for the way to fight Amalek is first in secret, in order to subdue Samael. The expanded Gematria of the word “Sod” (in milui) gives us the value of “Messiah ben Yosef” (cf. Kol haTor 2:98, 148).
באזני = סוד = 70
סוד = סמך וו דלת = משיח בן יוסף = 566
This is also hinted to in the words of our sages: “Yehoshua went that night Betokh haEmek(into the midst of the valley)” (Jos 8:13), he delved into the “Depths of Jewish Law” (Omko shel Hallakha) (cf. Megillah 3a). That is; the ‘Sod’, the ‘hidden’ secrets of the Torah, which is associated with the Torah of Messiah, for Messiah is to reveal all things of the Torah; not for the sake of intellectual arrogance, but for Israel and the nations’ benefit in attaining Unity with the Creator.
“God will surely visit you” (Gn 50:25; Ex 13:19).
“He will visit you in Egypt, in the Sea of Reeds, in the desert, at Nakhal Arnon, and even in the World to Come” (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Ishmael, Beshalakh).
“Moses took the bones (Atzmot) of Yosef with him” (Ex 13:19).
While all the Israelites were occupied with acquiring the gold and silver of the Egyptians before leaving Egypt, Moses was occupied with the command of Yosef’s bones (cf. Sotah 13a).
‘Yosef possessed the sign of Redemption’ (for he had prophesized: God will surely visit you) (cf. Zohar Beshalakh). When Yosef made this promise he was still alive, yet, he didn’t speak of bringing back his “body” but his “Bones” (atzmot). And since Egyptians mummified him (Gn 50:26), Yosef’s Flesh remained in his corpse. However, the Torah refers to his bones, not his body. The term was used on purpose.
The word: “Bones” in Hebrew is “Atzmot”, which comes from: Etzem (עצם). The word literally means: “essence”, as in the verse: and there was under his feet… “as the Essence of Heavens” – ‘keEtzem haShamaim’ (Ex 24:10).
The word “Bones” – ‘Atzmot’ is exactly the same as the word “Atzmut”; ie. ‘essence’ – עצמות – .
The verse can be read: Moses took “Atzmut Yosef Imo” – the very essence of Yosef with him. Yosef was constantly present in Moses’ memory at every step of the Exodus. In fact it was later present in the memory of all Israel, for the commandment to bury him in the Holy land was completed by all the people (Jos 24:32). We could say that Yosef’s activity as protector of his family didn’t end when he died. His merits were present in all Israel during the whole process of redemption, to the point that the nation is called “Yosef”, as stated:
“O Shepherd of Israel, you who leads Yosef like a flock” (Psa 80:2 ).
Yosef’s Merit – Zekhuto Shel Yosef
From the kabbalistic point of view, Yosef is Yesod (the foundation) as it’s written: “they sold the Righteous for silver” (Amos 2:6) and also: “Tzaddik Yesod Olam – the Righteous one is the foundation of the world” (Prov 10:25).
Moses, as explained in previous Parashot acting as mediator between God and the people represents the Sefirah of Tiferet.
The Land of Israel where the Divine Presence dwells and the kingdom is established is the Sefirah of Malkhut (Kingdom, also called: Nukva and the bride).
Moses (the groom) must unite with the Land (the bride) through the Sefirah of Yesod (which filters all the Divine energy (sheifa) that comes from above).
The Midrash teaches that “the Sea of Reeds was split only because of Yosef’s merits” (הים לא נקרע אלא בזכותו של יוסף;Bereshit Rabbah 84:5). According to tradition, it happened the 6th day of the Omer-count (cf. Seder Olam Rabbah 5), and the 6 has to do with the Sixth Sefirah of Zeir Anpin; ie. the attribute of Yesod.
The Zohar (Beshalakh) and the Midrash on the Psalms (cf. Sokhar Tov 114:3) investigate on the verse: “the Sea saw and fled” (Psal 114:3). Rabbi Yitzhak asks: “What did the sea see? It saw the coffin of Yosef and fled from before it; for it’s written the same expression about him in the verse: ‘[left his garments in her hand] and fled, and got him out’ (Gn 39:12) [As retribution of Yosef’s righteousness, the sea fled from the one who fled].
If Yosef could go against his nature and flee from a sexual temptation in order to honor HaShem (which is associated with water, as the sexual sin in the days of Noah was punished with hot water), then the sea could go against its nature and split in order to honor HaShem.
According to Rabbi Nahman of Breslev, even all the process from the exodus to the way to the Holy Land was achieved by the merits of Yosef, as it’s stated literally by Yosef: “God will surely visit you and you will ascend my essence hence with you” (Ex 13:19).
It’s thus written: “Yosef sustains his father and his brothers and his father’s entire house” (Gn 47:12).
In Egypt (cf. Gn 50:26) Yosef’s body was preserved and secluded narrowly in a coffin(בארוןצר) (as the Hebrew name of Egypt (מצרים) hints to). The bones (עצמות) of Yosef were supposed to be delivered, buried in the Holy Land and return to the ground, so that the Holy land would be impregnated and fertilized with Yosef’s Essence (עצמות).
As stated by the Vilna Gaon, almost every mention of Yosef or the Tzaddik in the Bible refers to an aspect of Messiah ben Yosef (cf. Kol haTor 2:6).
Our sages teach:
“From the day that Yosef separated from his brothers he did not taste a drop of wine” (Shabbat 139a).
This is deduced from the verse that calls Yosef “Nezir Akhiu” (separated from his brothers) or “Nazir Akhiu” (Nazarite on account of his brothers) (Gn 49:26). Once they were together it’s written: ‘they drank largely with him’ (Gn 43:34).
Yosef, being a Nazarite, didn’t drink wine, and according to the text, he did so because of his brothers. And one of the characteristics of the Nazarite is that he’s dedicated to God.
The Ben Ish Hai explains that he was constantly engaged in prayer beseeching God to not harm his brothers for selling him – since one who is praying is not permitted to drink (cf. Sefer ben Yehoyadah). This teaches that Yosef was longing for unity, behaving as head of his brethren [Longing for unity is an aspect of ‘Yesod’].
This teaches us in a mystical interpretation that Messiah ben Yosef doesn’t drink the wine of happiness as long as Israel is separated from the true Tzaddik (ie. as long as Messiah is not united with them). Thus the desire of the Righteous Yosef for Redemption: “bring my Atzmut (my bones, my essence) with you”.