Parashat Vayeishev – Messiah son of Yosef


In the opening verse of this week’s Parasha (Gn 37-40), after his so many struggles, Yakov intends to“settle down in tranquillity” (37:1). But right after this, “there pounced on him the troubles of Yosef”, his beloved son.

“The Righteous wish to settle in tranquillity, but the Blessed Holy One says: Is it not enough for them what is prepared for them in the World to Come, that they seek to dwell in tranquillity in this world?”
(cf. Rashi on Gn 37:2).

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the“Peace” in this World is a lie compared to the “Peace” of the World to Come. In The World to Come there’s absolute unity and harmony, and clear comprehension of the Divine. In this World, we perceive everything individually and divided. We don’t realize how our behavior affects the entire world. So, can a righteous person rest while the rest of the World needs to be repaired? Certainly Not!! Don’t you care them? God brought us here, not only to complain about how bad the things are, but to try to fix them. It’s not the time of the millennial Shabbat yet, as it’s written: “six days you must serve and do your work” (Ex 20:9). No, Yakov, it’s not your time yet; there’s work to do in Egypt. In this sense Yosef represents exactly this, the correction of this World through his righteous suffering.
By no coincidence, the Zohar opens our lecture with the verse:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but HaShem delivers him from them all
(Ps 34:20).

The sufferings of Yakov in this world resemble the afflictions of every righteous person trying to live tranquil on Earth while the Evil Inclination “crouches at the door” every single day (cf. Zohar 1:179a-b).

These are the generations of Yakov: Yosef, being 17 years old
(Gn 37:2).

After the phrase: “Eleh Toldot Yakov” we expect a genealogy, but instead, we only read the story of how Yosef was hated by his brothers. The story ends with Yakov exiled in Egypt, so Ramban explains that the word “These” refers to all the souls (the seventy souls) that descended to Egypt (cf. Pirush Ramban on Gn 37:2).

The Midrash notices that “these are the generations of Yakov” comes after: “These are the chiefs of the sons of Esav” (Gn 36:15). It’s also worthy to notice that the only name mentioned in this kind of genealogy is Yosef: “Generations of Yakov, Yosef”.

The Midrash is showing us what the Prophet Ovadiah saw when he wrote:

And the house of Yakov shall be fire, and the house of Yosef a flame, and the house of Esav shall become stubble” (Ovadiah 1:18).

“Yakov saw all the chieftains [of Esav] mentioned above, he wondered and said: Who can conquer them all? What is written below? ‘These are the generations of Yakov: Yosef’. So one spark will emerge from Yosef, which will destroy and consume them all” (cf. Tanhuma Vayeishev 1).

“The progeny of Esav shall be delivered only into the hands of the progeny of Yosef” (Baba Bathra 123b).

“The house of Yosef is to be a flame to consume the house of Esav; therefore, I will not be afraid of Esav and his legions” (Targum Pseudo Yonathan).


And she called his name Yosef, saying: HaShem [will] add to me another son” (Gn 30:24).

The word “Akher” (other) contains several secrets.

Another son (Ben Akher)

(1)  ‘another son besides Yosef’ (cf. Targum Pseudo Yonathan).

(2)   ‘a strange son’ (a son that will not be accepted by his brothers; for a heretic is called ‘Akher’).

(3)   ‘a later son’ (someone who will live in the future, in later days – yamim akharonim) [Akher is homiletically related to Akharaon].

“Akher” also makes allusion to the fact that he will be counted as Rachel’s offspring, even though he will be of ‘Another’ (Akher);therefore he will be called by the name: ‘Messiah ben Ephraim’, or ‘Messiah ben Yosef’.


Yosef was 17 years old” (Gn37:2).

17 equals “Good” (Tov) in Hebrew.

17 is the value of one of the Concealed Names of God, which doesn’t appear explicitly in the literal text, but it does in other forms of interpretation: Alef-Hei-Vav-Hei (Akvah). The first time the name appears is in the acronym of: “heavens and Earth” of the first verse in the Bible (Et Hashamaim Ve’et Ha’aretz). This name is essentially the four letters Sacred Name, but the first value of 10 (in the letter Yod) is reduced into the value of 1 = alef (because the 10 sefirot form a single tree of Life).

טוב = א-ה-ו-ה = 17

In Kabbalah this name is frequently associated with the sefirah of Daat (knowledge) which becomes the Yesod “Foundation” of the immediately higher world (in Kabbalah there are four worlds). This is interesting because Yesod is the Sefirah that corresponds to Yosef, as we will see.

In Kabbalah:

  • Yakov corresponds to Tiferet
  • Canaan corresponds to the place of the Divine Presence (Malkhut).

When Yakov settled in Canaan (namely: Tiferet joined with Malkhut), then Yosef (Yesod) was born. This is the secret of: “Yakov dwelt… in the land of Canaan…the generations of Yakov Yosef” (Gn 73:1-2) (cf. Zohar 1:180a).


And he was youth with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah” (Gn 37:2).

From this we find that the first who “hated” Yosef were the sons of the concubines because he gave a bad report of them, then the sons of the wives hated him because they were envious that Yakov loved him more than the others (cf. Pirush Ramban on Gn 37:2).

And he was Youth”. The term “Naar” (Youth, Lad) was used in the binding of Isaac, who was 37 years old at that time (cf. Parashat Vayeira). “King Rehoboam is called Youth (Naar) when he did not stand strong against his enemies (2Chr 13:7), even though when he became king he already was 40 years old!” (cf. Pirush Ramban on Gn 37:2). So, this term does not necessarily refer to Yosef’s tender age, but rather to his level of submission.

The Zohar (1:181b) brings into play the verse: “I was Youth [Naar] and now I am old” or “I was submitted and now I am wise” (Ps 37:25); a verse uttered by Metatron, the angelical force that represents the original array of emotive Sefirot that includes “Yesod” as its first gate (ie. Zeir Anpin); he was first manifested in Enoch (cf. Sanh 38b; cf. Zohar 1:126b, Tikkunei Zohar 67).


Throw him into this pit in the wilderness” (Gn 37:22).

Reuben chose a specific pit because he thought he would be unable to get out of it.

 “And they took him and cast him into a pit; and the pit was empty; there was no water in it” (Gn 37:24).

“If the pit is empty, of course there’s no water in it. This redundancy is to teach us that inside there were snakes and scorpions” (Shabbat 22a). 

In a very interesting commentary, Ramban connects this event with Messiah:

He explains that Yosef was saved from the snakes and scorpions because he was a righteous person (a Tzaddik) so “a Great miracle (Nes Gadol) had been done for him”.  “Nes Gadol” has to do with Messiah’s Light; as we will see in the reading of “Miketz”. By his merits the righteous is delivered from all evil, as it’s written: “because merit was found for me before Him” (Dn 6:23) so “who can raise his hands against the Messiah of HaShem?” (1S 26:9). Had his brothers seen the miracle, it would have been clear to them that he was a righteous person (cf. Pirush Ramban on Gn 37:22).

So his brothers threw him to that pit not knowing what they were doing, because they didn’t see the harming animals, and his righteousness was concealed from them.

From this event we know that Yosef was righteous, as it’s written: “They sold the righteous for silver” (Amos 2:6). And we know he is Yesod for it’s written:

“the righteous is the foundation [Yesod] of the World” (Prov 10:25; cf. Hagiga 12b, Bahir 102).


It’s written: “An evil animal consumed him” (Gn 37:33) and also: “and Yakov mourned for his son many days” (Gn 37:34).

This hints at Messiah’s ben Yosef’s death in his Battle against the evil Inclination. An ‘evil animal’ is the Seir (meaning goat, or demon, also being the mount of Edom, and the aspect of Esav when he was born). The ‘evil animal’ is also the snake that tempted Eve, who is Amalek and Samael. In the secret of: “They will look upon me because of the one whom they pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child” (Zech 12:10; cf. Sukka 52a).

But does Messiah ben Yosef really die? For it’s written: “Od Yosef Hai” – ‘Yosef is still alive’ (Gn 45:28). As the entire redemption depends on his role, Messiah ben Yosef lives. Even when he dies, he lives, thus our sages taught: “The righteous in death are called living” (Berakhot 18b).

Of this is written also:

“He made his grave with the wicked… If his soul offers itself as an asham [guilt offering] he will see seed and prolong his days” (Is 53:10).

However, from our point of view and perspective, we should try to bring with our deeds the complete Redemption, so that Messiah ben Yosef would not die at the hands of Armilus (the spiritual force that is the leader of the Erev Rav– mixed multitude – who try to separate Israel from Messiah’s redemption).  This is the secret in the Amidah’s prayer: “speedily establish the throne of your servant David” The Arizal says that the “throne of David” refers to Messiah ben Yosef (cf. Shaar haKavanot 37a).

If Israel deeds were worthy Ben Yosef shouldn’t physically die, as it’s written: “Today, if you hear my voice”. Meaning, if you hear my voice today as a nation, Messiah ben David would come today (since all prophecies are dependant on Israel’s behaviour) (cf. Shemot Rabbah 25:16). As our sages taught: “If Israel is worthy he will come with the clouds of heaven” and “if Israelis not worthy, Messiah will come riding a donkey” (Sanh 98b). It is thus taught in a tradition: “He who sees a donkey in his dream should expect salvation because it says, ‘Behold your King comes to you triumphant, victorious, humble and riding a donkey’” (Berakhot 56b;cf. Zech 9:9).

But is Israel worthy to speed the coming of Messiah ben David? Not in the past – remember two Temples were destroyed – therefore Ben Yosef was needed, for it’s written: “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is 53:6-7); and this verse is concerning Messiah (cf. Sanh 98b; David Kimkhi).


If Israel does not accept and does not recognize Messiah, he will embody Ben Yosef, but will not be ‘Ben David’. For it’s written:

Yosef recognizes his brothers, but they don’t recognize him” (Gn 42:8).

For they say: “Will you actually reign over us?” (Gn 37:8).

“In his generation and in every generation, Messiah ben Yosef recognizes his brothers, but they don’t recognize him. This is a deed from Satan, who hides the attributes of Messiah ben Yosef… had Israel recognized Yosef… they would have been completely redeemed” (Vilna Gaon; Kol haTor 2:39).

However, this is done in order to bring Salvation, for it’s written: “God did send me before you to Preserve life” (Gn 45:5). “To save your lives by a great deliverance” (Gn 45:7).

Yosef is not accepted by his brothers, as hinted in the phrase: “Ben Akher” (a heretic son) (Gn 30:24). Now notice how the name “Yosef” is hinted into the text when the Torah says:

“And they hated him even more” (Gn 37:5).


and they hated him even more” (Gn 37:5).

vaYosifu Od Sno oto

 ויוספו עוד שנא אתו

Notice how ‘vaYOSIFu’ includes clearly the name of ‘Yosef’ in it, covered with two letters Vav on the left and on the right.

Why is the suffering Messiah called “Ben Yosef”? Because “they add further hate to him”.

In Kabbalah, the Vav (=6) corresponding to the Vav of the Sacred Name, is the personification of the 6 emotive Sefirot called in group: ‘Zeir Anpin’ – the small face, the likeness that is before the Holy One, the primordial Torah, depicted as a “Naarנער – a young man with black hair (cf. Zohar 3:132a; Bahir 106; cf. Song of Songs 5:11).

In the familiar personifications, Zeir Anpin is called the “Son”. For God to call someone “my Son” means that his qualities are those of ‘Zeir Anpin’; this is referred to in the words:

“Israel is my son” (Ex 4:22).

Yosef was a Naar (Gn 41:12) and in his sexual temptation, he protected the place of the covenant from sin; because he kept from damaging the Covenant of foundation (the place where circumcision is done), he was called Tzaddik (Righteous one; cf. Amos 2:6).

Torah teaches that profaning the place of the Covenant brings separation from the Divine Presence (the Shekhina). This is found in the words:

“If there be among you a man that is not clean because of an impure emission of ‘seed’ at night, he is to go out of the camp and stay there” (Dt 23:10) “For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp … therefore your camp must be sacred, so that He won’t see anything indecent and turn away from you” (23:15 [14]). And so King David prayed after the sexual sin: “Do not cast from me your Presence, nor take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

So Yosef represents the Sefirah of ‘Yesod’ (foundation) as it’s written: “The Righteous (ie. Yosef) is the foundation of the world (ie. Yesod)” (Prov 10:25). This is the door through which Heaven joins with Earth, or  Zeir Anpin (the Son) joins with Malkhut (Nukva, the Bride) and vice versa (cf. Bahir 102) – when righteousness is activated bringing Joy to God,these two are coupled and then the Messianic figure personifies “the Son” (Zeir Anpin; whose first gate is Yesod) and the community of Israel personifies Malkhut, the Bride.

Thus about Messiah is written:

you are my Son, today I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:7),

and of Israel it is said:

Rejoice, daughter of Zion… your king comes”(Zech 9:9),

and also:

“All glorious is the king’s daughter… she will be led to the king” (Psal 45:14).

In the cosmic kabbalah, concerning the ages of the Universe, Vav corresponds to the 6thday of creation, the sefirah of Yesod (=Yosef), the connection between physical and spiritual worlds. The gathering of Sparks and rectifications that must be done before the King Messiah comes.

So in the word: ‘VaYosifu’ (Gn 37:5), the first Vav is the first Adam, meant to be Righteous, created in God’s image. The Middle word,‘Yosef’ is Messiah ben Yosef, the channel to the final Vav, since his mission is to unite Zeir Anpin with Nukva, the Son with the Bride (cf. Kol haTor 2).And the final Vav is Messiah ben David, the King Messiah. ‘vaYosifu’ in Gematria equals “in His image” from the verse: “God created man in his image” (Gn 1:27).

ויוספו = בצלמו = 168

All the “Toldot” (genealogical generations) of the Bible are grammatically written defectively with a missing Vav except two: The “Toldot of Heaven and Earth” (Gn 2:4) and the “Toldot of Peretz” (Ruth 4:18). These refer to Adam and Messiah, since the “Toldot of Heaven and Earth” relates the creation of Adam and Peretz is the ancestor of King David and of Messiah. These are the two Vavs at each side of the word “Yosef” in “vaYosifu”.



So let’s go back to our portion, “and they hated him even more” (Gn37:5). Literally the text says:

And they added further hate to him”.

The word: “Further” – ‘Od’. Is used in the text 4 times and this contains another secret.

It is used when his brothers hate Yosef (37:5, 8), and it is used when Yosef dreamed. Interestingly, it seems superfluous or unnecessary the way the word “Od” is inserted in the text:

And he dreamed further another dream” – ‘vaya Khalom Od khalom akher’ (Gn 37:9).

It seems that since the word “akher” (another) is used at the end, the word “Od” (further) is unnecessary. In the same way, Yosef decides to say to his brothers: ‘Hineh, khalamti khalom od’ – “Behold, I dreamed a further dream” (37:9), instead of ‘I dreamed another dream’.  It seems to me that including 4 times the word “Od” in this portion was intentionally done by the writer [ie. Moses following God’s dictation].

The term Od (again, further) hints to the four exiles: Egyptian (the first one), Babylonian, Greek and Roman (the actual one). As it’s written:

For four [rebellions of Israel] I will not forgive, because they sold with money the righteous one” (Amos 2:6).

But just like the word “Od” is used first negatively and then positively, it also implies the redemption. As it’s written:

“Again (Od) there will be heard… in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem… the voice of the bride… for I will cause the captivity of the land to return as at the first” (Jer 33:10-11).


As to the interpretation that Messiah ben Yosef is called son of Yosef even though he does not necessarily come from Rachel’s seed, as she said: “HaShem will add to me another son” (Gn 30:24)…

Yosef (based on Gn 41:40-44 and specifically on the expression of the verse 43: “beMirkevet haMishneh aser lo” – “in the Chariot, second to his”) is described as ‘viceroy’ (cf. Mikveh Yisrael ch. 13 & Sefer haYasher). The term used by our sages: “viceroy” or ‘second to the King’, in Hebrew is: ‘Mishne laMelech’.

Who is the King? The King alludes to both, God and David; as it’s written: “Let my lord king David live forever” (1Kings 1:31), and also: “They shall serve Hashem their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them” (Jer 30:9). Obviously David represents: Messiah ben David, the King Messiah.

Yosef is ‘MiSHNeH laMelech’. This sentence is an allusion to “the Soul of/for the King” – NeSHaMaH laMelech. So Messiah ben Yosef is the Soul and Messiah ben David is the body. And body and soul must be brought together; because it is all one.

Mishne laMelech – משנה למלך

Neshamah laMelech – נשמה למלך

Ben Yosef and Ben David are two different functions of the same person” (sefer Hizyonot p. 160).

Messiah ben David is the body of Messiah that comes from the ground; from King David’s seed. Messiah ben Yosef is the Soul of Messiah and it comes from Heaven; from God; as it is alluded in the verse: “The breath of our nostrils is the Messiah of HaShem” (Lam 4:20); which alludes to the Breath of Life – ie. The Neshama (the Soul) that God gave from within Himself to Adam (Gn 2:7). In a mystical aspect, all our connection to the Creator comes by the merits of the Soul of Messiah (ie. ben Yosef). As it’s written: “He will breath the fear of God” (Is 11:3) and also: ‘you love righteousness and reject wickedness, therefore God, your God, anoints you (ie.makes you Messiah)’ (Psal 45:7).

If body cannot stand without soul, Messiah ben David embodies Messiah ben Yosef. It’s all one.

“The man destined to be Messiah [ie. Messiah ben David] although births naturally in this world, he receives from Gan Eden [from Heaven] the whole soulof Messiah [Messiah ben Yosef], making him realize he’s the Messiah” (YitzhakLuria’s commentary on Zohar Shemot 8b).

This is also seen through Kabbalah, Because Messiah ben David is the King Messiah (ie. David), belonging to the lower Sefirah of Malkhut (Kingdom), which is personified as a female aspect (Nukva), while Messiah ben Yosef (ie. Yosef) belongs to Yesod (which is the male connection and is above Malkhut, and everything Spiritual in Malkhut is received from above – as we know, the female aspect is always filled by the male aspect – and gives birth to whatever the upper energy filtered through Yesod placed into Malkhut).

Thus is written: “Tzaddik Yesod Olam” – the Righteous is the foundation of the world (Prov 10:25). About this the Vilna Gaon teaches that the terms “Tzaddik” (Righteous) and “Yesod Olam” (foundation of the world) are describing Ben Yosef’s connection to the sefirah of Yesod – through Yesod all the spiritual energy is channelled. Interestingly the Gematria of Yosef equals six times the Sacred Name of bestowal (Yesod is the Sixth Sefirah of Zeir Anpin) (cf. Kol haTor 2: 15, 28, 127).

  X6 י – ה – ו – ה = יוסף = 156

As Messiah ben David is embodied in the Sefirah of Malkhut, he also represents a soul, not the soul of the man destined to be Messiah, but the collective soul of the whole nation; for in Malkhut resides the Shekhinah (the Divine Presence within the nation). In this different perspective, Ben Yosef turns to represent the union with the body of the nation. When Ben Yosef lives, the whole nation is united in Ben David. When Ben Yosef dies, the breakdown of the whole nation and its division happens – as he’s Yesod: The foundation and connection of Heaven and Earth (cf. Shemuot haReiya vaYishlakh; rav Kook).

-Xus Casal-

One thought on “Parashat Vayeishev – Messiah son of Yosef

  1. Judy L Howard says:

    Thank you for getting the link up for this week’s Parshah. I would have felt incomplete without reading your commentary along with the other studies I do each week.

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