And Joseph said to Pharaoh, "What G‑d is doing, He has told to Pharaoh… Now Pharaoh should seek out a man of insight, a wise person." (Gen. 41:25,33)

This is difficult to understand. Had Joseph been appointed royal advisor? Yet he said to Pharaoh, "Now Pharaoh should seek out a man of insight, a wise person…" It would have been sufficient for him to do what was asked of him and interpret the dream, as requested. Furthermore, what is the meaning of the word "now" [in the latter verse]? Also, the first verse should have stated, "What G‑d will do [in the future], He has told…" for at that stage the years of plenty and the years of famine had not yet begun.

However, the answer to all these questions may be found in the statement of our Sages: "There are three things which G‑d Himself, not an emissary, announces. They are: famine, plenty and a proper leader over the community. What is the source for famine? - As the verse states, "G‑d has called for a famine…." (II Kings 8:1, Berachot 55a) The 130 years that the Israelites were in Egypt prior to the birth of Moses were spent in gathering in the sparks of holy souls…

This is why the verse states, "What G‑d is doing," in the present tense rather than in the future, for He is continually announcing the advent of famine or plenty. And so He disclosed these matters to Pharaoh. But since two of the three matters that the Holy One Himself announces were about to be fulfilled, it was proper at this point to also fulfill the third one - and appoint a proper leader over the community. That is why Joseph said, "Now Pharaoh should seek out a man of insight, a wise person…" (Shaar HaPesukim)

Pharaoh said to all of Egypt, "Go to Joseph. Do whatever he tells you!" (Gen. 41:55)

Our Sages say that Joseph decreed that all of them fulfill the commandment of circumcision. They went to ask Pharaoh's advice and he told them to do whatever Joseph had commanded. (Midrash Rabba, Miketz 90, 91; Yalkut Shimoni, Miketz, remez 148)

As we have explained elsewhere (Shaar HaKavanot, drushei Pesach, drush 1), the 130 years that the Israelites were in Egypt prior to the birth of Moses were spent in gathering in the sparks of holy souls which Adam had discharged by wasting his seed in the 130 years prior to the birth of his son Seth, who was the very same aspect as Moses. (Shaar HaMitzvot, parashat Shoftim)

Initially, these souls had been incarnated into the bodies of the people who lived during the time of the Flood. However, they wantonly spilled their seed upon the earth, following their roots and the place from whence they were drawn. They were then reincarnated in the generation of the Tower of Babel. [But again they did not rectify the sin of Adam and the following generations]. Now, once again, they had been reincarnated as Egyptians.

Joseph had prophetic vision, and he knew that they were the sparks of souls that had been produced from wasted seed. He therefore decreed that they be circumcised, in order to rectify some of the sin of their initial root (i.e. they were produced by a blemish in the place of the holy covenant). After the circumcision they began to be rectified to a degree, and during the subsequent 130-year period [prior to the birth of Moses] they were reincarnated as Israelites. It is for this reason that the Israelites were sentenced to hard labor, in order to rectify, refine and purify them, and particularly to rectify the sin of the generation of the Tower of Babel who built the Tower from mortar and bricks. (Shaar HaPesukim) The Mixed Multitude were the sparks of holiness which had mingled into Egypt…

This is what is written, "And [Joseph] relocated the people in cities from one end of Egypt's borders to the other" (Gen. 47:21). Those he relocated were those whom he had circumcised, and he moved them around in order to refine and purify them. These are the Mixed Multitude [the "Erev Rav"] of whom the Egyptians said, "the people of the Children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than us" (Ex. 1:9). But a later verse states, "and they [the Egyptians] became dissatisfied with themselves because of the Children of Israel" (Ex. 1:12). [In one verse they are referred to as "the people of the Children of Israel," whereas in the other they are referred to as simply "the Children of Israel." Why the discrepancy?]

The secret of this is that those whom Joseph circumcised, and who lived in the Jewish cities, observed the customs of the Israelites. Jacob had also converted Egyptians, as our Sages state (Bereishit Rabba section 4). All of them also observed Israelite customs. Now Pharaoh noticed [the observances of] those who were called "the people of the Children of Israel," i.e. those who were not the Children of Israel themselves, but the people of the Children of Israel. Therefore another verse states, "He [Pharaoh] said to his nation…" (Ex. 1:9) i.e. other Egyptians, who were not the people of the Children of Israel. But the verse "and they became dissatisfied with themselves because of the Children of Israel" refers to the Israelites themselves.

Now you can understand to a degree why the Israelites were exiled to Egypt - all of this was for the sake of those sparks which the decadent Egyptians had captured.

This is what is written, "also a mixed multitude [in Hebrew, "erev rav"] went up with them" (Ex. 12:38) - mystically, the Mixed Multitude were the sparks of holiness which had mingled into Egypt, and which Moses wished to elevate. But the Holy One saw that they were not yet rectified and fit [to be elevated], and He did not want to extract them at that point in time. However, there were actually two varieties of Mixed Multitude - those who are referred to as "the Mixed Multitude", and also "the mixed minority" mentioned in the Zohar (vol. II, p. 191a-b). The Mixed Multitude derive from supernal daat, which is called "great" or "major", whereas the "mixed minority" derive from yesod, which is called "minor". For this reason the numerical value of "Erev Rav" [Mixed Multitude] is the same as the numeric al value of "daat", for they were those who sinned and uprooted the plantings above, the secret of "the stiff-necked people, as will be explained in parashat Ekev. (Likutei Torah)


Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from the Writings of the Ari; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.