We saw in the previous translations, how the Zohar relates the Forefathers to the sefirot. Abraham represents chesed/kindness, Isaac gevura/severity, and Jacob, the mediator between the two, represents tiferet/balance and beauty. In this week's translation, Rebbe Shimon continues that theme and teaches that Joseph represents the sefira of yesod, meaning "foundation". The Forefathers thus represent the vehicle by which spirituality (you might say "sefirotuality"!) descended back to the world after having ascended and departed because of Adam's sin. To understand the meaning of the Zohar it is also helpful to visualize the "tree" of the sefirot as depicted on the introductory page to this website and remember where yesod stands in relation to tiferet and the other sefirot. Everything that happened to Jacob happened also to Joseph…

These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph… (Gen. 37:2). This is as we have learned, that Jacob and Joseph were similar. Everything that happened to Jacob happened also to Joseph. The two of them go together.

The intention is not that they looked alike. Rather they are similar sefirot, Jacob is tiferet and Joseph is yesod. These sefirot are similar in many ways. Both are in the middle of the sefirot tree. Both receive from above and from the two sides and both pass the sustenance/shefa they receive. Since Joseph is directly below Jacob, he is called the "generations" of Jacob - and not his 11 other sons. This explanation fits the text perfectly and reveals the hidden meaning behind it.

This is the secret of the letter vav that the two [vav's] go together, because they are one secret and one form. You can't say Jacob without implying Joseph…

In order to pronounce the Hebrew letter vav a person has to say the sound "vav" twice. That is reflected in the way the word is spelled both in Hebrew (with two vav's) and in English (with two vees). The form of both letters is the same. Furthermore, in Hebrew, the word vav means connection or hook. In English the letter V represents a hook and depicts two sides connected at one point in the middle. The letter vav is therefore a perfect example of these "connecting" sefirot in both languages! Just as you can't say vav without including the second vav, so you can't say Jacob without implying Joseph. One represents the body; the other represents the brit/circumcision. In the act of union, all of the powers of the body pass through the brit to generate a new being. From this we can understand why sexual purity was the biggest test for Joseph, because in order to pass on holiness, the brit must be kept holy. The sefira of yesod connects all of the sefirot above it to the sefira of malchut that is below it.

The point at which this happened in reality was when Joseph met with Judah in Egypt, but that is another story...


Zohar, Parashat Vayeshev, p. 182b; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

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