"And he gave Benjamin five suits of Clothes." (Gen. 43:34)

The Temple was to be built on territory belonging to the tribe of Benjamin. Joseph therefore alluded here to the five important manifestations of the Shechinah that were missing during the period of the second Temple, and which will be restored when the Third Temple will be built. All the details that the Torah reports here about Joseph and his brothers allude to matters of the future…

This is in keeping with the fact that all the details that the Torah reports here about Joseph and his brothers allude to matters of the future, to Messianic times. Joseph's fate, i.e. the wanderings and upheavals he experienced during his lifetime, foreshadowed the experiences of the Jewish nation in the future.

He set in motion the descent of his family into the first exile and thus became instrumental in the refining process which this experience proved to be for the Jewish people. Every subsequent exile had as its purpose the further refinement of the character of the Jewish people. Prior to the eventual redemption, Joseph will once again appear in the flesh as the Mashiach ben Yosef. Permanent rule will be reserved for Judah, however.Blood…was converted into a positive…experience through the act of circumcision…

The missing letter alef from Adam [spelled alef-dalet-mem] that we have discussed, and which left only the word dam, "blood", with its negative connotation, was restored when the Jewish people underwent mass circumcision at the hands of Joshua before conquering the land of Canaan. At that time the prediction of Pharaoh's horoscope which indicated a bloody end to the Jewish people was reversed. (cf. Rashi on Ex. 10:10) The dam, blood, which had had negative connotations up to that time, was converted into a positive, life-giving experience through the act of circumcision.

The mystical dimension of the letters dalet and mem in the name Adam is also an allusion to David in his capacity as the Mashiach. We have explained more than once that the mystical dimension of Adam is Adam-David-Mashiach [for the name Adam is made from the initials of the above names]. The seventy years that David lived were a gift from Adam who wanted to be rehabilitated through David, and thereby ultimately complete his life in the glory in which it had begun. [David had been destined to die shortly after his birth.] …when the Messiah arrives the world will be renewed…

Noting that the Torah reports the death of the first two sons of Judah, Er and Onan, who were eventually replaced by two sons born to Tamar [Peretz and Zerach], immediately after the events that happened to Joseph, we must seek a reason for this.

Bereishit Rabba 12:6 draws our attention to the fact that the word "toldot", meaning "descendants", is always spelled without the letter vav after the initial taf except when the Torah describes the "generations" [in Hebrew, "Toldot"] of heaven and earth (Gen. 2:4) and when the descendants of Peretz are described. (Ruth 4:18) The reason is that when the Mashiach arrives the world will be renewed. Progress was deficient in some way during all the years between Gen. 2:4 and the arrival of the Mashiach, a direct descendant of Peretz. Both Joseph and Judah played a part in the resumption of the trend towards a more perfect world…

The reason the Torah appends the report about Judah, his sons, etc. to the sale of Joseph is to underline that both Joseph and Judah played a part in the resumption of the trend towards a more perfect world, towards realizing the Creator's objective in creating the universe.

Bereishit Rabba (85:1) commenting on the episode introducing Judah's marriage, (Gen. 38:1) quotes Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman who interprets Jeremiah (29:11) in which G‑d is on record that all His intentions are for the good of the Jewish people, even though it may not always appear thus to us. G‑d also stresses that He is fully aware of our thoughts. The sale of Joseph is an example of how what appear to be plans and actions contrary to G‑d's intentions are nonetheless furthering His plans. The brothers were concerned only with ridding themselves of Joseph and the danger they thought he represented to them. Joseph and Reuben, as well as Jacob, were each mourning their part in the fate that had befallen the other; Judah was busy choosing a wife. G‑d, on the other hand, was busy paving the way for the eventual arrival of the Mashiach. We cannot evaluate the true significance of … historical developments until the whole cycle has been completed…

The message of the Midrash is clear. While our activities may appear as hurling the world towards destruction, G‑d may utilize these very activities to further His plans. Even Jacob, who mourned Joseph and was inconsolable, and who prophesied that he would descend to the grave still mourning for his son, (Gen. 37:35) did not realize that Joseph's fate was the catalyst that triggered positive historic developments. The same was true for Reuben who mourned Joseph's disappearance from the pit and his share of the responsibility. Jeremiah teaches us in the above quoted passage that we cannot evaluate the true significance of step by step historical developments until the whole cycle has been completed.

In view of this, some people may be tempted to ask why the brothers were not rewarded for advancing G‑d's plans, instead of the Ten Martyrs [the Asara Harugei Malchut, reincarnations of the ten brothers] becoming martyrs for a crime that had gone unpunished for so long.

The answer is that neither the brothers, nor any other players on the stage of history were under compulsion to advance G‑d's plans in that manner. Positive developments accrued from sinful actions, but the perpetrators can certainly not be given credit for these developments. Our sages have long formulated a principle: "M'galgelim zchut al yidai zakai v'chava al yidai chayav". (Shabbat 32) Loosely translated this means that innocent people are employed as instruments for [recognizable] positive developments, whereas guilty people are employed as the instruments for [apparently] negative developments. This whole principle needs to be elaborated on, but here is not the place for such a discussion.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]