In this parasha, we see how Joseph is reunited with his brothers. Joseph shows particular favor to his full brother, Benjamin, as in the verse:

And he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, the son of his mother, and said, "Is this your younger brother you mentioned to me?" And he said, "May G‑d favor you, my son." (Gen. 43:29)

Know that the numerical value of "Benjamin" is the same as that of the word for "hole" [in Hebrew, "nekev" = 152], for that is his spiritual location, i.e. where "feminine water" unites with "masculine water".

"Binyamin", Hebrew for "Benjamin", is spelled:
beit-nun-yud-mem-yud-nun = 2 + 50 + 10 + 40 + 50 = 152.

"Nekev" is spelled: nun-kuf-beit = 50 + 100 + 2 = 152.

"Feminine water" and "masculine water" are the Zoharic terms for Nukva's "arousal from below" and Zeir Anpin's "arousal from above", respectively, in preparation for their union.

The fact that the numerical value of Benjamin is the masculine form of the word Nukva indicates that he plays a role in this union.

…What spiritual level do you personify?

Therefore Joseph said to Benjamin, "What spiritual level do you personify? I know that you embody neither of the two sides [who are party to the spiritual union], for you do not embody any partzuf whatsoever, neither masculine nor feminine."

Benjamin then answered him, "Know, my brother, that I personify the masculine principle, and indeed, I have ascended to the same spiritual level that you did, in order to draw and suckle from the place where you drew and suckled."

Whereas the other brothers personified various aspects of the six midot of Nukva, Joseph personified the yesod of Zeir Anpin. Benjamin also achieved this level.

This is why "Benjamin" is now written fully, with the second yud, for this indicates how he ascended and drew into himself a radiance of the yud. He said to him, "Joseph, know that I now personify the masculine principle, and I have a wife and children."

The name "Benjamin" is usually spelled beit-nun-yud-mem-nun, as above. Sometimes, however, it is spelled beit-nun-yud-mem-yud-nun.

The yud is the principle masculine letter of the name Havayah. (The other masculine letter, the vav, is an extension of the yud, as we have seen previously.)

Joseph said back to him, "What did you name them?"

Benjamin answered, "I named them after [you] my brother…."

The names Benjamin gave his sons all refer to some aspect of Joseph's tribulations or his relationship with his brother Benjamin.

This being the case, it is understood that Benjamin did not conduct marital relations below, at his [original] level, but above, at the level of his brother [Joseph]. This is why he named all his sons after [aspects of] his brother['s life].

A further proof of this is that he had ten sons, the number of the lights from which he suckled at his brother's level. This is [also] why his name was originally spelled without the second yud, and is here spelled with the second yud, indicating that he [now fully] personified the masculine principle.

All the 12 tribes constitute a rectification of the Shechinah….

We see that sometimes his name is spelled with the second yud, indicating that he personifies the masculine principle, and sometimes without the second yud, indicating that he personifies the feminine principle. In fact, his name is spelled [in the Torah] with the second yud only five times, for a known reason.

Five times the numerical value of Benjamin spelled with the second yud is 810, alluding to the two Temples that were built in Benjamin's territory and stood in total 830 years. It is for this reason that his name appears with the second yud only five times, as we said.

Beit-nun-yud-mem-yud-nun = 2 + 50 + 10 + 40 + 10 + 50 = 162.

162 x 5 = 810.

Jersualem was in Benjamin's territory. According to the Talmud, the first Temple stood for 410 years (833 BCE - 423 BCE), and the second Temple for 420 years (350 BCE - 70 CE). (Yoma 9a) This gives a total of 830 years.

As to the missing 20 in this calculation, the scribe who wrote it down suggests that we add the 17 letters used in spelling out the word "Binyamin" plus the two kolel's for the two Temples, this giving 19, plus another kolel for the word "Binyamin" itself, giving 20.

Beit-yud-tav nun-vav-nun yud-vav-dalet mem-mem yud-vav-dalet nun-vav-nun -> 17 letters.

The Arizal now backtracks conceptually and lays the groundwork for the above discussion.

Know that all the 12 [progenitors of the] tribes constitute a rectification of the Shechinah, and She therefore hovers over them with Her full partzuf.

The Shechinah is Nukva of Atzilut, which constitutes a full partzuf, as we know.

They are: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, personifying Her chesed-gevura-tiferet; Issachar and Zebulun, personifying Her netzach-hod, Naphtali and Asher, personifying Her right knee; Dan, personifying Her right heel; Gad, personifying Her left knee and heel; Judah personifying Her malchut; and Benjamin Her yesod; while Joseph personifies the yesod of Zeir Anpin.

The above description moves freely between the actual nomenclature of the sefirot and their anatomical correlates. Chesed-gevura-tiferet correspond to the right arm, left arm, and torso, respectively; netzach-hod correspond to the right and left legs; malchut corresponds to the mouth; and yesod corresponds to the womb in the female and the reproductive organ in the male.

This is what is alluded to in [Zohar] parashat Miketz, that Joseph personified the masculine principle and the others personified the feminine principle.

When they all saw that Joseph personified the masculine principle and they all personified the feminine principle, they became very jealous of him. Thus we see that the numerical value of "Joseph" [in Hebrew, "Yosef"] is the same as that of the word for "jealousy" [in Hebrew, "kina", 156].

"Yosef" is spelled: yud-vav-samech-pei = 10 + 6 + 60 + 80 = 156.

"Kina" is spelled: kuf-nun-alef-hei = 100 + 50 + 1 + 5 = 156.

[Joseph] suckles from the divine name E-l Kana Havayah.

The phrase "E-l Kana" ("a zealous G‑d" or "a jealous G‑d") appears 6 times in the Torah. (Ex. 20:5, 34:14; Deut. 4:24, 5:9, 6:15) The last time is the verse "For a zealous G‑d [E-l Kana], Havayah your G‑d, is among you…".

This [name] signifies the supernal yesod of[Imma, signified in turn by], the first hei [of the name Havayah], also known as the river that issues from Eden.

In the phrase "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden", "Eden" signifies chochma, the "river" is bina, and the "garden" is malchut.

Mystically, the sea is an appellation for malchut….

It happened that [the brothers acted on their jealousy] of his father, for he sent him [to check on them], saying, "Are your brothers not pasturing their flocks in Shechem?" (Gen. 37:13) By this, he meant [mystically] that some of them are situated spiritually at the level of the arms of the feminine principle, which is the meaning of the word "shechem", as in "on his shoulder". (Joshua 4:5, et al)

The word "shechem" literally means "shoulder".

Jacob assumed that since some of them are situated spiritually at the level of the arms [of the feminine principle], they would not be jealous of him nor harm him, for two reasons: First, because the arms are higher than the torso and the procreative organ; "This being the case," he said, "they are higher than you and will not be jealous of you."

The arms can be raised higher than the torso, and therefore they are considered higher than it; they embody chesed and gevura, while the body embodies tiferet.

Even though Joseph personified yesod of Zeir Anpin, which is a higher level than Nukva, Jacob either meant that yesod in general is a lower sefira than chesed-gevura-tiferet, and in this respect, the brothers (at least Reuben, Simeon, and Levi) were higher than Joseph, or that when Zeir Anpin is vested in Nukva, the yesod of Zeir Anpin is situated at the lower extreme of tiferet of Nukva. (Gloss of Rabbi Wolf Ashkenazi )

Secondly, [he said,] "Their source includes loving-kindness and mercy, so they will have mercy on you, and you need not be afraid."

Chesed and tiferet are loving-kindness and mercy, respectively.

But, they did not act according to Jacob's assumption, but instead "they found [Joseph] in Dotan" (Gen. 37:17), i.e. related to him with the attribute of strict judgment. In the end, however, Reuben, who personified the right arm, had mercy on him, (Ibid. v. 21 ff) but this did not help since he was a lone voice.

Dotan is related to the word "din", meaning "judgment."

"They cast him into the pit", (ibid. v. 24) this being the attribute of strict judgment, of Isaac, whose numerical value is the same as that of the word for "pit" [in Hebrew, "bor" = 208].

In the context of the three Patriarchs, Isaac personified gevura or strict judgment, and this is seen by the fact that he devoted great energy to digging wells and pits. Whereas chesed and tiferet are characterized by downward movement - the "have" giving to the "have-not" and the "higher" having mercy on the "lower" - gevura is characterized by upward movement, the "have-not" judging itself critically and aspiring to ascend to a higher level. This upward aspiration toward purification was expressed by Isaac's well-digging, where dirt (obstructions, evil) is removed so the hidden good (the subterranean well) can be revealed.

"Isaac", in Hebrew, "Yitzchak" is spelled: yud-tzadik-chet-kuf = 10 + 90 + 8 + 100 = 208.

"Bor" is spelled: beit-vav-reish = 2 + 6 + 200 = 208.

Specifically, [they cast him] into the Nukva of Zeir Anpin, the attribute of Isaac, to the location of its left arm, where Simeon was spiritually located.

As we know, the masculine principle in general is associated with the right side, that of chesed, while the feminine principle is associated with the left side, that of gevura. Therefore, Nukva can be justifiably called the attribute of Isaac, since Isaac also personifed the side of gevura. As was noted above, Simeon personified the left arm of Nukva, i.e. the gevura of Nukva, which is anyway associated with gevura. Thus, the left arm of Nukva is doubly strict.

That is why Joseph acted wisely when Simeon was under his control, and imprisoned him in front of the other brothers (ibid. 42:24) so they would take the hint. But they did not get the hint.

In any case, they later took [Joseph] out of the pit and sold him, and [his purchasers] brought him to Egypt, the "straits of the sea", which is malchut - specifically, the back of Nukva of Zeir Anpin.

The word for "Egypt", Mitzrayim" can be read as the two words "meitzar yam", or "the straits of the sea", and indeed, most of the settled area of Egypt is around the Nile River, a passageway into the Mediterranean Sea. Mystically, the sea is an appellation for malchut, since all the other sefirot flow into malchut just as everything eventually flows into the sea. The "strait" or "constriction" of malchut is the back of malchut, the side exposed to evil.

Egypt is the constriction of…the flow of the expanded consciousness of bina into the restricted and constricted consciousness of malchut….

Thus, he was now on the [central] axis, that of malchut and bina.

Having been thrown off-center to the left side by his brothers, he returned in Egypt to the central axis, where he began (as yesod of Zeir Anpin), albeit in a precarious position, exposed to the evil of Egypt.

This axis is the constriction of "who" [into that] of the "sea", which is malchut.

The Hebrew word for "who", "mi", is the last two letters of the Hebrew word for "Egypt", "Mitzrayim", just as is the word for "sea", "yam". "Mitzrayim" can thus be understood both as "the constriction of the sea" and "the constriction of 'who'".

But the question-word "who" is an appellation for bina, inasmuch as its numerical value is 50 (mem-yud = 40 + 10), and there are fifty "gates" of bina, as we have seen previously. So Egypt is the constriction of bina into the constriction of malchut (the "sea"), or the flow of the expanded consciousness of bina into the restricted and constricted consciousness of malchut. This is where Joseph wound up.

"And Potiphar, the eunuch of Pharaoh, bought him." (Ibid. 37:36, 39:1)

To be continued…


Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim; 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.