This week’s Sedra continues the quest for meaning from the dreams discussed last week. We will see that Chassidus focuses some tests for what, despite appearances, is kelipah. In Week 9 we learned of the two different directions formed up by the dreams. Additionally the two directions reflect the differences between kedushah and kelipah (the opposite of holiness).

This week’s Sedra1 begins with Pharaoh’s dreams of the cows and the corn. As previously explained, the dreams of Pharaoh were really a restatement of the same notion, whereas Yosef’s dreams contained something additional in the second dream. Why then repeat, in such detail, the second dream of Pharaoh? Whole libraries are written about one word in the Torah. Why repeat so much? The Torah could have simply stated that Pharaoh dreamt two dreams, that Yosef interpreted those dreams and that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven lean years.

The Rebbe explains that there are two real aspects to this question:

The first aspect highlights the fact that G‑d’s flow of sustenance goes through Am Yisrael to the world, whereas the second distinguishes between kedushah and kelipah. These two things are so important that it is simply impossible for a Jew to live a purposeful, meaningful life without understanding both aspects.

In relation to the first aspect we learned earlier that Yaacov was successful in usurping Esav for his father’s berachos and that the flow of G‑dliness into the world had to come through Am Yisrael to the nations of the world.&2

Now although these berachos come to the world through Am Yisrael, nevertheless they do not come in an open, exposed manner. HaShem works the process through a concealed methodology.3

This is, incidentally, a very important ingredient in understanding a Rebbe’s ruach hakodesh (extra spiritual sight.) There is a story of an encounter4 between one of the Russian Chassidim with the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. The chosid, concerned about his son leaving for the New World sought a berachah for his son from the Previous Rebbe. The Rebbe advised against the son going. The son, ignoring the advice, subsequently died on the journey. The shattered father remonstrated to the Rebbe, questioning why he had not been told his son would die. The Rebbe disclosed that sometimes when a tzaddik sees with ruach hakodesh , he may not always see clearly, his vision may be clouded. Sometimes on the other hand, the tzaddik is given a precise view; but not always is he permitted to divulge what he sees. The problem, of course, is that the Rebbe cannot remove from anyone the process of free choice. One can understand that for this reason it is much more difficult for a Rebbe when he must withhold answers than when he gives them.

Separately, we learn an incredible thing in Chassidus. Nature has no shlita (dominion) over a Jew!5 It is important for every Jew to understand what this means, because at an ultimate level it applies to all of us. This is relevant firstly in practical life. We know from this principle that the desire to overeat, indulge in alcohol or drug abuse is controllable. We are (in potential) the controller not the controlled. If he wants, there is no moment in his life when a Jew needs to be governed by his environment. He is only governed by his environment to the extent that he chooses for it to be so. True it is that once he becomes so regulated, escape becomes increasingly more difficult. If one is used to a certain amount of sugar daily, coming off sugar will be a difficult process; the more dominated by it the more difficult it will be. Nevertheless ultimately however, gashmius cannot dominate a Jew’s ability to achieve anything.

At its lowest and crudest levels this means every Jew can overcome ordinary desires for food, drink and other pleasures. At its highest and most sophisticated level, a tzaddik is absolutely independent of nature.

So, when is a Jew unnecessarily dominated by nature? When he does not behave like a Jew sufficiently to allow his spiritual forces to work clearly and freely. A Jew can override nature if he is enough of a Jew. What does it mean enough of a Jew? If his existence is spent entirely relating to G‑d and to his purpose in life, then nature has no dominion over him whatsoever.

At the level of an ordinary person, there is no need ever to imagine that one has to fit into the natural world; on the contrary our job is to dominate nature by bringing G‑dliness into physicality. An animal’s head and heart are on the one level, as he walks on all fours. A human being’s head is above his heart. Why? Everything in physicality is a reflection of what exists in spirituality; Man walking erect shows that his emotion is governable by his seichel , (intellect). We do not believe that if in 1953 a person experienced some kind of negative experience he is necessarily forever bound to fixed behavior patterns. Know that the expression “I couldn’t help it” is a lie. It may be difficult to overcome past conditioning, but responsibility for one’s actions is a fundamental tenet of our belief system. Of course, at a deeper level, we believe that by Hashgochah Protis such previous trauma was divinely orchestrated, a descent for the purpose of ultimate ascent. Each negative experience no matter how painful at the time is a spiritual springboard for growth;6 without the descent there can be no ascent.

(The process of growth can be best achieved by training seichel to rule emotion.7) There is simply no situation in a Jew’s life which tolerates the sigh “it was bigger than both of us.” The prospect of feeling good is no necessary recommendation for action. Really feeling good comes as a by-product of fulfilling one’s purpose in life, as we shall see. In the short term this is achieved by ruling emotion with seichel.

Just how far this can be taken is illustrated by a story well known amongst Chabad Chassidim.8 The Alter Rebbe sent one of his Chassidim to spy on Napoleon. When he noticed that information was being leaked, Napoleon suspected the Chosid. The General brought this to the attention of his entourage (which included our Chosid). He announced to the trepidation of all present that he was now going to isolate the traitor. Without further warning he suddenly thrust his palm into the jacket of the Chosid, his hand covering the Jew’s heart. Detecting no acceleration of heartbeat, Napoleon was satisfied he had suspected the wrong man. The Chosid later explained that his training of intellect ruling emotion allowed him to mentally control his fear to such an extent that his heartbeat remained constant!

Because HaShem’s berachos devolve upon the world through Am Yisrael and are clothed in nature, isolating and seeing them can be difficult. Ultimately however, a Jew unlike a Gentile, has the power to step outside the domain of nature both in regard to his general environment and in regard to his body as we have seen.

Because Yosef dreamed two dreams, Pharaoh needed two dreams. The second aspect of this repetition which was Pharaoh’s second dream is to distinguish between kedusha and kelipah.

Yosef’s dreams were dreams of kedushah and Pharaoh’s dreams were dreams of kelipah. Yosef’s second dream was a dream of effort; Pharaoh’s second (and indeed his first) dream were passive dreams where without intervention things took their course naturally. There is a reference in Gemara to the “Bread of Shame”. “Bread of Shame” at the simple level is unearned financial reward. A man values one earned unit of currency more than nine units donated to him.9 Why? Explains the Gemara, because the nine units are Bread of Shame, accessed independently of effort. This is the simple level of the reference. At a deeper level, it means that that which a person achieves as a result of personal effort is worth more than anything that comes to him naturally or automatically. This is true in avodah ; watch the passion of a baal teshuvah’s newly discovered mitzvah.

The Rebbe explains that one of the recognizable aspects of kedushah , is that it occurs as a result of effort. One of the recognizable aspects of kelipah , is that it is promoted without effort. In kedushah there is the journey and then there is an end; there is effort and then there is result. The result is earned by the effort. In kelipah there is no end, only a means to an end; and it is the means which is accentuated, not the end. Drug abuse must be kelipah because there is no end involved, merely a temporary state of pleasure creating nothing of lasting value. We can say Le’Chaim together at a farbrengen harnessing whisky for kedushah; there is an end involved. Out of the farbrengen will come heightened consciousness of service to HaShem and resolutions to improve behavior. For a man, however, to go to a bar on the way home from work for the same number of whiskies predicates no end for good and is therefore to be intently suspected.

Another of the great tests between kedushah and kelipah isolates lasting value. Kedushah is eternal, kelipah fleeting.10 Consider the desire for a shining red Ferrari. The desire may rage in some people and yet if they were to contemplate the lifespan of the red Ferrari, they would reconsider. The perspective of conceptualizing the rusting bucket of iron it becomes after five to ten years makes passion unimaginable. This is a great test of real value. Kelipah is momentary.

Because kedushah is total value, perfect in itself, it is an end in itself and lasts forever.

Another property of kelipah is that kelipah always moves from the healthy to the sick. When kelipah consumes, there is no enrichment by that consumption. In the dreams of Pharaoh, the skinny cows ate the fat cows and stayed skinny because when kelipah feeds it has a destructive effect.

Still another aspect of kelipah is that when the healthy gives way to the sick the sickness remains. The more kelipah that is consumed the greater the sickness. This is why the good in Pharaoh’s dreams gave way to the bad.

So kedushah lasts eternally, any change being only in elevation and growth. Kelipah is destructive where change takes place for destruction and descent in order to induce a temporary state; if that temporary state is further fed with kelipah the subject is weaker and weaker, skinnier and skinnier.

For a Jew to be fulfilled and happy he must live in accordance with his purpose. That purpose is to refine his body and elevate his environment as we shall see throughout this book. Integral to this process, is to advance kedushah and avoid kelipah. To avoid kelipah one must be able to first recognize and isolate its insidious effects. It is not sufficient to remember that kelipah is failure to keep the mitzvos, one must also be aware of its constant potential presence. Our Rebbes have shown how to identify the protruding fins in an apparently danger free sea.

In this week the identifying marks of kelipah are highlighted. Every Jew has the opportunity to live this week scrutinizing the signs and quarantining them from his life and that of his family. Pharaoh’s dreams provide the litmus test for seeing that with effort a Jew can live above nature while isolating and avoiding the cancer of kelipah.