The Torah is a work like no other. Beyond being a spiritual guide, a relationship manual, a set of “building specifications” for global growth—it is also a blueprint of creation. As such, every word and letter bears significance, let alone the actual narrative and instructions.

Every personage in this remarkable work has deep spiritual and cosmic significance. Joseph is not merely an abused brother and then, through some quirk of fate, the viceroy of Egypt. Nor is Judah simply the courageous brother who tackles the Egyptian ruler for the release of his youngest brother, Benjamin.

On a higher plane, Joseph is etymologically connected to the Hebrew word meaning “to add.” Joseph has the deeper meaning of the process of growth. Judah, etymologically related to the Hebrew word for “humble acquiescence,” is the source of this growth, just as humility is the ground in which personal development takes root.

The two brothers, Joseph and Judah, represent two levels of creation—vegetation and the inanimate. We are taught in Kabbalah that there exist four levels of finite existence: human, animal, vegetable and inanimate. Joseph, by virtue of his growth in stature and position throughout his life, carried the spiritual characteristic of “vegetation”—the propensity to grow and incline towards the “sun” of the cosmic Creator. Whereas Judah, through self-effacement and groundedness, represents earth, the inanimate realm.

At an energy level, Joseph represents the sefirot (divine attributes) of emotion, referred to in Kabbalah as ze’er anpin (the “Minor Visage”)—the attributes chessed through yesod in the realm of Atzilut, primarily located in yesod. Yesod means “foundation,” and Joseph indeed becomes the foundation for the survival of his family as well as the population of Egypt. He determines the successful economic strategy for Egypt, and thereby overcomes the severity of the seven-year famine that would otherwise have decimated the population and the emergent Jewish nation, which at that moment numbered seventy families. Judah represents the sefirah of malchut, which is the “ground” of the realm of Atzilut.

In the Chassidic teachings on Kabbalah, that which is spiritually higher descends to the lower level in the physical realm. Hence, Judah is inherently of superior caliber to Joseph. In the future, when the spiritual agenda of creation fully matures, the seemingly lower level, the Judah level, will rise to a higher plane than the Joseph level. Kabbalistically, malchut relates directly to keter, the uppermost rung of spiritual energy. Likewise, the earth has the power to make the seed grow. Judah nurtures Joseph.

History must conform to spiritual truths. Therefore, it was Judah’s act of selfless courage in facing up to the ruler of Egypt that ultimately led Joseph to reveal himself to his brothers, thereby bringing their father, Jacob, down to Egypt—the experience that became the crucible from which emerges the Jewish nation.

Mastery: Each one of us possesses a natural quest for growth and development. That quest is nurtured by our personalities—the “living earth” of our inner selves. The quest represents the “plant” within us. What is your quest in life? How do you express it? Do you allow challenging situations to become your growth spurts? Become aware of your growth patterns, and allow the “living earth” of your personality to nurture your plant-like evolution in life.

Meditation: Focus on a challenge that you are facing or have faced. Visualise the challenge as a landscape. It may be rugged and crusty, or full of impenetrable thick foliage. Allow the imagery to open up a pathway through the difficult terrain. Slowly embark on the pathway, and visualize the pathway providing a safe and sure approach to your goal. Recognize that every challenge is a vision. The way you envision it will determine whether you grow or remain where you are—and where you are may not be a pleasant place.

Follow-up resources: The Healing Light—Ohr HaShem Meditation (audio) and The Ten Sefirot of Kabbalah (audio), available at Rabbi Wolf’s website (see link below).