In the Torah portion of Vayeishev, we find Yosef telling his brothers about his dreams, the gist of which was that he would rule over them in the future. The verse tells us that, as a result, “his brothers were jealous of him, and his father guarded the matter.”1
Rashi2 explains that “guarded the matter” means Ya’akov was awaiting the event. “So too,” says Rashi , “does the verse state, ‘awaiting His faithfulness,’3 and ‘do not await my sins.’ ”4
Why does Rashi find it necessary to cite two verses in order to explain that “guarded” means “awaiting” and “anticipating”? Why doesn’t one verse suffice?
The fulfillment of Yosef’s dreams came about when hunger forced Ya’akov and his sons to descend to Egypt, where Yosef served as viceroy. Their descent served as the precursor to the Egyptian exile, the source of all subsequent exiles.
Although the Jewish people are exiled from their land as a result of their iniquities, the underlying purpose of exile is to propel the nation to a level far superior to that attained prior to exile. Thus, at the time of the final Redemption, the Jewish people will be on an even loftier level than they were while the Beis HaMikdash existed.
This provides us with a lesson in terms of our own spiritual service. When one ponders the state of the planet, each day spiritually darker than the one before, one might despair of ever having the strength to illuminate the world with the light of Torah and mitzvos.
But all spiritual descents, states of darkness and concealment, etc., are only external manifestations. The inner truth is quite different.
Everything that transpires in the world is in fulfillment of G-d’s benevolent will. Therefore, despite appearances, the world is each day ascending in holiness and becoming more refined, until it becomes a fit dwelling place for G-d.
This is clearly evident with regard to exile. For although, as stated earlier, we are banished from the Land as a result of our sins, the actual banishment comes about from above.
Since all things that come from above are surely intended to bring the world to its ultimate fulfillment, it follows that exile not only extirpates the sins that caused it, but also leads us to a spiritual level far higher than we enjoyed while the Beis HaMikdash stood.
Clearly then, exile serves as part and parcel of our elevation.
Rashi alludes to the above by quoting both passages regarding Ya’akov’s response to Yosef’s dreams — precursors of the exile in Egypt — and by first quoting the verse “awaiting His faithfulness” (referring to G-d’s promise to the Jewish people), and only then going on to quote the verse “do not await my sins.”
By doing so, Rashi indicates that, although exiles come as a “payback” for our iniquities (“do not await my sins”), their primary purpose is to help bring about the future Redemption, as indicated in the first verse quoted by Rashi — “awaiting His faithfulness.”
This refers to the ultimate elevation, realized with the speedy arrival of our righteous Moshiach.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, pp. 180-184, 62-63
At the beginning of the Torah portion Vayeishev, we are told that, in relating the beginning of his dream to his brothers, Yosef said:5 “We were binding sheaves in the field.” Rashi explains the words “binding sheaves” according to the Targum — that the phrase means “binding bundles, i.e., sheaves of grain.”
In terms of our spiritual service, the verse and Rashi’ s comment imply6 that the spiritual service of “binding sheaves” involves gathering disparate sparks of holiness and uniting them, just as separate stalks of grain are brought together and bound into a bundle.
This manner of service also applies to each individual’s soul; he is to gather the disparate elements of his personality and unite them with the Divine.
Herein lies the lesson of Yosef’s dream: in addition to tying together and elevating the holy sparks found within each of us and uniting them through the service of Torah and mitzvos , we must also “go out in the field” and occupy ourselves in uniting the elements of holiness scattered throughout the world.
We do so in order to bring others back to G-d and the observance of Torah and mitzvos , and to the light of Torah7 — its inner dimension8 — the “Tree of Life.”9
Rashi elaborates on this theme when he explains that “tying sheaves” means “binding bundles,” i.e., that the purification and elevation of the sparks of holiness is to be done in a way that binds them permanently to their source, similar to something that is tied and bound. This will guarantee that the binder will have a lasting effect on the one who is bound, so much so that all the ill winds in the world will be unable to sever his bond with G-d and Torah.
Rashi then goes on to explain that, in order for this to be accomplished, we must learn a lesson from “sheaves of grain. ” Just as kernels of grain yield future crops, so too, when one betters another, it is to be done in a manner such that the beneficiary will in turn have a positive impact on others.
Shabbos is connected to the previous days of the week, for “He who toils before Shabbos gets to eat on Shabbos.”10 Similarly, Shabbos is linked to the days that follow it, for “Shabbos is the day from whence all the coming days of the week are blessed.”11 Shabbos is thus a day that unites the days before it with the days that follow it.
During many years (and this year as well), the Shabbos of the portion Vayeishev falls between the festival of the Alter Rebbe’s liberation on the 19th of Kislev and the days of Chanukah. Since the Torah portions are related to the time during which they are read,12 it follows that the above-mentioned lesson applies equally to the festival of the 19th of Kislev and to the festival of Chanukah.
One of the pillars of the Alter Rebbe’s service was getting Jews to return to Judaism.13 In fact, the Alter Rebbe related that, upon hearing a particular Torah message from his teacher the Maggid of Mezritch, he decided that it was incumbent on himself to draw all Jews closer to Judaism. He thereafter spent five years traveling from place to place in order to bring Jews on the “outside” closer to Torah and mitzvos.14 Moreover, it was after the festival of the 19th of Kislev that there began15 the service of “spreading the wellsprings outside. ”
The Chanukah lights are to be lit as well in the entrance of one’s home. For they also serve to illuminate and purify the “outside,” bringing it back into the domain of holiness.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 115-121
1. Bereishis 37:11.
3. Yeshayahu 26:2.
4. Iyov 14:16.
5. Bereishis 37:7.
6. See Torah Or , Vayeishev 28a; Or HaTorah Bereishis, Vol. VI, p. 1083. See also Toras Chayim, Vayeishev p. 66 and onward.
7. Beginning of Eichah Rabbah ; Yerushalmi, Chagigah 1:7 and commentary of Korban HaEidah.
8. See Likkutei Levi Yitzchak , notes to Zohar, Vol. II, Sisa p. 150b.
9. Zohar , Vol. III, p. 124b. See also Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 26.
10. Avodah Zorah 3a.
11. Zohar, Vol. II, p. 63b, 88a.
12. See Sheloh, Cheilek Torah Shebichsav, beginning of the Torah portion Vayeishev.
13. See Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. IV, end of p. 755ff.
14. Ibid., p. 1512.
15. Toras Shalom , p. 112ff.