Given: August 27, 2016
In this class I want to elaborate on some of the ideas from the previous class and, in particular, to explain certain ideas that are really are very important, really startling, and which demonstrate what the concerns of G-d seem to be.
Primordial Man: Adam’s Failure
We start with Adam ha’Rishon---Primordial Man because he was supposed to ignore the advice of the Satan---in the guise of the serpent. Had he done as he should have, he would have been mashiach from the get-go and that would have been the Redemption. Adam was created Friday at about noon and, had he waited until Friday evening to resist the temptations of the snake, he would have had the ohr ha’ganuz”---the primordial Hidden Light.
However, Adam failed. Instead of ignoring the Satan, he was taken in by the snake’s argument that if he (Adam) eats from the Tree of Knowledge, he would be like G-d. Fundamentally, this failure paved the way for evil to exist in the Creation. The Satan’s power to dominate physical reality is called the “zohama,”-- pollution, defilement, contamination. It's a force that the Satan exudes and uses to control the physical universe. There are many manifestations of zohama in the Creation, one of which is entropy (as I have previously mentioned), the inclination for all things to decompose, to proceed from order to chaos. Satan is a demolition expert; he only knows to destroy. The concept of zohama explains why all living things decompose and why all energy systems dissipate or disintegrate; that's high-entropy.
Adam originally had two tasks to fulfil in this world: The first, referred to as “hispashtus kedushah,” was the mission to bring down holiness into the world. Had Adam observed the command not to eat from the tree, the Satan would have remained external to the physical universe, certainly to the body of man. The second task, the spreading of kedushah--- holiness within the created universe, would have been fulfilled. Instead, not only did he not bring it down, he actuated the zohama, which is the tumah---impurity, the tentacles of the Satan.
Consequent to Adam’s failure, two new tasks emerged for Adam to fulfil: first, because the Creation became contaminated, Adam now had the job of removing the impurity so that the kedushah could be brought into the world. However, you can't bring down holiness in a place that's contaminated so you have to remove the contamination of the Satan first. The second task, “hachnas ha’ra,” is the task of subjugating evil, thereby removing it. Then the sparks of holiness can enter.
Because there exist two tasks--- the fulfilment of which is to rectify Creation--- there are two messiahs. One is Mashiach ben Yosef who removes the contamination, the evil and the corruption. Following the completion of that task, there emerges the second mashiach, namely, Mashiach ben David who will “bring down” holiness.
Rectification from Adam To Moses
In one of the earlier classes, I mentioned that G-d gave mankind another two thousand years to do the job. Adam failed. Cain and Abel failed. Ultimately, all of mankind was given the two jobs. Everybody could do the tikkun. There was no such thing as a “Jew” or a “Jewish nation.” They weren’t needed because all of mankind could take on the role of rectifier; it was not then a specific role associated with someone called “Jew” or “Hebrew;” it was the task of “Israel.” Therefore, Adam was “Israel” representing mankind. But in the face of repeated failure and vice, G-d “realizes,” as it were, that He created people that wouldn’t do it, so what's the point? It’s two thousand years of failure. The result was the Flood which destroyed the whole world during the generation of Noah, and a generation that wanted to war with G-d.
Finally Abraham shows up. He was the first Jew. In fact, he's not even called a “Jew.” He’s called “Hebrew,” an “Ivri,” which indicates that he came from across the river from “Ur of the Chaldes.” As I’ve talked about before, the tikkun now became a Jewish enterprise. Later, the word “Hebrew” became “Yehudi” because the tribe of Judah (Yehudah) took over that leadership role when the Ten Tribes were “lost” and Hebrews became known as “Yehudah,” or “Yehudi” or, as we call a member of that religion today---“Jew.”
The Spiritual Forces Embodied by the Patriarchs
The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, represent potent spiritual forces. We have noted that Abraham represents chesed, which is the attribute of “kindness” but, more so, it's the quality of unconditional generosity, altruism. In Isaac, the attribute of gevurah is represented. That attribute introduces the value of conditional deservedness. There are conditions attached to what one can get or have. If you fulfill the conditions, you can be successful. This quality also can be defined as “judgement” or “might.” Then there's the balance between these two attributes, the “middle” attribute --tiferes, defined as “beauty” or “harmony,” because the world cannot exist with only chesed or only gevurah. The world would never last. Too much chesed results in unchecked selflessness. Gevurah without chesed is stringency devoid of mercy or compassion. The balance is represented by the patriarch, Jacob.
We noted previously that tiferes itself has a left and right side, whereby Jacob represents the right side, and Esav -- the left. Jacob’s mission, on the “right” side, was to sit and study Torah, thus to bring down the holiness. The left side of tiferes is the side of gevurah where Esav was to have been eradicating evil. That's why he was known as “ish sadeh”---man of the field because the way you subjugate evil is to go into evil’s territory while retaining your righteousness (as did Joseph in Egypt). That's the way it works. Esav’s guardian angel is the Satan because, in order to subdue and destroy the Satan, you need to be connected to him. If you resist the Satan’s temptation, he dies. Esav was a patriarch with that incredible potential.
As I mentioned in the previous lecture, Esav was a patriarch whose initial (and final) role is to assist his brother in the rectification of Creation. This role was to have included his contribution of six tribes in symmetrical balance to Jacob’s six tribes. It was to be a split down the middle because the brothers, initially, were of equal standing. In fact, the commentators noted that one could not differentiate between the identical twins until they were in their early teens. They also appeared as identically brilliant students headed for great spiritual achievement.
Given this balance between the twins as two “sides” of one mission, Rachel was to have married Jacob, and Esav was to have been matched to Leah. But Esav chose evil. Never think that he had no free will; Esav absolutely did. As powerful as he was, he was still subject to his base, evil inclination. So, he sold his birthright to Jacob. The question then is what does that mean? It certainly appears as if Esav would no longer be involved in the rectification project.
The Hidden Story of Esav and Jacob
We know the story of Jacob and Esav. When their father, Isaac, was very old and his eyesight was failing, he wanted to give his blessings to Esav. But, under Rebbeca’s coaxing, Jacob disguised himself as Esav and “stole” the blessings intended for Esav. We know that story. So it wound up that Isaac gave the blessings to Jacob. When you look at the blessings that Jacob received, those obviously were the blessings that he would have given to Esav. If you examine them, you would regard them as material blessings. Why? Isaac knew that Esav’s mission was predicated on the side of Mashiach ben Yosef, the side of might, discipline, earning one’s rewards. So all those blessings were meant to render material wealth and to subdue or channel the physicality of the world toward G-d. Those blessings were intended to subdue the Satan and his power---the forces of contamination, pollution, and entropy---the zohama. The power of the Satan would have collapsed. Instead, Isaac wound up giving all those blessings to Jacob. Since Esav failed, that side of tiferes “needed” another champion to bear the responsibility, to represent and embody it. So who took it over? Jacob now piggy-backed both jobs, albeit temporarily.
Jacob leaves home in fear for his life and journeys to the house of Laban, his future father-in-law because we know that, since having assumed Esav’s job, he now became the “man of the field.” I'm skipping an enormous amount of material, but you get the gist. Jacob goes to Laban in order to do the job of Esav and, of course, he gets to marry Leah (Laban’s oldest daughter) because Leah is the perfect wife for somebody who is involved in the gevurah aspect of tiferes. So, not only did Jacob marry Rachel, the younger daughter and his favored wife, he also married Leah who had been destined for Esav. So far, everything makes sense.
We know that, in principle, no man can take over two such awesome jobs. There is something very important to remember: When Isaac gave the blessings to Jacob, and Jacob left home, in walked Esav with: okay, here I am! ready to receive his blessings.
Isaac reacts, "Who are you? What do you mean, ‘Here I am, your eldest son’?”
At this point, Isaac realized that the Hand of G-d was involved in this deception, this apparent mix-up, because, obviously, it could never have happened unless G-d permitted it, even set it up. Indeed, that explains why Isaac was blind. Isaac became incredibly frightened. Frightened? It is presumed that when a person is deceived his usual reaction isn't fear; it’s enormous rage. So why was Isaac so frightened? Isaac clearly understood that a patriarch has profound ability to affect Creation and realized that, had he given the blessing of Mashiach Ben Yosef to Esav, he would have been able to destroy Creation rather than rectify it. We can't even begin to imagine what could have ensued.
In addition to his fear, Isaac felt bad for Esav and not only as a son who honored him. He actually loved Esav and wanted to bestow upon him lavish blessings. Instead, he gave Esav relatively inferior blessings. We begin to discern the tremendous repercussions that these events have had right through to today. This is why I am explaining all this; it’s fundamental to explaining current events.
Another important aspect of the blessing Esav received is that of material wealth. This is in keeping to the rule that whoever G-d sends to punish the Jews---enabling atonement---that person or that nation must be fabulously wealthy and powerful. Essentially, Esav’s blessing ensured that he would be the one to subjugate (thereby rehabilitate) Jacob (klal Yisrael) whenever he (they) sins and rebels against G-d. Esav subjugates him (them) to wealthy, grandiose entities such as: Babylon, Greece, Rome, Christianity, and Western Civilization. G-d will not allow a nation of low stature to subjugate His people; it would be a profound humiliation.
What Isaac said to Esav is very interesting. He didn't say, “You will enslave [Jacob].” Isaac said, “When Jacob will rebel, then you will do it,” which means that Isaac re-established the ability of Esav to do the tikkun---rectification, just in another manner. He re-established Esav's potential and ability to do so bymaking Esav’s power over Jacob contingent upon Jacob’s behavior. That is exactly what the rectification requires, namely, suffering that brings a “kapparah”--- atonement.
The nature of Jacob is “truth,” whereas Esav’s task, which Jacob took upon himself, required a certain deviousness and hedonism, because you have to be drawn to the physical world in order to withstand it and subdue it. Ultimately, the job (or “half” job ) of Esav had to be given to someone else, a surrogate, of sorts. So G-d created a contingency plan whereby part of the task of rectifying the world went to Joseph.
Joseph Takes On the Job of Esav
G-d raised Joseph’s stature to that of patriarch which is why his tribe is greater than all the other tribes. His tribe actually contains within itself two tribes, namely, the tribes named for his two sons, respectively: Menashe and Ephraim. You may well ask how can one tribe incorporate another tribe? You have to be a patriarch to do this. You must have the Divine soul of a patriarch. Once you understand the concealed narrative, there's so much that is answered and that can be beautifully understood.
As soon as Jacob knew that the task of rectification would be given to his son, Joseph, that's when Jacob told his father-in-law Laban: we're out of here. Rachel’s birth of Joseph was the impetus to leave. You see, both Jacob and Joseph were needed to vanquish Esav, to do the job of rectification on behalf of Esav. Joseph’s birth established those forces. That's why a prophecy says, “Jacob will be a raging fire and Joseph the flame. And Edom will be a field of dry stubble.” (Ovadia 1:18) We now understand that Joseph was to take over the task requiring Jacob to teach Joseph everything he had learned. According to the sources in the midrash—rabbinical exegetical commentary, Jacob went to an academy to study after he left his father’s house on his way to Laban. But why not go straight to Laban’s house instead of remaining at that house of study for fourteen years? If you are going to be the patriarch and become the one who rectifies the world, it is one thing to know Torah (as it would have been understood in those days) sufficiently in order to bring about holiness, but it is entirely different mastery required to go “into the field,” into the house of the Satan. So Jacob spent time preparing himself for the task and then, later, taught Joseph everything he knew.
Joseph himself would have to go inside the impure and degenerate society of Egypt. He had to go to Egypt because Egypt was that “field,” and a field of the worst type. Meanwhile, Jacob had succeeded in subduing the satanic angel, Esav’s guardian angel, in that epic, all-night struggle. As for Esav, his evil inclination was subdued when his angel was vanquished.
The Epic of Jacob’s Daughter, Dina.
Where am I going with all of this? I am leading up to the story about Dina, a very important story. Backing up to just before the struggle with the angel, Jacob left Laban’s house and meets Esav who was coming with four hundred footmen who, presumably, were out to kill Jacob and his family. Jacob became extremely afraid (as we noted earlier) because of Esav’s tremendous merit of having honored his parents. The midrash alerts us that, as a precaution, and anticipating that Esav will see his daughter Dina, Jacob hides her away. He is afraid that Esav will want to marry her. Of interest is that Esav never got to set eyes on Dina even though the dreaded meeting finally took place without rancor.
There is a fascinating commentary concerning G-d’s reaction to this event: G-d says to Jacob, “What do you mean by hiding Dina? You should have permitted Esav to marry her.” The commentary continues that G-d then declared that, because Jacob didn’t offer Dina to Esav, Dina would (later) be forcibly taken by the Prince of Shechem in that infamous rape episode, one that brought terrible problems for Jacob. As a result of Shechem’s treatment of Dina, two of her brothers, Shimon and Levi, felt compelled to go on a rampage of the city, endangering their own families and the city’s inhabitants.
Let’s try to understand the, seemingly strange approach taken by G-d toward Jacob. Let's assume for a moment that John Gotti drives up to your house and he's got a whole bunch of lieutenants with him, dressed in beautiful sharkskin suits, packing their guns and saying, “You know, we've taken a good look at your daughter. We like her. John Gotti wants to marry your daughter. He wants to be your son-in-law. He wants to give you real ‘nachas’---gratification, happiness.”
You’d say, “Excuse me, but I don't think so. We're very scrupulous about who we take for our sons-in-law.” You would have to express yourself very carefully and delicately so that you survive as a father-in-law. Who would blame you for not marrying your daughter off to John Gotti? So how can G-d fault Jacob for withholding Dina? Esav makes John Gotti look like a kindergarten teacher. Esav was the arch-villain. He was a brilliant man, but ruthless. If he committed a crime, it was a crime.
Yet, Jacob was punished for this and Dina was taken against her will by somebody else. Some observers in the midrashic commentaries even go so far as to indicate that this punishment was in the nature of an educational or moral lesson to Jacob. How? Of course nobody expected Jacob to give his daughter to Esav. Nevertheless, Jacob should have been sympathetic, as we shall see. Because of Jacob’s lack of sensitivity, G-d lodges a complaint.
The midrash that discusses this episode is astounding. Ultimately, what did G-d want? Let us recall that Esav’s initial status was that of a patriarch and he still had the potential to restore Creation. Remember too that Esav’s task was to keep his “little brother” in line and to punish him if he forgot his mission and rebelled against G-d. So Esav represented one of Jacob’s greatest threats. Have you any idea of the problems that Esav and his mission have since caused the Jewish people? We're talking about pogroms, about Christian butchery for two thousand years, inquisitions, expulsions, crusades, the Holocaust….It's beyond belief what Esav has been compelled to do.
What did G-d want? In essence, what G-d wanted was Dina to have been given to Esav because G-d knew that if Dina were to become Esav’s wife, she would make him into a ba'al teshuva, one who returns to the fold. We know that, but Jacob didn’t know that, but he should have. How could he have known?
Since Jacob was able to subdue the Satan---Esav’s guardian angel---in that all-night confrontation, the Satan’s hold over Esav had to have been diminished. Jacob fought him and defeated the Satan to the extent that the Satan was compelled to bless Jacob, bestowing the name “Yisrael,” confirming him as the victor and bearer of the mission to purify Creation. Jacob should have realized that he’d taken an enormous amount of power away from this angel, thereby diminishing Esav’s evil inclination as well.
The second thing that Jacob should have realized – and this is a literal interpretation that I'm telling you which I believe to be true: Esav was supposed to have killed Jacob in that encounter with the four hundred men. That’s not an unreasonable conjecture given the brothers’ turbulent history. Instead, scripture says that Esav kissed Jacob. The great teacher and mystic, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, claims that the kiss was genuine. What should that kiss tell you? It tells you that even though Esav had legitimate and profound complaints against Jacob for taking his blessing, he was not actually coming to kill Jacob; he’d changed his mind. Why? The grasp that the Satan had on Esav after the combat with the angel was substantially weakened. That is to say that Jacob should have asked himself: Why is this brother now kissing me? Jacob should have realized that Esav had changed.
Third, when Jacob offered Esav many gifts, Esav says, “Let that which is yours be yours” meaning, as the commentator Rashi says, Esav admits that the blessings that were “stolen” were legitimately Jacob’s; he conceded that. So, Esav was knocking at the front door of repentance for past deeds. The Satan’s influence on him was reduced. He kissed and forgave Jacob and conceded his entitlement to the blessings. To get him over the threshold would have taken only marriage to Dina because Dina was no ordinary girl.
Who was Dina and who gave birth to Dina? It was Leah, Jacob’s first wife (who Laban switched for Rachel). But Leah should really have given birth to Joseph. According to a Talmudic source, Leah was indeed pregnant with Joseph, but Leah realized that she already had created the root of six of the twelve tribes of Israel. If she were to give birth to Joseph (who would then constitute the seventh tribe), the maidservants, Bilha and Zilpah, each with two children apiece, would leave Rachel (Leah’s younger sister who Jacob wished to marry) with only one contribution to the eventual and destined twelve tribes of Israel. Rachel would have borne even fewer children than Jacob’s two maidservants. So, Leah prayed on behalf of her sister that the child within her, Joseph, should be changed into a girl: “Immediately the child [in her womb] was turned to a girl, as it says, “and she called her name Dinah” (Gen 30:21, Talmud Bavli, Berakhot 60a). Leah gave birth to Dina and, later, Rachel gave birth to two sons, Joseph and Benjamin.
What this means is that Dina is, in some way, a female version of Joseph and perfect for Esav, the ideal complimentary mate for someone whose mission it is destroy evil. Also, the rabbis note Dina’s assertiveness, characterizing her as “a female who’s not homebound,” akin to Mashiach ben Yosef. It is true that Dina went to see what was going on in the world. However, I don't think she went out to check out the latest fashion trends. I would like to think that she wanted to spread awareness of G-d. That, too, was the job of Joseph.
Think about what's happening here; and I want to tell you up front that we have no idea who Jacob was. G-d held it against Jacob that Esav was denied Dina. Without the midrash we could never say it, but now we can say that Jacob made a mistake. The mistake was so severe that it meant that Dina, a “female Joseph,” would be taken by force. We don't know why Jacob did not see this. I suspect that he had a tremendous amount of anger at Esav for causing him so much misery, which is true. Among other matters, Jacob had to flee his parents’ home, parents who were the only real tzaddikim---pious people of that time. We don't know who Jacob was; we don't know why he didn't see it.
What if Dina had married Esav? Esav would have repented and his status would have been restored, not only as a rectifier, but from one who “afflicts” to the one who “assists.” All the terrible hatred and persecution that the Jews suffered at the hands of Esav could have been avoided. Not only that, but Esav would have been back in the story of Joseph because he had just married Joseph’s female counterpart. One other, but not less significant, outcome would have been the great joy Esav would have brought to his beloved parents because their son returned as a penitent young man. If Jacob would have restored Esav, just consider what great merit he, Jacob, would have earned for that mitzvah of honoring his parents.
Lastly, Esav and Dina would have borne Osnat (who was given to Joseph as a wife by Pharoah). Under such different circumstances, Joseph would then have been the son-in-law of Esav. Not bad! Instead of John Gotti as a son-in-law, it would have been Joseph. What a team!
Look at all the things that would have happened. And who knows what the history of the Jewish people would have been had Esav repented then. G-d knew that Jacob had enough indicators that Esav would have done just that, but Jacob did not acknowledge them and, consequently, none of those wondrous consequences ever materialized.
We see from the story of Dina that G-d wants Esav to repent. It's an incredible thing; the Torah encapsulates the whole story in one word. After the brothers met and Esav kissed Jacob, Esav said, “Let us get together. Come with me, back to my territory, to Seir.”
And what was Jacob’s response? It was, “I've got a lot of children, cattle and all that. I move too slowly but we'll meet up some day.” The Torah then narrates: “And on that day, Esav returned to his path.” The narrative should have simply stated that Esav returned on that day to Seir. What's this “to his path,” which sounds so vague? The path to which Esav returns is the “path” of wickedness. Yes, because Jacob was unreceptive to Esav’s gestures of reconciliation, Esav returned to his former ways.
Joseph Takes Over
What happens now is that Joseph takes over. We know that he was sold to the Ishmaelites and that he's down in Egypt for thirteen years. He’s “in the field,” but he's really in prison part of that time; nevertheless, he holds onto the holiness; he’s his father’s son. But note that in taking over Esav’s task to destroy the Satan, Joseph is now connected to the Satan, as Esav was. Joseph is serving as a steward in the house of Potiphar when his master’s wife tries to seduce him. The Torah says: “And it was on this day, Joseph went to the house to do his job because he was the man of the entire house and there was no man of the household in that house.” Since Joseph’s job is to replicate Esav’s task, that should have meant that the evil inclination would incline him to be seduced and that this inclination is the Satan himself. Where do you see that? How does the Torah describe the Satan? It uses the word “ish” – a man, because when the Satan is in your psyche, he's called a “man;” he's inside you trying to tempt you. The Torah narrative recounts: “On this day he went to do his work.” What was his work? Literally, Joseph’s work was to manage the household, but the broader meaning is that his work is the work of Esav. When the narrative recounts how “there was no man of the household there in the house,” it could have just as well say: “There was nobody else in the house.” Why point out that there was “no man from the household” there in the house? That sort of belabors the point. It's true that there was no man of the household in the house, but there was another man -- just not of the household! That other “man” is the Satan. That's the setup. This means that this would be the test of Esav, the test Joseph passes; he withstood the temptation because that was his job. Joseph resists the temptation but goes to prison when Potiphar’s wife accuses him of assaulting her. Later, Joseph’s brothers come down to Egypt but they don't suspect what’s happened. They want to find him and they are checking throughout the whole of Egypt. Where are they checking? They look in the most disreputable quarters because they figure that Joseph is probably destroyed morally and ethically. Of course they would never suspect that he's the grand viceroy of the entire country. They find out when Joseph finally says, “I'm Joseph.”
Mashiach: An Unlikely Character
And here is when the objection comes: You are Mashiach ben Yosef? You? What are you doing in the house of Pharaoh? You're the last guy in the world I’d expect. However, that's the way G-d reveals who Mashiach ben Yosef is. G-d does this in such a way that the mashiach’s identity is completely concealed (as I’ve discussed before) and, in the end, people are shocked and look at him, astounded.
What Joseph does is interesting and, in many ways, foretells what will be. Joseph is in Egypt and he is a household steward who lands in prison, is taken out of prison, and is summoned to appear before Pharoah who makes him the viceroy (itself an astounding concept, but which I'm not going to elaborate on now). Just because Joseph gave a guy some good economic advice, you make that guy a viceroy? I mean, Joseph was almost as powerful as Pharoah! You've got no idea what a Pharoah was in Egypt; they treated a Pharoah like a god. When Joseph becomes second in power to Pharoah, could you imagine the power, the authority, the stature Joseph enjoyed? Let me ask you something: what did Joseph do with that reputation? He cleaned up Egypt. Yes, what does someone like Joseph do, Joseph who is pious and self-disciplined and whose power almost matches that of a Pharoah?---he purified Egypt.
It wasn't just that Joseph saved Egypt economically by managing a lot of grain. There's no question that he also tried to raise Egypt morally and ethically and that he had the power to do so. He's Joseph and, therefore, able to remove those barriers of evil and impurity. If you want to understand what the nature of that purification was, consider that the Jews then, governed by this Pharaoh and Joseph, experienced a period of tranquility that they could not have experienced before in terms of Torah and Divine service.
You know where you see this? The biblical narrative states unconditionally that, “Jacob lives.” The question arises as to why the text doesn’t simply record that Jacob dwelled in Egypt or that he lived in Egypt for seventeen years. The rabbis indicate that Jacob “lived” for the first time, not only trouble-free, but also completely immersed in Torah. That is to say that Jacob was now living a spiritually zestful life together with all his sons---the tribes---together with his grandchildren. Not only that, but the rabbis indicate that Jacob’s son, Yehuda, even set up a center of Judaic study (what is called a ‘yeshiva’ today) in Goshen, which was the area in Egypt where the Israelites were settled. Can you imagine the sanctification and the incredible Torah scholarship that was going on in Egypt right under the noses of the Egyptians? Jacob experienced a renaissance of Torah like he had never experienced before. For the first time in his life, his problems were solved. Joseph was alive.
In the time of Joseph, idolatry hadn’t started yet in Egypt and the country thrived and contributed to the elevation of the spirituality of the Hebrew people. So the Torah was able to grow to great heights under Joseph’s government. Indeed, the Israelites ate the bread of Egypt. Maybe that's why G-d said, "Do not hate the “ger”--the stranger or sojourner because you were also strangers in Egypt.” Had the Egyptians been into idolatry, they could not have allowed such a surge of spirituality among the Jews. Joseph changed Egypt.
Nevertheless, G-d told Abraham, “Your children will be there four hundred years and your children will be “gerim” (plural of “ger”) and they will serve them and that power will afflict them.” In order to understand this seeming contradiction, let us review more closely the meaning of this term, “ger.” Of the different ways of understanding the term, the one that is most germane to our discussion is the one designated ger ezrach---a stranger who does not assimilate. At this stage of Jewish destiny, G-d wanted Jews to remain gerim who withstand the temptations of Egypt, whatever those were. If they wouldn’t retain their distinctive Jewish identities, then the Egyptians would be allowed to punish them, just like the old business with Esav. If they would continue slipping, then the Egyptians would begin to persecute them, which, by the way, is what happened in the final eighty years of the Egyptian exile. The period of the ger ezrach however, occurred only during Joseph’s time in Egypt. Later, as we know from the book of Exodus, the Jews began to venture out to intermix with the rest of Egypt. They slipped and fell all the way into the “49th Level of Impurity.”
Purification in the Works, America
If we move forward to today's time, I believe that there's a purification in the works, and I believe that America is going to have that and will provide a positive climate similar to that which Joseph provided in his time in Egypt. If Trump makes America great again, he's going to provide an excellent climate for the Jews. Trump, as I’ve already pointed out, is surrounded by Jews, is familiar and inclined towards Jews. If Trump wins---which I certainly hope will happen---the growth of Torah will be tremendous in America, just as happened under Joseph in Egypt. In many ways, it’s the beginning of a messianic idea.
In Egypt, the Jews clearly slipped, but I remember, back in 1985, I toured Egypt and I went to the Giza pyramids and to Luxor. Luxor is ancient. Thebes is where Moses and Pharaoh were in “upper Egypt.” Upper Egypt is really south Egypt. Luxor is the old Thebes, while Thebes is the original capital of Egypt (not Cairo). Cairo is Lower Egypt. But I remember I was sitting in one of the greatest temples in Egypt called the Temple of Karnak. It’s a ruin, but astounding to look at. I attended a sound-and-light show presenting the history of Egypt. I remember saying to myself: I don't understand something; before G-d destroys a country, as He destroyed Egypt, He basically warns them. He warned Nineveh. He sort of warned Sodom. So why didn't he warn Egypt? Well he did, with the aid of Moses. While you are punishing, you can warn; but usually G-d warns a nation or city before He begins the punishments. So, I wondered about that.
It appears that G-d wanted to raise Egypt before it would descend into the lowest level of defilement with Jews in the midst of it. So G-d enabled Joseph to raise Egypt; Joseph extricated Egypt from its mess. Then I realized, sitting there during that sound-and-light show, that G-d did actually warn the Egyptians even before Moses ever came. There was a Pharoah named Akhenaten, also known as Amenhotep IV, who was famous in Egyptian history and who believed in only one god---“Aten,” a solar deity. He ripped out all the pagan idolatry. Do you know what that is? Only a pharaoh could get away with that because Egypt was steeped in idolatry. He destroyed all the temples, moved his capital to Akhenaten, and made everybody adhere to the worship of this one solar god.
Now, it’s not a huge leap from quasi-monotheism to monotheism, to one G-d. After all, Abraham also contemplated the possible deification of the sun, then realized the sun eventually sets and that there must be an ultimate G-d---not the sun---Who controls everything. Egypt, we see, thus had an opportunity to mend its ways. This occurred before Moses arrived on the scene.
I saw King Tutankhamun’s treasure in the Cairo Museum. He's got more gold than Fort Knox, and he was a boy king. I think he died at 17. So I asked myself why he died. Later on, I read that King Tutankhamun restored all the idol worship that his father-in-law, Akhenaten, had gotten rid of. He reinstated the gods that had been censored for so long, rescinding G-d’s attempt to raise Egypt. Had they believed in one G-d, Moses’s monotheism would have been much easier for them to accept. But once Akhenaten’s enterprise was revoked, the pagan business returned. G-d gave Egypt dramatic warning and King Tut restored Amun and all the other pagan deities and, therefore, G-d killed him at age seventeen---with all that gold.
You see one consistent theme, namely, that G-d wants to reform wicked people. The problem is that they don't want it. Joseph was successful in cleaning up Egypt but the Egyptians slipped back and, unfortunately, the Jews too slipped into the “49th Level of Defilement.” As I’ve said before, Moses came with the exodus agenda and he raised Egypt and brought them to “One G-d” and destroyed their pagan temples. What else did he have to do for these guys? Perhaps he should have sent them a telegram that G-d exists? And they still went back to their pagan practices.
Yes, G-d does warn sinners because, ultimately, He does not want suffering to be the means whereby absolution is achieved. Even regarding the nations of the world, He wants them to be good. He wants them to help the Jews do the tikkun. So I believe that's about to happen, hopefully.
Postscript: What's this year called in Hebrew? It is taf-shin-ayin-vav---5776. Remove the letter “taf” and jumble the remaining letters and you will end up with shin-ayin-vav which spells “Esav” and the “taf” that’s removed stands for “tikkun.” That’s interesting...I believe we are about to experience the same thing as happened in Egypt whereby there will be a raising up of America in order to help the Jews usher in a tremendous era of Torah which, in many ways, is the beginning of the End. And that is the topic that I will discuss in the next class.