What I want to do tonight is continue with the saga of Ya’akov and Esav but focus on the aspect of Yosef. It’s a strange story as I will indicate. As we’ve seen, this story has tremendous repercussions, universal repercussions.
Before I begin, I just want to say that this shiur should be a blessing and a zchus—merit, for the health and success of the families of Regina bas Yosef Reuven, and Yeshaya ben Yisrael Binyamin Wolf ben Zvi Hirsch and Baruch ben Binyamin Wolf. It should be a zchus--merit for them in Gan Eden.
Recap of Current Events
There’s something that is happening which is very interesting, something that will, ultimately, result in the likes of which we don’t really know, but it’s good news. What is that?
First of all, remember, the two main forces that are stopping the Redemption is the concept of the “Eirev Rav”—Mixed Multitude, and the “ra she’b’Esav”—evil aspect of Esav.
The Eirev Rav are what’s called the “last klippah,” the last of the evil people who try to destroy the connection the Torah has with the Jewish people. We see, in Eretz Yisrael, as I’ve mentioned, that, for the first time, there is no more “Left,” no more significant power of the Eirev Rav as part of the coalition. It’s amazing that all of them have been evicted, by vote, from the governing body of Israel. It, basically, consists of Netanyahu, who is Eirev Rav, but, as I’ve been saying, he’s “Eirev Rav-light’,” a light form and, according to Kabbalah, is termed “klippas nogah” which, ultimately, takes on a more righteous form. The rest of the coalition is “Right” and are now doing things which should vastly improve the spirituality, religiosity, of Eretz Yisrael.
I’ve mentioned that, what seems likely to happen, is that there will be Eirev Rav as a major impediment to the mashiach coming in Eretz Yisrael. Then, something will happen; they will be, in a sense, evicted, all of them, and then there will be somebody who is religious who’ll be the intermediary, the transitional figure, between the end of the Eirev Rav and their ability to stop the Redemption, the intermediary between them and Mashaich ben Yosef. There has to be a transition. Since the tikkun—rectification of Creation has been done by the Jewish people through suffering, the messiah will come not with miracles but through what’s called “teva”—nature, natural means. Even though, of course, it is miraculous when the mashiach comes, his entry will be through natural means because we are not worthy for his appearance to be miraculous. Later on, it will be miraculous but, initially, it won’t.
The feeling is that there will be an individual, a “transitional” person between the termination of the Eirev Rav and their ability to halt the messianic process, between them and the Mashiach ben Yosef. It’s interesting to speculate who that could be. He’ll be an individual who is more “modern,” probably, so he can appeal to all Israel and, of course, he will be religious, a truly G-D-fearing, observant Jew. This seems to be already in the works and a profound change to the make-up of the government of Israel to bring Israel to a much greater spiritual height.
The second force impeding Redemption is the ra she’b’Esav—evil aspect of Esav, the basic idea of the current state of America; we know who they are. We’re talking about Biden, the Democratic Party, the Progressives, the Radicals, the Liberals and their ilk who are destroying America, have debased and corrupted America with their values, especially with the LGBTQ agenda which has been legalized and legitimized. This is the evil of Esav which I’ve spoken about extensively. Now, they too will suffer serious setbacks. The House has now become Republican, conservative, meaning they will try to stop Biden from destroying the United States. This, clearly, will create a stop-gap in the evil of Esav. This is very good.
The mazal—fortunes of those factions that want to stop the messianic process will be stopped, both in Israel and, simultaneously, in America. This is great news. For the first time, the forces of evil are being halted. Naturally, the Satan won’t let up. He’s trying to destroy anybody that endeavors to remove the Left, the Democratic Party, Biden. He’s desperate because he’s dying, as I’ve mentioned quite a while ago, because all the sparks of holiness are, basically, back to the side of holiness as opposed to being on the side of the Satan. He’s desperate to stop the people who would arrest his evil influence.
Let’s hope we are witnessing the beginning of the process to overcome both the Eirev Rav and the evil of Esav.
The Story of Yosef
The story of Yosef is very strange in many ways. There are many difficult questions to ask. How in the world can we come to understand this incredible drama? Who would imagine that Yosef would be kidnapped by his brothers? In essence, they didn’t want to kidnap him; they wanted to kill him.
We know the Torah says that, when they finally did get their hands on him, having been sent by Ya’akov to check up on him, Yosef didn’t know that he was stepping into a dangerous situation. His brothers didn’t want to kill him outright so they threw him into a pit which the Torah calls a “bor reik”—empty pit, “sh’ein bo mayim”—that hadn’t within it, water. The CHaZaL—sages tell us that, obviously, if it’s an empty pit, it has no water. The implication is that the pit had something else in it which could kill him, nechashim v’akravim—snakes and scorpions. His brothers were hoping he would die by means of their stings and bites so they could say: well, we didn’t kill him; he died by natural means even though they’re the ones that threw him into the pit.
How do we understand this? Why would the brothers want to kill another brother? It’s a difficult question to answer. Were they so jealous of Yosef because he had those dreams that showed his ascendancy over them? Even so, do you kill the guy for that? And, if they kill him, they’ll have diminished the number of tribes. There were twelve tribes so to kill him means there’s no more twelve; it’s eleven. They were well aware that the prophecy applies to there being twelve tribes, were they not? Were they, too, not aware of the immense grief that they would be causing their father? We’re not talking here about regular people. These people, the shvatim--tribes, are incredibly righteous people, tzaddikim of the highest caliber. Their father is Ya’akov and the mothers were his four wives. We’re not talking about average folks. We’re talking about tremendous tzaddikim so how does this make sense? We wonder at this.
Another question we could ask is: how does the concept of “dreams” affect Yosef’s destiny? Dreams are very much associated with Yosef, dreams about himself and his brothers and father, about them bowing to him, the dream of the butler and the baker which got him out of prison via his interpretation, the dream he interpreted for Pharoah. Just because he did a service for Pharoah, he became the Grand Vizier? We might expect that Yosef would be remunerated for his service as a consultant. It would be a consultant’s fee and that’s it—right? Even were Yosef talented, he could have been hired as a consultant; you don’t appoint him Grand Vizier, the second most powerful man in all of the Egyptian empire. It was the greatest nations on the planet at that time. And why was he in prison anyway?
Let’s see if we can try to get a handle on the story of Yosef.
Reiterating Fundamental Ideas
We know that the basic thrust of the entire story is Ya’akov taking over Esav’s job. We know both were patriarchs and each had a job. We know that Ya’akov’s job was to bring down holiness which is why he is called the “yoshev b’ohalim”—a sitter in tents, and Esav’s job was to subdue evil in the world by confronting it yet remaining righteous. Esav was referred to as the “ish sadeh”—man of the field. The “field” is the corrupt world. By subduing evil, remaining righteous, you take back awesome koach—power of the Satan, the sparks of holiness.
We know that Esav failed. At the age of thirteen he began to fail and, therefore, he failed as an av—patriarch. We know also that his job still had to be done as part of the avodah—service of tikkun—rectification. It’s not as if it can be reconciled by thinking: okay, so he failed. Too bad! Ya’akov will just continue on his own. No! It’s part of the tikkun process. We know Ya’akov took over Esav’s job and had two jobs, his and Esav’s which is to bring down holiness by going into the evil places and remaining righteous no matter what the temptations are.
I pointed out, too, that no man can do two such jobs. Each job requires its own type of personal characteristics and temperament. Ya’akov’s characteristic was, at least initially, that of emes—truth. As it says, “titen emes l’Ya’akov”—give truth to Ya’akov. The job of Esav meant that he had to be inclined, had to be easily tempted to surrender to evil. He would have to withstand the worst temptations thereby destroying the Satan. No one man has the personal attributes to do both tasks successfully. Therefore, it was necessary—and this is what the G-D did—to give Esav’s job, eventually, to somebody else in addition to Ya’akov. Ya’akov bore some of it which is why he was in the house of Lavan, remaining righteous in that challenging environment with all the evil that was going on there.
The additional aspect which Ya’akov didn’t do, as I pointed out in the last lecture, was given over to Yosef. G-D elevated Yosef to the status of a chatzi av—half-patriarch, which is why he could produce two tribes, Ephraim and Menashe.
What I’ve been reviewing are the foundational ideas needed in order to understand what is going on. We now know something very important, that if Yosef takes over the job of Esav, he too must go “into the field” and withstand overwhelming temptation. To do so means he will have done his share of destroying evil which means removing the sparks of evil from the Satan. This is the basic framework to understand the story of Yosef.
Exploring the Motive
Why did the brothers hate him so much to want to kill him? Can jealousy move somebody to such an extent?
If you recall, Esav was 15-years-old when he arrived home after having committed terrible sins which the medrash—exegetical commentary recounts. Ya’akov realized that Esav is sinning. The problem is that Esav had the power of an av, has an incredibly lofty soul. If he did mitzvos, a terrific amount of kedusha comes down. But, if he sins, he contributes to the growth and power of the Satan. The contribution to the power of the Satan by a patriarch is so great that, after a while, he can wind up destroying the entire planet. Ya’akov realized he would have to remove Esav’s capability to do this and that’s why he was compelled to buy the first-born right. Esav’s power to do kilkul—damage to the Creation had to taken from him.
So, guess what! Yosef was very similar in character to Esav. The pasuk—verse says that Ya’akov loved Yosef “v’hu naar,”—and Yosef was a youth. What does this mean? He used to like to comb his hair, do things that suggested preoccupation with self, seemed to reflect that he was a budding Esav. That was the problem. When the brothers looked at him, they were apt to think: he seems to be very much involved in gashmius—the material world. We don’t know all that Yosef did to inspire such suspicion but, clearly, what he did was indicative of being attracted to Olam Ha’Ze—This World.
We know, and the brothers also knew, that Yosef had a special job and that he was greater than they. The brothers knew that he was the one to fulfill the job of Esav so: why does he seem to be following in Esav’s footsteps in a negative sense?
Another thing that Yosef would do was to tattle-tale to Ya’akov about what he imagined to be the sins of the shvatim, speaking loshon ha’ra—denigrating speech against his brothers. The brothers assumed that Yosef was poisoning Ya’akov’s mind against them. Not only did Yosef seem to his brothers to be a budding replica of Esav, involved heavily in Olam Ha’Ze, he’s a half-patriarch with the potential to commit kilkul, just like Esav. This is what the brothers assumed. Since Ya’akov went out of his way to buy the birthright to prevent Esav from destruction to the Creation, the brothers said to themselves: we need to stop this guy. He’s going to sin because he’s already driven, already has a proclivity, to the pleasures of this world. He’ll succumb. They decided to base their actions on what they told themselves was Yosef’s ability to damage Creation, that it was so great that they had to kill him.
Was that their true motive, to rescue the Creation from a person they thought was a threat to it? The truth is that this wasn’t their motive. They hated him because they were jealous; they just would not acknowledge it. They were jealous of his status as a half-patriarch, that their father loved Yosef more than he did them. Ya’akov gave Yosef that special coat. It was a case of sibling rivalry, plain and simple. That’s why, in the end, they sinned. Their deed had to compensated for even two thousand years later by Hadrian and the ten martyrs, but I’m not going into that now.
We now understand that the brothers convinced themselves that someone of Yosef’s stature to do tikkun could do what Esav could have done, bring destruction. We now have some kind of handle on the reason they decided to judge Yosef and kill him. In their minds, it was to prevent damage to Creation but the real motive was jealousy.
Ya’akov understood Yosef’s dreams. He knew Yosef’s dreams reflected his superiority over the other tribes. This is what is meant when it says, “v’avov shomer es ha’davar”—and his father watched the matter of the dreams, if they’d come true. Ya’akov knew that if Yosef took over the other half of Esav’s job, Yosef, himself, would have to go into the field of evil, into the klippah, and remain righteous. He was hoping Yosef would “go out” and destroy the Satan.
That is why it says that Ya’akov was a “zaken,”—elderly person, and that Yosef was the son of Ya’akov’s old age. Rashi comments on this saying that Ya’akov taught Yosef what he learned when he spent fourteen years at the yeshiva of Shem v’Ever enroute to the house of Lavan. I mentioned why; Ya’akov had to learn there. When you want to bring righteousness down, that’s one kind of limud—study, but when you want to subdue the Satan, you’d better make sure you’re armed with Torah. Since Ya’akov knew that Yosef was destined for the “field,” he did for Yosef what he did for himself. He taught Yosef everything he’d learned in that yeshiva, to arm him, to enable him to subdue the Satan. That’s why Yosef was the only one to get this fortification. It doesn’t say that Ya’akov taught the other brothers. Now we understand why Yosef is termed “ben zekunim.” Ya’akov knew what Yosef’s job was.
What happened in the end? The brothers capture him, throw him in the pit hoping he will die, but, of course, he doesn’t die because he is divinely protected. Imagine that pit filled with snakes and scorpions! He’s sold and goes to the house of Potiphar. Potiphar was one of the nobles, apparently, of Egypt. Because Yosef had his special job, it says, “v’chol asher hu asa, Ha’Shem matzliach b’yodo”—and all he did, G-D put success in his hands. Yosef became exceptionally successful, so much so that Potiphar appointed him chief of his entire household.
Clearly, G-D was protecting him so he could survive because, if you think about it, here’s a guy who’s only seventeen-years-old, kidnapped only for the purpose of being killed. At this point, he has no family, is alone in Egypt, a place suffused with tumah—defilement, and he’s a slave. He’s of the lowest social position in Egypt. Imagine his sense of abandonment and loneliness, the isolation!
He’d had to have felt very vulnerable and resigned to his fate. It’s over for me, he probably thought. I’m finished. But remember, he took over the job of Esav. That means he would have to be tested in the same way Esav was. Did that happen—yes. Here is a story that is amazing and how the Torah alludes to its deeper meaning.
What was that main test that the Torah brings down?—the story of Potiphar’s wife. Yosef was a very good-looking man. After a while—there are many midrashim about this—Potiphar’s wife became enamored of Yosef and wanted to be intimate with him despite being married to Potiphar. What’s this really all about? Why is this story mentioned besides the fact that it’s the reason why Potiphar became angry when he was told the lie that Yosef tried to force himself on her? Besides the fact that the episode is what landed Yosef in prison, why does this story have such a prominent place?
The Deeper Story
It's most interesting how the Torah alludes to the deeper meaning. It says in the pasuk--verse right before the test, something that is a clue as to whether or not he will be with Potiphar’s wife or not. It says, “v’yavoh ha’bayta l’asos melachto v’ein ish m’anshei ha’bayit shom b’bayis”—and when he came to do his work there was no man of the household in the house. The plain, literal meaning speaks of his going to the house to do his job, to manage Potiphar’s household. It doesn’t speak of “a job” but “melachto”—his job. Yosef went to the house to grapple with his test, one with the same intensity as that which Esav would have had to grapple with. Let’s see what Yosef does.
He arrives and she sees her husband isn’t there and she wants to seduce Yosef. He withstands the temptation. How difficult was it to resist that temptation? The Torah alludes to it, incredibly difficult. The Torah says, “v’ein ish m’anshei ha’bayis shom b’bayis.” Why not simply say “they were alone in the house”? The Torah implies that there was no man of the household there but there was a “man,” someone not of the household. Who was that “man”? We learn from this extra phrase that he was the Satan.
If you recall, when Ya’akov fought with the angel, that portion begins by saying “v’ya’avak ish imo“—and a man fought with him, and Ya’akov subdued the Satan, the malach—angel of Esav who was the Satan, as Rashi says. For Yosef, as for Esav, this was no ordinary temptation. The drive, the desire to be with Potiphar’s wife was of superhuman intensity. The one who tempted Yosef to be with Potiphar’s wife is the Satan himself, not one of his subordinates. The drive constituted by the Satan was like that which was constituted to test Esav. The intensity of this temptation is beyond our comprehension. The Satan had to replicate what Esav was subjected to. The “man” in the house was the angel of Esav. This was the supreme test of Yosef, as the Torah implies. It was satanic. Yosef’s experience had to replicate what Esav went through.
The only reason for Yosef’s victory was because the image of Ya’akov Avinu appeared to him and showed him that, were he to succumb, he would not be on the merkava—the Divine Chariot. I’ve spoken about the Divine Chariot; it’s one of the prophetic images that appeared to Yechezkel ha’Navi—the prophet Ezekiel with the face of a man, the image of what’s called “Adam Kadmon”—primordial man. It has four wheels, has the face of Ya’akov, has a lion that represents Mashiach ben David, has an ox which represents Mashiach ben Yosef, has an eagle, has four wheels representing the four forces of kedusha that will bring G-D’s Presence into the world. These are in the symbol of a chariot, a conveyance, a vehicle to bring G-D back.
It was the Yosef’s vision of Ya’akov which communicated to him what would be the result of succumbing to Potiphar’s wife; it would mean failure in Esav’s endeavor, failure to do the job of tikkun—rectification. It’s as if the image of Ya’akov communicated: If you don’t do the tikkun, you’ll not be on the merkava. That image of Ya’akov brought Yosef the realization of what this test was in all its ramifications. In essence, the episode with Potiphar’s wife is the real story, the culmination of Yosef’s job of tikkun inherited from Esav. That episode was the crux of the matter, the critical idea of the mission Yosef had to accomplish.
Yosef accomplished an unbelievable victory; he subdued the Satan and, as a result, he was worthy to be on the merkava and to have Mashiach ben Yosef come from him.
Potiphar accused Yosef and, though he was imprisoned as a result, it seems that Potiphar somewhat doubted his wife’s accusation. In any case, Yosef went to prison and G-D gives him stupendous success with the episode of the baker and cupbearer. Interpreting their dreams gave Yosef the opportunity to appear before Pharoah. When Yosef had proved that his interpretations were borne out in real life, he requested of the cupbearer that his name be mentioned to Pharoah as someone unjustly imprisoned. People wonder why Yosef was punished by having to remain in prison an extra two years; Rashi brings this down explaining that Yosef should have trusted G-D to get him out of prison, not the explanation of a cupbearer. Why couldn’t Yosef take advantage of the fact that he interpreted the dream and that, hopefully, the cupbearer would speak in his name to get Yosef released? What was wrong about that?
The answer, probably, is that Yosef, realizing that everything he undertook was successful, as the text says, should also have realized that G-D was on his side, looking after him so there was no need to rely on teva—nature, the natural order. He could trust G-D because he sees his whole life under protection. A person knows when he has Divine assistance. So, Yosef was punished for two additional years, having to remain in prison.
The Balance of Power
Yosef’s recommendation to Pharoah as a dream interpreter brings him in front of Pharoah. Why did this happen? Was this an accident, a coincidence, that Pharoah had a dream about sickly cows and wheat stalks and healthy cows and wheat stalks?—no. As a half-patriarch he had successfully done Esav’s job to subdue the Satan and remove the sparks of holiness thereby weakening the Satan.
The way the Satan operates is to appoint a nation to represent him in their doing of evil, getting mankind to engage in evil. By Yosef doing the job and remaining righteous whether it be in resisting Potiphar’s wife or in Potiphar’s household or even in prison, he starved the Satan, deprived him of sparks of holiness. If the Satan starves, his firstborn nation, that nation which is his agent at any given time, also starves. It comes out that the dream that Pharoah had is a result of the job that Yosef did successfully. Yosef starved the Satan. Automatically, that nation, Egypt, who were to be doing the Satan’s bidding, also starves and that is the origin of Pharoah’s dream and its content, the famine.
Yosef was released from prison by the condition he created, that of the deprivation of evil of its malevolent energy derived from the sparks of holiness. The kedusha then become ascendant over the Satan, over evil, and this new dynamic must reflect itself on earth. Since kedusha was ascendant over tumah, Yosef rises in holiness much greater than the Satan. He now has most of the sparks and he now is equal to Pharoah. The firstborn of the Satan had been Egypt so Yosef’s stature has to be just one step removed from Pharoah.
Why does Yosef’s interpretation of the dream make him Grand Vizier? Why now make him a consultant? Pharoah had no choice. Pharoah represents the status of the Satan in heaven. Since the Satan’s status is one of starvation, Pharoah automatically becomes a subsidiary, inferior to the status of Yosef who, logically, becomes second-in-command. This is how lofty Yosef became in kedusha—holiness.
To subdue the Satan means to become superior because you’ve taken back the sparks; you’re bound to be elevated. This is what happened to Yosef. It’s amazing.
This idea is found also at Purim. Haman convinces Achashveirosh, the king, to kill Mordechai and all the Jews. Then what happens? The king can’t sleep. Haman comes to him and asks him what the king would consider an appropriate gift, gesture, to someone he wished to honor, with himself in mind. The king assumes he’s referring to Mordechai so tells him to put Mordechai on the king’s horse clothed in regal attire. What spiritual necessity was this an expression of? The Jews had fasted, done teshuva—repentance when they realized that Haman would kill them. I’ll speak about this closer to Purim. They’d taken back the sparks of holiness from the side of the Satan represented by Haman. If that’s the case, then Haman must become inferior to Mordechai to reflect that condition in heaven where holiness dwarfs evil. It came to the king’s mind to reward Mordechai—he had no choice—for saving his life not merely by elevating him by putting him on the king’s horse. Haman would have to lead Mordechai in full regalia through the streets, clearly an embarrassing show of inferiority for Haman.
There’s an amazing reversal when people do teshuva.
Unconsciously, Pharoah recognized that Yosef had to become superior and it would take the rest of the Jewish people, the twelve tribes, all the Jews in Egypt, to take back the rest of the sparks and that’s how they would leave Egypt.
I’ll stop here and finish the saga next time.
Q & A
Participant: Is it a coincidence with Pharoah and all his dreams at night and Achashveirosh being up at night unable to sleep...does the night have to do with the coming out of the darkness so that’s why, in both cases, when we beat the Satan, it all started from the night?
R’Kessin: The most obvious reason in terms of regular meaning is that people usually dream when they sleep at night so that’s when they will have dreams but the other idea is that the night-time is time when the Satan reigns. It’s the time of his “lordship,” if you want to use that word. By having the dream at night, by showing the weakness of the Satan at night, the time he rules, it’s indicative that he is falling because his fall is happening at the time of his greatest power. That’s why, in Teves, the month of Esav, when something good happens to the Jews in Teves, that’s a sign that Esav is faltering in his own month. Since the night is the domain of the Satan, any diminishment of his stature reflected at night is very good. It’s not just that he’s falling; he’s falling at the time of his greatest advantage, his greatest power.
Participant: All of the tests that Yosef had to go through, does the Mashiach ben Yosef have to go through similar tests in order to come through it as well?
R’Kessin: It’s a good question, but there’s a difference. Yosef took over the job of Esav of tikkun. His descendant who is the Mashiach ben Yosef has similar sufferings. The sufferings of the Mashaich ben Yosef are not to atone as a kapporah for the sins of the Jewish people. I once brought the medrash that says that the Mashiach ben Yosef accepts upon himself extraordinary suffering and he does experience suffering, does so in the klippah, in the tumah. That’s where his suffering is. His suffering is a denial of kedusha. That is the nature of it.
Imagine how Yosef felt in Egypt. Inherently, he is an incredible tzaddik. Forget about what the brothers saw. Imagine taking a tzaddik of Yosef’s caliber and it exposing him to such suffering in an environment such as Egypt, one of such evil, such defilement, such tumah. So, Mashiach ben Yosef is in that and his suffering atones for the sins of the Jews.
That was brought down in a medrash I quoted. The suffering is very similar. Yosef’s suffering in prison, in a place of zimo—defilement, incest, all kinds of stuff Egypt was famous for, was so great that one would think he’d fail. Here’s a guy who, given such circumstances, you would think: he’s finished! He’s in prison, a young guy, already imprisoned at seventeen, so how’s he going to get out of this? He’s been abandoned by his family who wanted to kill him. Could you imagine the level of resignation, of yeush, that he had? That was part of his job, to do a tikkun, instead of Esav.
Mashiach ben Yosef also suffers in the klippah, in the tumah. We see this in all the forerunners of the mashiach, that they suffered greatly in terms of the tumah. There was Lot and his daughters, Yehuda and Tamar. Somehow, it always involves what’s called an “environment of klippah and tumah,” of sin. G-D has His reasons for that.
So, there is a great deal of similarity between the suffering of Yosef and the suffering of the mashiach. It’s just that they have different purposes; that of Yosef is for purposes of tikkun and the other, that of Mashiach ben Yosef, is for forgiveness and atonement of the Jewish people, but the suffering is similar. Both are denied a level of holiness that is appropriate for their souls; they’re denied that. That’s their suffering. There’s a similarity and a difference.
Participant: When Yosef was tested with the wife of Potiphar, was she the female version of the Satan because now it’s said that the female version is much stronger than the male version. I don’t want to say her name, but she had that drive that Yosef had to resist? They say that she’s harder to overcome than the male version of the Satan.
R’Kessin: Let’s put it this way; it’s interesting what the sages say about Potiphar’s wife, that she had some kind of vision that she’d marry Yosef. That was part of her desire besides the fact that Yosef was exceptionally handsome. There was a real taavah—drive and she did have some kind of an inkling, a premonition, that she would be with Yosef or they’d have progeny together, which happened. Yosef married Osnas, the step-daughter, an adopted child, of Potiphar’s wife. So, she was right in a way but it wasn’t her; it was her adopted daughter. She represents the test conducted by the Satan and the temptation that Yosef had at that instant which was satanic. It was beyond belief. It’s a miracle that Yosef survived that test. If it weren’t for Ya’akov appearing to him, he wouldn’t have passed the test; he didn’t completely pass the test, but that’s for another shiur. He failed at a certain level. Basically, however, he did succeed. He never was with Potiphar’s wife.
Participant: In our days, the temptation is rampant, especially with the internet. The Satan is using the same tactics in our times as he used with Yosef to try to make him succumb.
R’Kessin: The main test today is interesting; since the mashiach brings the greatest amount of emuna—belief in G-D, it’s the time that you have complete understanding and belief in G-D’s existence. Therefore, what precedes the messianic era must be an absence of that. We now live in a generation of absence and denial of belief in G-D because the opposite is what we will experience during the messianic era. The internet is part of the means for that. The internet has an incredible amount of information so when you are subject to so much information—it has many terrible temptations—you might say to yourself: well, maybe there is no G-D.
Look at the world, how rich the world is in terms of phenomena that goes on which the internet carries and which causes a great deal of what is called “abandonment of religion.” In fact, the latest statistic which I heard is that America used to be religious. Now, at least one-third of America is either atheist or agnostic; they either don’t believe—outright don’t believe in G-D—or they don’t know. The majority have nothing to do with religion. In America and in Europe, religiosity is on the way out. Most churches, ninety-per-cent of churches in Europe, are empty. The only ones who go to church in Europe are tourists to see the beautiful windows, the art and architecture. People are abandoning religion, particularly Christianity, abandoning religion in general.
This is the major test at the End of Time. It’s called “emuna”—faith in G-D. The world is going through a period when it’s being severely tested. Do you believe that there’s a Supreme Being and that the world runs, not by chance but a Supreme Being’s direction?
That’s what you’re looking at with the LGBTQ; it’s a defiance of G-D; that’s really what it is. America, mankind, defies G-D. That’s what it’s all about. The defiance of G-D is because you don’t believe in G-D. Once you defy or lack belief, guess what! What rears its ugly head?—zema,Olam Ha’Ze—this world, the “good life,” idolatry in one form or another, a materialistic life, incest, adultery, promiscuity, all of this stuff. It’s about: I can do what I want. I don’t believe in anything. Nobody’s bothering me!
Mankind now, clearly, finds itself in a place of concentrated self, aggrandizement of self, self-gratification. It’s the reason for all this, non-belief in G-D. That’s the test of today.
Participant: To fight the Left...
R’Kessin: The Left embodies all this. The Left is nothing more than a movement to destroy the belief in G-D. That’s what it’s all about. They defy G-D, doing whatever they do. It’s completely insane and ludicrous and that’s what the world is about now.
Participant: If we stay steadfast in our emuna and bitachon—trust, we guarantee ourselves the merit to be here when the mashiach comes?
R’Kessin: We live in a paradox; if a person believes in G-D, even at a minimal level, then he will get Olam Ha’Ba—Future World. That’s how difficult it is to believe in G-D today. There are so many distractions and alternative lifestyles and belief systems that, if a person believes in G-D, his reward in the Future World is beyond belief. Can you imagine what a person can earn if, basically, all he has to do is believe?
In the Gemara, in “Makos,” Habakkuk boils down all the mitzvos to one. The main mitzvah today is called “tzaddik b’emunaso yichyeh”—a righteous person will live by his emuna. It will be so “dark,” so disheartening, the absence of G-D will be so pronounced, that a tzaddik has to rely on the beliefs he was raised with. It’s as if G-D has disappeared from the world. That’s the main test. If a person believes in G-D, his reward is incredible, even if he’s not about doing a lot of mitzvos.
Today, you can earn Olam Ha’Ba in a way that was unimaginable to earlier generations. For them, it was easier to believe in G-D. There were so many tzaddikim, so many holy people that lived then. Today, you have to search far and wide to find a holy person, so the reward is tremendous.