Yosef said to his brothers, “I am Yosef, is my father still alive?”
But his brothers weren’t able to answer him because they were in shock.
And we all know why, right? You would be in shock and speechless too if you
went to Egypt to buy food during a famine, only to find out that the one
ruling all the food in the mightiest country of the time was your baby
brother whom you sold into slavery 22 years earlier because you thought he
was a silly dreamer and dangerous to your family.
No one likes to be wrong in life, but especially that wrong. Not only had
they kidnapped an innocent Jew and sold him into slavery, the punishment for
which is usually death, but they caused him incredible anguish that must
have weighed very heavy against them in Heaven for the last 22 years. And,
even worse, they had caused their father incredible pain and suffering after
lying to him about the whereabouts of Yosef and his status—all for nothing.
It is one thing to live a lie; it is something far worse when that lie hurts
and damages other people.
The truth had finally caught up to them that fateful day when Yosef revealed
himself, and it hit them like speeding train. It was so big, so overwhelming
that words failed them. There just wasn’t anything to say.
That is definitely pshat. However, there is a way to look at that pshat on a
different level of reality, one that is especially relevant having just
finished Chanukah, the holiday of the Ohr HaGanuz—the Hidden Light of Creation.
What is the Ohr HaGanuz, and why is it called this? The answer to this
question is the subject of much Kabbalah, but the truth is, part of the
answer is in Rashi on the fourth verse of the Torah:
God saw that the light was good, and God separated between the light and
the darkness. (Bereishis 1:4)
He saw that the wicked were unworthy of using it, and therefore set it apart
for the righteous in the Future Time. (Rashi)
Thus, according to Rashi, to avoid allowing the light to be abused by the
evil people of history, who do a bad enough job with physical light, God hid
this very powerful spiritual light from the evil people, once again implying
that the good guys have to miss out because of the way the bad guys abuse
Not so in this case, says the Leshem. Indeed, the hiding of the Original
Light was more sophisticated than that, as the Leshem explains:
He made a separation in the illumination of the light, that it should
not flow or give off light except for the righteous, whose actions draw it
down and make it shine. However, the actions of the evil block it, leaving
them in darkness, and this itself was the hiding of the light. (Sefer
HaKlallim, Klal 18, Anaf 8, Os 4)
So, yes, the Ohr HaGanuz was hidden on the first day of Creation, but only
from the evil people whose very actions close them off to any access to it.
And, even though, as the Leshem explains, we won’t really access the full
force of this light until later on in history, after Moshiach comes, we can
still access it somewhat now, until that time, when we act in ways that draw
the light to us.
And, where the light goes, miracles follow—always. That is why it is
associated with Chanukah and the light of the Menorah. The Chashmonaim, with
their self-sacrifice for God and Torah, drew the Ohr HaGanuz to them, and
overcame a much more powerful and well-equipped army with its help. When the
Menorah burned seven more days than the oil they found should have naturally
permitted, it was because the Ohr HaGanuz made it possible.
We could recap history at this point and speak about all the times that the
Ohr HaGanuz entered history and became less hidden, causing great miracles
in its wake, but that is not the point here. The question here is, how is it
possible that such a fantastically spiritual and high-powered light can be
abused by evil people? If anything at all, it should overwhelm them and make
them subject to its impact, not the other way around.
Correct, and that is precisely the problem. God wasn’t worried that the evil
people of history would harness the power of the Ohr HaGanuz, as they do
physical light, and use it to further their plans for evil. Quite the
contrary! God was concerned that exposure to the Ohr HaGanuz would put an
end to the evil plans of such people, but not as a function of their own
free-will, which is the purpose of Creation, but because the truth would
overwhelm them, and transform them against their will, and there can be no
greater abuse of the light than this.
In fact, this is why, as the Leshem explains, and contrary to widespread
Jewish belief, the Jewish people had to leave Egypt quickly:
Even according to the commentators who speak of a fiftieth level it is
impossible to say that the reason why they could not remain in Egypt was
because they would fall to the fiftieth level, God forbid, since on the
first night of Pesach impurity had no power at all. It means just the
opposite, for The Holy One, Blessed is He, emanated His holy light onto the
Jewish people, as the author of the Haggadah has written, “The King of Kings
was revealed to them.” Therefore, they could not remain in Egypt a moment
longer lest the S”A become completely eradicated and free-will become
eliminated, the purpose of Creation. For, Egypt was the chief of all the
Klipos and if she been destroyed then so would the S”A and yetzer hara have
been destroyed completely. Free-will would no longer have existed, and for
this reason they could not delay. Thus, the verse says, “Egypt imposed
itself strongly upon the people to hasten to send them out of the land, for
they said, ‘We are all dying’.” (Shemos 12:33): they had to leave quickly in
order that evil could still exist, so that free-will could still function
and justify Creation. (Drushei Olam HaTohu, Chelek 2, Drush 5, Anaf 2, Siman
Where the Ohr HaGanuz goeth, evil cannot remaineth. Either the person has to
foresake his evil ways and do teshuvah, or suffer the consquences of
increased Divine light, and perish as a result.
For example, there is the story of Rebi Chanina ben Teradion, whose
tremendous sense of calm and adherance to God and Torah principles as he was
burning to death with the Sefer Torah he taught from, caused his Roman
executioner to do teshuvah and jump into the fire to go to the World-to-Come
(Avodah Zarah 18a). The light that emanated from Rebi Chanina penetrated the
darkness of even this previously spiritually-insensitive Roman, and made him
shine with Divine light as well. That is the power of the Ohr HaGanuz.
This is another example of the same idea, at an earlier time in history:
Eliyahu came to people and told them: “For how long will you continue to
straddle the fence. If Hashem is God, then follow Him only; if Ba’al is god,
then follow him.” However, the people could not answer him. (Melachim
To persuade the people to return to God, Eliyahu arranged a showdown between
the priests of Ba’al and himself, on behalf of God, on Mt. Carmel. Both
sides built altars, but the priests of Ba’al were unable to elicit any kind
of supernatural response, clearly indicating that theirs was a false belief.
Eliyahu, for his part, not only offered up a sacrifice to God, but doused it
and the entire altar with water, making them both virtually non-flammable.
Then he prayed to God to send down a fire and consume the offering, which He
did, and it even dried up all of the water as well. The revelation of God
was so powerful that the people jumped off the fence on the side of God,
calling out, “Hashem Hu Elokim, Hashem Hu Elokim—Hashem is God, Hashem is God.”
Such is the power of the Ohr HaGanuz.
By now, anyone who has been reading my writings for some time now must
recall the tremendous connection between Yosef HaTzaddik and the Ohr
HaGanuz. Just as the holiday of Chanukah is a tremendous source of chayn, as
the name implies, likewise was Yosef a tremendous source of chayn in his time.
And, just as the chayn comes out of the Ner Chanukah as it burns, revealing,
as the Bnei Yissachar explains, Ohr HaGanuz, likewise did Yosef burn like a
candle and emit Ohr HaGanuz everywhere he went. For, as the prophet Ovadiah
And the house of Ya'akov shall be a fire, and the house of Yosef a
flame, and the house of Eisav will be straw. (Ovadiah 1:18)
As the Talmud states, there are 36 righteous people who receive the Divine
Presence on a daily basis (Succah 45b). Thirty-six, of course, is the number
of the Ohr HaGanuz, which shown for 36 hours on Erev Shabbos for Adam
HaRishon before being hidden a second time (Yerushalmi, Brochos 8:5). Hence,
the 36 righteous people are conduits for the Ohr HaGanuz into this world.
Yosef HaTzaddik certainly was, and when he opened his mouth to reveal that
he was the one who stood before his brothers, it was not just words that
came out. Rather, the words were merely the vehicle to expose the brothers
to the brilliance of the Ohr HaGanuz, and it overwhelmed them, and made them
speechless, and pushed them to do teshuvah on the spot.
For there is truth, and then there is truth. It is amazing how the same
words spoken in a specific setting during a specific mind set at a specific
time can hit a person so hard so as to change his life forever. Pure truth
can stand on its own, but sometimes it needs back up and props to make it
into a person’s consciousness, so that they can feel the weight and impact
of the words.
When Yosef told to his brothers, “I am Yosef,” dressed up as the viceroy of
Egypt at a time that they were desperate, after such a charade, after 22
years of being lost to his family, after their father remained inconsolable
the entire time, in the depths of spiritual impurity that was Egypt, it was
if the seven heavens had opened up and Divine light shone down on them. All
they could do was fall back in awe.
Such is the power of the Ohr HaGanuz.
In fact, it says that Ya’akov Avinu sent Yehudah ahead of the family to
prepare the way with Yosef. He went to Goshnah, as the Torah calls it, and
it is spelled Gimmel-Shin-Nun-Heh, the same letters on the dreidel that
stand for Neis Gadol Hayah Shum—a great miracle happened there. An easy
allusion to Chanukah in the story of Yosef and his brothers.
There’s more. In last week’s parshah, it says:
Yosef saw Binyomin with them, and he said to the one in charge of his
house, “Bring the men into the house,” and to have meat slaughtered and to
prepare—u’tvoach tevach v’hachein ... (Bereishis 43:16)
The three Hebrew words mentioned above produce two Chanukah allusions.
Firstly, the gematria of u’tvoach tevach is 44, the number of candles,
including the shamashim, kindled over the course of the eight days of
Chanukah. And, the last letter of tevach, together with the four Hebrew
letters of v’hachein, are the same letters that spell Chanukah.
Not only this, but Yosef was the son of Rachel, who died in her 36th year,
at the end of Ya’akov’s 36 years away from home. He was sold into slavery at
the age of 17, the gematria of the word tov, which means, good and which is
first used in the Torah in reference to the light of the first day of
Creation—the Ohr HaGanuz.
There is more, much more. Should we be surprised? History has always been
about revealing the Ohr HaGanuz, which is why God asked Adam HaRishon, after
he ate from the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah—the Tree of Knowledge of Good and
Evil—only one question: Ayekah. Translated as, “Where are you?” it is really
meant as a gematria, according to the Midrash, totalling none other than 36.
The real question that God asked Adam after he sinned and ate from the
forbidden fruit was, “Where is the Light of 36?” To prove just how wrong he
had been to break the command of God and eat the illicit fruit, God pointed
out to Adam HaRishon that the Hidden Light of Creation was still hidden,
perhaps even more so than before, as a result of his act.
While most people do not even know that the Ohr HaGanuz exists, let alone
act as vehicles to reveal it in the world, Yosef HaTzaddik was different,
very different. He revealed it constantly, and to his brothers, who had
lived without it for 22 years, having lived with mistaken notions about
Yosef, Jewish history, and Divine Providence, its revelation through Yosef
was enough to humble them to the point of speechlessness.
Text Copyright © 2011 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.