in the merit of bar yochai

In preparation for Lag Ba'Omer this year I ramped up my Zohar (Written by Rabi Shimon Bar Yohai, whose hilullah (death anniversary) is on Lag Ba'Omer) learning, going through a sizable chunk on the Shabbath just before Lag Ba'Omer.

Somewhere in the midst of that learning I was hit with a beautiful hidush. I told a couple of people I trust and they were very hesitant about it, so I didn't share it with anyone else until I got a chance to speak to my Rav, to make sure it doesn't go against any basic tenets of Jewish belief.

Anyways, here's what hit me:

When the brothers sold Yosef into slavery, they sat down to have a seudath mitzwah. Of course they had a seudath mitzwah, a feast to celebrate the performance of a mitzwah, because they believed they had just performed one.

So I stopped for a minute, "Which mitzwah did they perform?" Probably the most literal association would be וביערת הרע מקרבך - and you will remove [lit. burn] the evil from among you. They believed Yosef to be evil, and they thought they were correct in removing him. But, no I don't think that was the mitzwah they were keeping, my hidush is that they thought they were performing the mitzwah of Brith Milah, on the whole (the klal) of Bnei Yisrael. They were perfecting the whole of Bnei Yisrael by removing one small piece that is excess.

This stems from a number of reasons. We know there are four shells, klippoth, that hide the light of HaShem in this world and play a role in the existence of this world in its present state.

When Avraham stood up to the king of humanity at the time, Nimrod, he removed the first of these four klippoth. This was symbolized later when he was given the mitzwah of Brith Milah.

Later, the removal of the second klipah was when Yishmael was removed from the line of Avraham. There is a subtle point here in that Yitzhak was given a Brith Milah at age eight days, whereas Yishmael received his at age thirteen.

The third klipah was removed when Yaakov bought the birthright and took the berachoth of Esav, removing Esav from the line of Avraham. [Also the matter of Yaakov marrying Esav's intended is obviously connected as well.]

Now, there was something unique about the Brith Milah that was given in the time of Avraham, it is different than the Brith Milah we give our children today. Avraham's Brith was simply to remove the orlah, the foreskin. Nowadays in addition, we perform something known as peri'ah. (I'm not going to go into details because it gets very technical, and this isn't the place for it.)

The peri'ah corresponds especially to the fourth and final klipah, klipath nogah. This klipah, unlike the three previous klippoth is not entirely unholy. In fact, it is part good and part bad. It is also the thinnest and finest of the klippoth, and the hardest to remove.

The brothers of Yosef thought that like the other three klippoth, this klipah must be removed in its entirety. So, they decided to remove Yosef, whom they thought represented this klipah, from their midst entirely. They didn't know at the time that there are two stages in removing klipath nogah--"First you cast it away, and then you return the good part of it." (Notzer Hesed)

So too, by Yosef HaTzadik, he was cast away in Egypt, and there he was able to overcome his yetzer harah in a way that no one had ever done before. In so doing he was able to turn his yetzer harah into a holy angel. It was because of this that he became the king of Egypt, and provided life-giving food to the entire world.

Soon his brothers descended to Egypt and he nourished them and their families as well. When he revealed himself to them, Chazal teach us that he revealed his brith milah to them, so they would recognize him. He showed them how he was able to overcome this fourth and final klipah, and that there was a holy side to the yetzer harah that could be achieved. He showed them that this klipah was different from the three before it, and this is also why he said that it was HaShem who sent him to Egypt, to reveal the way to remove the fourth and final klipah and achieve the final redemption.


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