Support The Karen Berg Scholarship Fund. Learn More
Without the Zohar, I do not know how we could ever retain a faith in the Bible. In the portion of Vayeshev we read about the selling of Joseph into slavery by his own brothers, and that Jacob, father of the twelve tribes, seems to encourage hatred between his other sons and Joseph by making a special coat for only Joseph. The Bible says his brothers hated him and could not speak with Joseph in peace. It is true, parents can have preference for one child over another, but a smart parent realizes it is in the best interest to conceal that inner feeling of preference and display love for all of his or her children. But Jacob seemed to not abide by this lesson.
"These were elevated souls..."
These were elevated souls, chariots who are a special creation within creation. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the twelve sons all could connect two realms, like a saddle connects a man to a horse. They could bring the immaterial realm—the Lightforce of God, which they were connected to, into this mundane world. How do we reconcile these actions of Jacob and his righteous children?
Here, the Zohar explains that the Israelites, all the children of these twelve tribes, were fated to go down into Egypt and become slaves because this was a covenant that Abraham had made with God, thus Joseph being sold as slave by his brothers into Egypt was predestined. There was to be a world famine, and Egypt would be the only country with food, so Jacob would also ultimately have to go into the land of Egypt with his entire family. The Zohar says that the Israelites, destined to be slaves, were merely playing out their part.
The Zohar also tells us that there are parallel universes, and that the only way we can survive this inescapable illusionary reality of chaos, is to walk out of here from one universe to another. There is no other explanation.
When Rav Akiva was put to death, the Romans scraped off his skin. Rav Shimon bar Yochai explains that the moment the Romans started to peel off his skin, Rav Akiva knew he was experiencing this torture to atone and spiritually cleanse for the physical action of selling Joseph because he was an incarnation of one of those ten brothers who sold Joseph into slavery. When they began to scrape the skin off his body, he said: “Give me morefor I know this is for the purpose of cleansing!”
"Nothing happens without a reason."
We need to elevate ourselves to the point where we understand that our suffering is part of a cleansing. Negativity is not something that comes randomly to us, so when it comes, we have to deal with it instead of whining about what is happening to us. Nothing happens without a reason. It is only those who are destined to suffer with their iniquities who lay blame elsewhere. Rav Akiva dealt with it by connecting to that other universe—the Flawless Universe. The moment he said “Give me more pain” his soul left his body even though Roman’s continued to peel off the skin.
The Zohar says Rav Akiva has shown us that this is the way we are to live our own lives. When Jacob gave that coat to Joseph he invested in hatred for no reason, even when it meant that he would suffer. But make no mistake; there is another universe, a parallel one. We come here to connect to that Flawless Universe, where we can leave this darkened universe with all its hate.
This portion gives us the strength to deal with our chaos and take responsibility. No more excuses, whining, or complaining. How we deal with our misery and chaos is in our hands, and our consciousness (how we perceive things) can transform our experience from one of suffering to one of wisdom from the Upper Realm. When we see that our suffering has been of our own making and transform it by taking responsibility to bring and infuse that suffering with Light, we can raise ourselves to the level of the tzadik (righteous person) and be a channel to reach the Flawless Universe where suffering can be transformed into happiness.