Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #11: Vayigash (He approached) B’resheit (Genesis) 44:18-47:27
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 37:15-28
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:9-16 specifically vv.13-15
If we look more deeply into this week’s Torah portion we can derive truth not obvious to the casual reader but one that can be understood from a Kabbalistic perspective.
We notice in the beginning of this parashah that Jacob and Joseph are more intimately connected than Joseph’s relationship with his other sons. In Genesis 37:2 we read these words:
These are the generations of Jacob; Joseph was seventeen years old;
Why does YHVH make this connection so obvious in His Torah? It is because Yosef holds the key to the commission and mission assigned to Ya’akov’s (Jacob’s) families by YHVH Elohim. In order to examine this mission from the mystical or Kabbalistic perspective we have to go back to where it all began.
In Genesis 17:1-12 we read:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God appeared to Abram, He said to him: ‘I am El Shadai, walk with me and be complete, and I will make a covenant between me and you, and cause you to become exceedingly multiplied … Thy name shall be Abraham … This is my covenant, which you shall guard between Me and you, and your descendants who shall follow. Circumcise every male. And you shall circumcise the flesh of the foreskin; this will be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. On the eighth day you shall circumcise all the males among you …”
In making His covenant with Abram, G-d commands the patriarch to circumcise himself and all his descendants. We also see also the addition of the letter “hey” to Abram’s name which becomes Avraham to signify a new turn in his life and a new identity, infused by G-d. Another thing we see in these passages is how G-d identifies Himself. G-d identifies himself as El Shaddai. This is the first occurrence of Shaddai in Scripture. When the blessing of Avraham is passed on, the name of G-d is invoked as Shaddai. When Yitzhak (Isaac) sends Ya’akov (Jacob) away and forbids him to select a wife from among the local inhabitants he blesses his son by saying:
‘El Shaddai shall bless you. May you become fruitful and multiply. May you become a large nation. May (He) give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your descendants with you.’ (Genesis 28:1-4)
After the angel gives a new name to Jacob the Torah reads:
The Lord said to him: ‘Your name is Jacob. No longer will your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ And He named him Israel. The Lord said to him, ‘I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation, a great nation shall descend from you, and kings will emerge from your loins.’ (Genesis 35:10-11)
I hope you have seen a developing pattern. When G-d blesses the patriarchs with many descendants, the name of G-d employed is Shaddai. The root of Shaddai means ‘breasted one.” In this role, YHVH is a nurturer and in the process of building His nation Israel and their progeny. The previous passage is the only usage of this Divine Name until this point in Torah. The next time we encounter it is when Ya’akov agrees to send Benjamin to Egypt. The Torah reads in Genesis 43:14:
‘May El Shaddai give you mercy before the man. May He send your brother (Simon) and Benjamin back …’ [Genesis 43:14]
Furthermore, we see that in the last days of Yaacov’s life the name Shaddai is used twice only in connection with Joseph. Again the topic is children or descendants. In the first instance Ya’akov is blessing his grandchildren, the sons of Yosef: Manasseh and Ephraim, the only grandchildren to receive this blessing directly. In this instance Ya’akov recounts certain events of his life to Yosef and says:
And Jacob said to Joseph, ‘El Shaddai appeared to me in Luz and blessed me.’ (Genesis 48:5)
In the second instance and the last time Shaddai is used in Genesis Ya’akov blesses Yosef. In Genesis 49:25-26 we read:
” … May the El of your father help you, and Shaddai bless you, blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the depths, which couch below, blessings of the breast and womb. The blessings of your father are potent beyond those of my ancestors, to the utmost boundary of the ever-lasting hill; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown on the head of he who was separated from his brothers.”
In this case, Joseph receives the blessings which Ya’akov received directly from G-d and from his father and grandfather Isaac and Abraham. Note that Ya’akov refers first to El and then to Shaddai. This is significant for the following reasons, again taking note that these passages are the only uses of this name, Shaddai, of G-d in Genesis:
1. The name of Shaddai is connected with progeny; the building of the nation Israel and their progeny
2. The blessing becomes Yosef’s (Joseph’s)
The first time the name Shaddai is used in the Book of Exodus is also of interest:
Elohim (Ruach HaKodesh) spoke to Moses, and said ‘I am YHVH, I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, and (but) My name, YHVH, I did not make known to them.’ (Exodus 6:2-3)
The mission of Moshe will require a different type of relationship than that enjoyed by the patriarchs, and he will relate to G-d not as Shaddai but as YHVH. This then brings us to the meaning of G-d’s names:
The name of G-d used in the description of creation is Elohim, the Almighty. The name implies omnipotence, and interestingly has the same numeric value as hateva, “nature.” Kabbalistic tradition states that Elohim is just one aspect of G-d and Kabbalistic texts prefer the name Ein Sof (without end) as being closer in describing the nature of G-d. According to Kabbalah, Ein Sof better describes G-d as being without end and transcendent. The Zohar suggests that the first verse in the Torah should better be translated as “in the beginning Elohim was created by the transcendental Ein Sof.”’ Kabbalistic thought places G-d beyond mans’ ability to categorize G-d and the best we can do is in effect assign anthropomorphist words to describe G-d’s characteristics.
What then does Shaddai mean from the Kabbalistic perspective? The Gemara teaches us that the name Shaddai comes from the word dai meaning “enough” or “stop.” In the Kabbalistic description of creation the world emerged as a result of the transcendental G-d contracting, a process known as tzimzum allowing a world of nature to emerge. So in effect as Resh Lakish said, “What does the verse mean ‘I am El Shaddai’? I am He who told the world ‘Enough!’ When The Holy One Blessed be He created the sea, it kept on expanding until the Holy One Blessed be He chastised the [sea], and it stopped.” (Chagiga 12a). The name Shaddai from this perspective means limitations on nature.
An example of this limitation is seen in Yosef’s relationship with the wife of Potiphar. He displays his ability to control natural sexual drives. The Kabbalistic term associated with Yosef is Yesod meaning “foundation.” Yosef is known as HaTzaddik for his ability to control his natural drives and the term Tzakkik Yesod Olam associated with him means “a good and just man is the foundation of the world.” However, as previously mentioned, the root of the name Shaddai implies a nurturer such as YHVH’s role in “designing” or developing His nation Israel. This is not to say the Name does not contain more than one role or meaning.
Yosef is the foundation of all Israel. His life experiences with all the many devastating variables possible demonstrate G-d’s providence and preservation of His seed and the unification of Judah and Ephraim into the nation Israel. Yosef is also the human source for the nation and for the eventual exodus of (all) Israel from Egypt (sin) and the antitype of the final unification of Judah and Ephraim as Israel into the coming Kingdom of G-d. Yosef’s life on the human plane parallels that of Yahshua HaMashiach, L-rd of Lords, King of Kings, L-rd and Master of a coming united Israel.
Moshe wrote of Yosef and there is more written in the Torah about him than any other man. YHVH Elohim must have given Yosef prominence for some reason that has application for us. Indeed we learn that Moshe brings Yosef out of Egypt to be buried in the land of Israel. Yosef’s example of his ability to control his own nature by the human manifestation of Shaddai must have inspired Moshe and gives us added insight into the foregoing verses. It also gives us an understanding of how G-d shows us His nature and His attributes through His names.
This concept and the role of G-d as Shaddai leads us to understand that no nation like Israel could have come into existence without Him. Understanding these attributes through the various names of G-d can help us to learn more about G-d and His great plan for mankind. Standing on the foundation represented by Yosef, continued by Moshe, and culminating in Yahshua HaMashiach, the final Yosef, we are provided information, comfort, and peace about the world situation and what is to come. More importantly, we can know that He is in control just as He was from the beginning and that the hope he provides can never be taken from us. We can see the end laid out before us. We wait until the day that He sets up the earthly reign of His kingdom from Jerusalem in the land of His fathers from the nation of Israel, and that true believers will be an integral part of it.
Haftarah: Ezekiel (Yechezk’el 37:15)
In this week’s parashah we read of Y’hudah’s willingness to become Yosef’s slave.
In the haftarah, the prophet Yechezk’el is told by G-d to prepare two pieces of wood. On one piece he is to write Y’hudah (Judah) and on the other Israel and then to take another stick and write Ephraim upon it as the verses below reveal.
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
18 And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these?
19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.”
YHVH Elohim was essentially telling the prophet that by taking Y’hudah and Ephraim and placing them together, G-d would unite them one day as Israel and end their exile.
The Jews went to Egypt because Y’hudah and Yosef weren’t united. Now, YHVH was going to unite the two in the land of Israel. A foreshadowing of Judah/Israel and Ephraim/ Israel with their companions Gentiles being united in the latter days to be fully united in the land of Israel at the Messiah’s Second Event.
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:9-16 specifically vv.13-15
These verses emphasize the haftarah as follows: “The second time, Yosef revealed his identity to his brothers, and Yosef’s family became known to Pharaoh. Yosef then sent for his father Ya’akov and all his relatives, seventy-five people. And Ya’akov went down to Egypt; there he died, as did our other ancestors.”
There is an argument about the number “75” used in this passage versus 70. Seventy-five is used in the Septuagint, but seventy is used in the Masoretic Hebrew text (Gen. 46:27; Ex. 1:5). Genesis 46:20 accounts for the discrepancy. In this verse, the Septuagint names four grandsons and one great-grandson of Joseph, whereas the Masoretic text does not.
More importantly, the reference to Yosef revealing himself to his brothers the second time has direct association with Yahshua revealing himself to Judah when he returns. Recall that Judah is the Southern Kingdom that consists of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi. Benjamin as the youngest brother is referred to in Genesis 42:15. This reunification of Judah-Israel and Ephraim Israel is what is spoken of in the Haftarah; a perfect correlation and precise consistency in G-d’s Torah!
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart