The secret of the unification of Yosef and Yehuda
Continuing the discussion of the Cripple, from HERE.
The Cripple in Rebbe Nachman’s stories achieved the spiritual level of the ‘precious jewel’ dafka because of his fall into ‘eating grass’. Rabbenu is telling us an enormously big secret here: He’s telling us that before a person can get to a higher spiritual level, he first has to experience a spiritual set-back, or fall. This is a huge secret.
If a person is going to have a big spiritual uplift, he will first need to experience a big spiritual set-back, to balance it out. When a person ‘falls’ back into the level of the animal soul, it’s not very pleasant. Effectively, he’s falling back into the gashmius (materialism) of this world, and there are even times when he won’t experience so much as a hint of spirituality. But within the inner dimension, what he’s experiencing is actually good.
You forget everything that you knew about spirituality, and because of this you suddenly find the ‘precious jewel!’ Suddenly, you discover a completely new type of spirituality, and if you hadn’t gone through this forgetful spell, you wouldn’t have been able to receive this new light…
Rabbi Zeira prayed to forget the Torah of Bavel
The Gemara tells us about Rabbi Zeira, who made aliya from Bavel and came to Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara recounts that there was a very big difference between the Torah that was learnt in Bavel and the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. The Torah of Eretz Yisrael was much more spiritual, and was on a much higher level than the Torah of Bavel. The Gemara tells us that Rabbi Zeira couldn’t really grasp the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, inasmuch as he’d learnt the Torah of Bavel.
The Gemara says that Rabbi Zeira fasted for 40 days in order to forget the Torah of Bavel, so that he could grasp the Torah of Eretz Yisrael easily. This is the aspect of a person having to make some space inside himself, in order to receive a much higher level of spirituality. This is what Rabbenu hinted at, when the Cripple had to lower himself to eat grass. This means he had to ‘fall’ into operating at the level of his animal soul, where all his insight, Torah and understanding were taken away from him.
Now, he could receive a much higher spiritual level. This is truly a very great secret.
The spiritual aspects of Yosef and Yehuda
Generally, there’s an idea that Hashem created the world with two different types of knowledge, which are often referred to as two different ‘pipes of abundance’, or two spiritual levels, and the whole world is built around these two levels. These levels are called ‘Yehuda’ and ‘Yosef’.
The Midrash Rabba and the holy Zohar expound on the verse: “and Yehuda approached him and said please, my Lord, let your servant speak a word in your ear”, that ‘see, these kings were convened to avru (cross over) together’. Which kings were ‘convened’? Yehuda and Yosef. The holy Zohar tells us that the whole world trembled when Yehuda and Yosef met. ‘Convened’ means ‘met’.
One of the Midrash’s commentaries on the word avru is that it comes from the language avra, meaning anger and rage. Being a true king of the nation of Israel doesn’t mean you get appointed to the job; rather it refers to a tzaddik who reveals the whole secret of how to manage the world. The management of the whole world is shaped by these two kings, Yehuda and Yosef, who publicize the whole management framework.
Yosef is called the ‘Tzaddik Yesod Olam’ – Tzaddik, the foundation of the world. The tzaddik is concerned with a type of spiritual work whereby Hashem expects a lot mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) from us.
Everything depends on you!
You have a yetzer hara, and opposing that you have a yetzer tov. Sacrifice yourself, your Nefesh, to fight against your yetzer hara! You want to get angry? Control yourself, instead. You want to contaminate your eyes [with spiritual impurity]? Guard your eyes, instead. Yosef is an aspect of this spiritual work, and it comes with its own complete order of creation, where we are expected to sacrifice ourselves. This is the aspect of ‘Yosef’.
The aspect of Yehuda is emuna
Yehuda is royalty and emuna (faith). The aspect of Yehuda turns to Hashem and reveals that: “I have no power to do anything in the world if You don’t help me and support me!” There’s a collision between Yosef and Yehuda inasmuch as the side of Yosef tells a person that: “Everything depends on you! Sacrifice yourself!” While the side of Yehuda is subjugation to Hashem: “I can’t do anything, all I can do is believe in You, and turn to You, and nullify myself to You.”
So, Yehuda and Yosef are two kings, and when they meet it’s a collision inasmuch as these are two paths that oppose each other and contradict each other. Yosef is the expectation that a person should sacrifice himself, and Yehuda is the path that there is nothing to expect from a person, other than that he should completely nullify himself and submit himself to Hashem. These two aspects oppose each other.
It’s written in the holy books that both the aspect of Yosef’s work, and the aspect of Yehuda’s spiritual work are ‘truth’, just each belongs in its own particular place. Sometimes a person will find himself operating from the aspect of Yosef, and sometimes, from the aspect of Yehuda. There are people who are more ‘Yosef’ by nature, and people who are more ‘Yehuda’ – and these aspects are always colliding with each other.
The deeper meaning of this ‘fall’, as it relates to our own generation, is that until now, most of the world has been governed from the aspect of Yosef. But in our generation, it’s already extremely difficult for a person, inasmuch as so many times we feel that we lack strength, and that we can’t actually accomplish anything. In these situations, the aspect of Yehuda starts to be revealed.
Yehuda tells Hashem: I can’t do anything, if You aren’t with me! The aspect of Yosef has requirements and makes demands, and this is ‘truth’, but the aspect of Yehuda is subjugation and nullification to Hashem, which is why the aspects of Yosef and Yehuda collide..
The secret of Geula
The secret of geula (redemption) is that Hashem will reveal the da’at (spiritual knowledge) that brings both aspects of Yosef and Yehuda together. How can this unity be revealed, in a way that we can understand it? This happens when we learn to identify when we’re operating from the aspect of Yosef, and when from the aspect of Yehuda. When you feel that you have spiritual strength, and that you can do things – then be Yosef, get up and do things and sacrifice yourself.
But when you feel that you lack strength, don’t fall into despair, just go and serve Hashem from the aspect of Yehuda, go to the field and tell Hashem: I can’t do anything, I have no strength. I’m completely despairing of myself – but You can rescue me from this place!
When you despair of yourself, and then you also despair of Hashem, this is the nadir of the klipot (forces of evil). But when you despair of yourself, but you don’t despair of Hashem, this is called ‘holy yeoush’ (holy despair). From here, you can take your lack of strength and elevate it up to the very highest of places, and this is the secret of Yehuda.
Holy yeoush (despair)
This point of yeoush (despair) contains an enormous spiritual clarification: Am I also going to despair of Hashem, or not? Yehuda is the revelation of ‘I lack strength’, as King David said when he was operating from the aspect of Yehuda ‘just as You have shown gamal (kindness) to me, so You have shown gamal to my soul’. I.e., I am cast down before You, like a golem. If You don’t help me to get up from my bed again, I’m going to continue to stay asleep here for another 2-3 months. This is the yeoush of the forces of evil.
But the holy yeoush is when a person runs to the field, and tells Hashem: “I don’t have any strength myself, but I don’t despair of Your help, and I don’t despair of your mercy!” At this moment, we raise up our lack of strength to the highest spiritual place – and this is called the clarification of Yehuda.
Abridged and translated from the Ohr HaDaat newsletter, #108.