"Behold we were gathering bundles in the field and behold my bundle arose and remained standing; and behold your bundles turned and bowed to my bundle." (Gen. 37:7)

G‑d Himself is one and indivisible, as is known. If G‑d is oneness, the opposite of G‑dliness is division. The greater the distance from G‑d, the greater the division - the greater the sense of separateness, from G‑d and from other beings.

So it is in the case of the souls. As the souls exist in the world of Beriya, there are 600,000, the number mentioned in the Torah. As they descend, the souls are divided and subdivided into millions.1 Each descent produces further division…

The same idea is expressed in the description of the river that leaves Eden and then splits into four heads (Gen. 2:10). The river, as it exists in Eden, is the world of Atzilut, so named because of its closeness (in Hebrew, "aitzel") to its Source. In Atzilut, divinity is the reality; it is therefore a world of oneness, reflecting G‑d's oneness. Only when the river leaves Eden, when Atzilut gives way to Beriya, does it split into four. These four streams are the four camps of the Divine Presence - the face of the Lion, Ox, Eagle and Man, described in Ezekiel's vision of the Divine Chariot. These in turn evolve into the four camps of Angels (Michael, Gabriel, etc.) whose hosts number in the many thousands. Each descent produces further division.

And the same is true of the 288 fallen sparks (called the "RaPaCh Nitzotin"), the result of the shattered vessels of Tohu.2 With the elevation and refinement of these 288 Sparks, the Messianic era will commence…

These 288 Sparks are alluded to in the second verse of the Torah, in the phrase "…hovering upon the face of the water". (Gen. 1:2) The first and last letters of the word for hovering, "mirachefet", spell the word "met", meaning "dead". Its three middle letters are the numerical value 288, alluding to the 288 "dead" or fallen sparks of divine light that descended in order to sustain the lower worlds.3

It is known that with the elevation and refinement of these 288 Sparks, the Messianic era will commence (Arizal). It seems puzzling, though, that after 1700 years of Exile - during which time the Jewish people have been dispersed throughout the world for the purpose of "converting" the sparks - the mission has not yet been completed. Is it possible that in such a great amount of time, when generation after generation of souls have elevated their individual portions of the world - the 288 Sparks have not yet been elevated?

The answer is that just as the souls and the angels evolve and subdivide into myriad branches, so it is with the sparks. As they exist in the lowest world, Asiya, they number in the many thousands. Therefore the exile draws on since not all of the sparks have been elevated. When the elevation will be complete, the redeemer will come, speedily in our days, Amen.

[Editor's note: These are the words of the Alter Rebbe. Two centuries later, however, the late Rebbe declared this process completed. That Mashiach had not yet arrived was a fact he described as incomprehensible. Our service now is for the sole purpose of unveiling the Messianic reality.] Joseph…saw them taking the splintered sparks of Tohu and elevating them to a state of oneness…

Now we can understand the meaning of Joseph's dream. Joseph saw himself and his brothers taking many separate stalks and tying them into one bundle. He saw them taking the splintered sparks of Tohu and elevating them to a state of oneness. This was done "in the field", referring to malchut of Atzilut, which is called an Apple Orchard (in Aramaic, "chakal tapuchin"). It is to this level that the brothers elevated the sparks. In Zoharic terms this is called the ascent of the "feminine waters", "Mayin Nukvin", or nicknamed "Ma'n".

These bundles are called "aluma", which connotes silence, the inability to speak.4 Speech among spiritual beings obviously does not refer to physical speech but to spiritual communication. When a being is absorbed in its source, it is entirely selfless and silent; it does not have the power to communicate to others because of the immensity of its nullification. In this state it is compared to a fetus in the womb of its mother. There it is not its own person but an extension of its mother - eating from what its mother eats, etc. Only once it leaves the womb does it become its own being. In the same way, when the sparks are elevated and enter the place of oneness, they are silent, muted by the overwhelming presence of their Source.

However, it is known that after the sparks are elevated to the level of malchut of Atzilut, they must undergo a further refinement in order to be truly united with G‑dliness, as they were before the Shattering. This second refinement is effected from Above. In Zoharic terms this is the union of the male waters (called "Mayin Dechurin", nicknamed "Ma'd") with the feminine waters, or the union of Zeir Anpin and Nukva. For example, when a person consumes food and drink and then, with the energy from the food he prays to G‑d with awe and love, the sparks of Tohu found in the food and drink are elevated through his awe and love. Yet despite their elevation, they are still far from the level of true Oneness. Their true elevation comes when the person is granted awe and love from Above, of the sort that far transcend the quality of his own, self-developed awe and love.

Similarly, after the brothers had created their bundles - had elevated the sparks of Tohu found in the lower worlds, Beriya, Yetzira and Asiya, to malchut of Atzilut - the bundles were seen bowing to Joseph's bundle. For Joseph, who is called "Joseph the tzadik," is the one who effects the second refinement, the drawing forth of the "male waters".

[Joseph the tzadik embodies yesod of Atzilut, (as in the verse, "and the tzadik is the foundation (in Hebrew, 'yesod') of the world". (Ecclesiastes 10:25)) Yesod is the sefira of connection. It is therefore Joseph who connects the male and female waters.] One must…gather the souls of those outside in the field

Thus, the brothers must bow to him, i.e., make themselves vessels for and elicit the "male waters" that refine and elevate the "feminine waters". (This is reflected in the human sphere, wherein the female must awaken the male in order to affect their union.)

This, however, is only Joseph's dream. In reality, the brothers did not bow to Joseph. They did not recognize Joseph's superiority, since they too stemmed from Atzilut. In truth, though, it was only Joseph who, even in Asiya, remained the embodiment of Atzilut. The other tribes, though rooted in Atzilut, were on the level of Beriya. They therefore were in need of Joseph to complete their achievement.

Now, just as this process occurs with the sparks, it must also be accomplished in the realm of souls. In addition to the elevation of sparks in one's own domain, one must go out "into the field" and engage in the service of "making bundles", to gather the souls of those "outside in the field".

[Hence the custom of the Chabad masters to send messengers to various places in the world - even very distant ones - to gather the sparks that are scattered there. One of the primary activities of the Alter Rebbe was the effort to create baale teshuvas. For five years he traveled from place to place - often incognito - gathering souls. The fourth Rebbe, the Maharash, once walked into a casino in Paris, sat down near a man sipping wine, tapped him on the shoulder and said: "Reb Yid ('Mr. Jew')! Non-kosher wine dulls the heart and mind. Be a Jew!" This tap from the Rebbe turned the man's entire life around. The height of Chabad activism was achieved by the late Rebbe who sent over a thousand messengers all over the world to live "out in the field" and teach the light of Torah and Chasidism.]

This explains the relationship between the section of Joseph's dream of bundles and the time of the year during which it is read. This section is often read in between the holidays of Yud Tet Kislev (the 19 of the month of Kislev) - commemorating the liberation of the Alter Rebbe from prison - and Chanukah. After Yud Tet Kislev, the Alter Rebbe's teaching of Chasidut reached a new level of expansion. The ideas of Kabbala were now explained in even greater measure, bringing the inner light of Torah further outside "into the field". Similarly, the lights of Chanukah serve to light up and elevate the outside. (Thus they are supposed to be lit outside the door of one's home, on the left side of the door way (the side of darkness), and at the time when the sun descends and night falls. Yud Tet Kislev and Chanukah, then, are holidays that have as their motif "the gathering of bundles in the field".

Adapted by Yosef Marcus from Likutei Sichot 10:119
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