"[Pharaoh] made him to ride in the second[-best viceroy's] chariot...and made him ruler over all [of Egypt]." (Gen. 41:43)

This hints to the celestial representative of Egypt, the most highly placed of all the celestial representatives of the seventy gentile nations. Our Sages have said that Egypt is second only to the Land of Israel, (Ketubot 112) hence "the second best chariot" is the vehicle suited for the angel representing Egypt in the Heavens. Even though Joseph rose greatly after having been elevated from the status of a slave to that of a temporal king, he did not rise sufficiently for his chariot to equal the level of that of his father until divine inspiration returned to Jacob. This is alluded to in "these are descendants of Jacob Joseph", that when Jacob was re-united with Joseph, the cherubs representing the male and female in all their innocence (cf. Kings 1 7:36) were able to unite through the covenant of circumcision in the emanation of yesod.

Although Jacob and family resided in Egypt, they did not feel themselves in exile as long as Joseph ruled. Once a new king arose (Ex. 1:8) who reportedly "did not know Joseph", the situation changed. Later on, however, they acknowledged the significance of Joseph…

The mystical dimension of Jacob as "one" and of Joseph as "one," means that all twelve tribes are inextricably linked to both Jacob and Joseph. The letter alef contains the secret of this unity. The brothers had described themselves as "We are all the sons of one man". (Gen. 42:11) The word "one", which is not really necessary, is the reference to Joseph. It is significant that the brothers did not say [the standard word] "anachnu" (Gen. 42:13) for "we are", but only "nachnu", with a missing letter alef. Later on, however, they acknowledged the significance of Joseph as also being a substitute for the "one" represented by their father Jacob, when they described themselves as "your 12 servants we are brothers, sons of one man". In elaborating on the word "one" later on in the same verse, the brothers refer to Joseph as the disappearance of "the one". Rashi already comments that the brothers explained the fact they had dispersed throughout the country - an uncharacteristic behavior if indeed they were brothers - because of the "one" whom they tried to locate. Rashi also says that the inclusion of the "one" in their statement: "We are all [including you] the sons of one man", was said via divine inspiration, though they were not aware of it at the time.

The word "one" again figures prominently when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dream. (Gen. 41:25) Joseph's rise to power was due to his interpreting Pharaoh's dream as "one". In the dream of the seven ears of corn the Torah emphasized that they all grew on "one" stalk. (Gen. 41:22) Even the dream of the seven cows alluded to the number "one", since the cows all rose from "one" river. This river originates from the sefira of bina, and "irrigates" the sefira of yesod

Considering the above factors, we can now understand the comment of Pharaoh that there was no one as "wise [from the root word 'bina'] and clever [from the word 'chochma']" as Joseph. Pharaoh said to Joseph: "After G‑d has made known [from the root word 'daat'], to you all this, etc.," you clearly command all three elements of wisdom, namely chochma, bina, daat.

Pharaoh's dreams contain very significant allusions. Let me first quote what the Zohar (Sulam edition page 6) has to say on the subject. Commenting on: "here there arose seven healthy and good-looking cows from the river and they grazed in the meadow", (Gen. 41:18) the words "from the river" are understood as referring to the source of all blessing in this world, the sefira of yesod. The word "river" here is equated with the river emanating from the Garden of Eden. (described in Gen. 2:10) This "river" originates from the sefira of bina, and "irrigates" [spiritually] the sefira of yesod, the spiritual domain in which Joseph is at home. The message in the dream is that all of Egypt receives its blessings because of Joseph. The seven cows represent the seven recipients of the river's blessings…

The Zohar continues saying that that "river" dispenses its blessings in seven different directions, i.e. the seven cows represent the seven recipients of the river's blessings. The seven recipients of the river's largesse all co-exist peacefully. This is an unusual phenomenon. We may compare the meaning of the number seven in the Book of Esther, where Esther is attended by "seven maid-servants, the ones she was entitled to have allocated to her by the palace." (Esther 2:9) On the other hand, we find that the king had "seven [castrated] men-servants who attended to his personal needs." (Esther 1:10)

Rabbi Yitzchak says that the seven "good" cows represent seven spiritual levels in the "upper" regions, each one higher than the other, whereas the seven "bad" cows represent seven levels of successively lower degrees. The former refer to regions of purity, holiness; the latter to regions of impurity, pollution.

Concerning the seven ears of corn, Rabbi Yehudah says the first seven ears were from the right side of the scheme because they were described as "good", whereas the latter seven bad ears of corn were below the former ones. Pharaoh saw all of them in his dream.

Rabbi Yosi asked: "Why did G‑d, show this wicked Pharaoh all these exalted visions?" Rabbi Yehuda answered him that Pharaoh did not actually see such exalted visions. he only saw seven levels on top of seven levels but they were all levels of the nether regions. What a man sees in his dreams reflects his moral level…

We have a tradition that what a man sees in his dreams reflects his moral level. His soul rises to receive the kind of information that corresponds to his spiritual level. Pharaoh was not shown anything that did not correspond to his spiritual level. Thus far the Zohar.

We view the number seven as corresponding to the seven days that are called by the Kabbalists the seven days of "binyan", the days of Creation. Jacob, whose attribute is represented by the sefira of tiferet, embodies within himself all seven stages of that binyan. Joseph, who was the direct continuation of Jacob, i.e. tiferet, also embodied all seven stages of the binyan. This is why there were in Pharaoh's dream twice seven cows and twice seven ears of corn. Together that makes 14 cows, corresponding to the 14 tribes. The ones that rose "on one stalk", symbolize the binyan in the "upper" regions above the emanation of tiferet, the region made up of the sefirot of chochma and bina.

Here we come to the mystical dimension of the word "az" [meaning "then", spelled alef, zayin] whenever it is used in the Torah. The letter zayin is perceived figuratively as "entering" the main stem of the letter alef. This is possible because that letter is rooted in the sefira of bina. That sefira forms part of the three highest sefirot which are one unit [in certain respects]. When Solomon advises: "acquire wisdom, acquire discernment [in Hebrew 'kaneh chochma kaneh bina']", (Proverbs 4:5) the repetition of the word "kaneh" [here meaning to "acquire"] alludes to its dual meaning, i.e. its meaning "stem", or "shaft". There is a single shaft to which the emanations chochma, bina, daat are attached, and we may view this as similar to the shape of the letter alef. The number "seven" as represented by the letter zayin, is attached to that main shaft of the alef from either side, hence we have the number 14. Pharaoh told Joseph that he saw G‑d had revealed to him, Joseph, the secret…

Pharaoh told Joseph that he saw G‑d had revealed to him, Joseph, the secret of how chochma and bina can be joined by daat and that there was no one else who had been so endowed. Although Pharaoh personally was quite unaware of these secrets, he expressed profound truths through his mouth. He was able to do so because his representative in the Celestial Regions had an understanding of these matters and put these words in his mouth.

We have explained that in the emanation malchut the letters of the Ineffable Name are active in radiating energy in all six possible directions, which is the mystical dimension of how the concept of the acts of Creation was translated into the creation and development of matter. By combining the sefira of malchut itself with these six forms of energy we have actually seven forms of energy. The point is that we encounter the combination of twice 6=12, as well as the combination of twice 7=14. We explained earlier that just as there are six stages of binyan which originate on the left side of the pattern of the system of sefirot, the side of judgment, so there are six states of binyan which originate on the right side of that pattern, the side governed by kindness. The number "14" is arrived at by adding the two respective "ones", i.e. Jacob and Joseph as the central "shaft" that form the letter alef.

Symbolically speaking, Jacob's "beauty" and that of his "look alike" son Joseph, are the means by which the lost alef of the "kutanot or", "garments of light", of Adam can be recaptured. Whatever Jacob and Joseph did not accomplish in their attempt to repair the damage wrought on the world by Adam's sin will be repaired in Messianic times.

In parashat Vayetze I have demonstrated how such mundane matters as "bread to eat and clothes to wear", which Jacob requested must be understood. What this means is that parallel to the repair of man's "clothing", i.e. the garments of leather being exchanged for garments of light [in Hebrew, the word for "leather" and the word for "light" are homonyms], man's food supply too will undergo a dramatic change in the World to Come. Our Rabbis describe how the Land of Israel, will produce ready-to-eat cakes and the like. (Shabbat 30)

In his capacity as provider for the land of Egypt, Joseph acted as a forerunner of those idyllic times. He not only provided food for all his father's family, but also clothes to wear [as per Gen. 45:22]. The reason the Torah describes that "clothing" as "chalifot", from the Hebrew word to "exchange", something subject to change, is that in the future these garments will indeed be exchanged for the type of garments woven of light that Adam and Eve used to wear prior to their sin.

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk]