This week's Torah portion is called "Miketz", which means "at the end". The story begins with Joseph in prison, telling how he was about to be released. The Midrash explains this topic and opens with a verse from Job, "There will be an end [in Hebrew, 'ketz'] to the darkness". The Midrash compares Joseph's release from prison to the final redemption of Mashiach when there will be no more spiritual darkness.

Our purpose is to extract and elevate these sparks….

The Baal Shem Tov explains the Midrash as follows: As long as a person's evil inclination, his or her desire to do negative things, exists, it is like being in prison, because they can not freely serve G‑d. Pitch blackness and the shadow of death characterize their reality.

The great Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the Arizal of Safed, describes this in connection with the concept of the extraction of "divine sparks" from the physical aspects of the world with which we come into contact. These sparks were originally part of supernal spiritual "vessels" that were shattered, and their shards became the inner dimension of this physical plane. Our purpose is to extract and elevate these sparks from the inanimate, vegetable, animal and human spheres, and return them to their source on high. This is the Torah way of life and is true in every aspect of the things we do, from mitzvah observance to what we think about when we eat.

As long as this spark is confined in the physical object, it is like a person in prison….

The Baal Shem Tov continues saying something revolutionary: The divine spark that exists in every part of the physical world, but particularly in the inanimate and vegetable kingdoms, is made up of the same 248 spiritual limbs and 365 spiritual veins, arteries and sinews that are the spiritual make up of a human person, of which the body is its physical mirror image! As long as this spark is confined in the physical object, it is like a person in prison! And the individual who is able, through thoughts and intentions, to extract and elevate these sparks is fulfilling the Torah commandment of redeeming captives! How much more, if we imagine that these divine sparks are very dear to the King of Kings, that it they are like His son, the prince, who is imprisoned, than how much merit will come to the prince's redeemer!

Who is it that will make an end to the darkness? Just as the Almighty decides when Mashiach will come, so also it is a divine judgment how long each spark will be imprisoned, when it will merit to be released and who will be the vehicle for that redemption to happen. When an opportunity presents itself, do not let it sour. You have been chosen by the King of Kings to redeem the spark from exile.

Happy Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom! Shaul

Translated from Sefer Baal Shem Tov

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