WHY ON PARASHAT MIKETZ IT IS WRITTEN THAT “YOSEF HAD TWO SONS ‘BEFORE’ THE FAMINE” (BER. 41:50)?

According to the Sefer Yetzirah (Mishna 1:5), the space continuum consists of three dimensions and the continuum of time, of two directions (past and future). As such, the Universe is constituted by four dimensions. Moreover, the Sefer Yetzirah explains that there is a fifth dimension, to wit, the moral dimension (spiritual, or soul), which possesses two directions: good and evil. This moral dimension underlines all other dimensions from the space-time continuum. The spiritual trajectory towards good or evil depends on the actions that man impresses upon the dimensions of the Universe, which reverberate in all of the olamot (spiritual worlds and this one, physical). For instance, we see this occurring in the procreative act. As it is known, “if the person sanctifies himself [and has the appropriate kavanot], he will bring a holy garment for the neshama of his child [which will be conceived through the act], and in this way, he will enable him to ser Hashem promptly. Regardless of the greatness that this soul may attain, it is nevertheless important that the father [and the mother] be sanctified during the act. But the neshama itself, apart from its ‘garments’ [i.e., the power of thought, speech, and action which clothe the neshama in its particular spiritual root and degree, which is solely decided by Hashem], is not affected by the sanctification [and kavanot] from the parents; in fact it happens at times that, the soul of a person infinitely elevated comes down and becomes the child of an ignorant and lowly person” (TanyaLikkutei Amarim 2). However, the ‘spiritual replies’ to the actions of man on the physical level are also bound (and thus dependent) by time and its cycles, which albeit intimately connected to the physical continuum, do transcend it. This is the spiritual law of Sof ma’aseh, b’machshava tehilah (“last to be created, first to be conceived”, alluding to the Bnei Israel) which establishes the precedence of time over space, regardless of its dimensional connection. Hence, certain positive actions, even when appropriate but fulfilled on ‘inappropriate times’ can be without any effect or worse yet, with the contrary effect, chaz v’shalom. For example, Kabbalah Ma’asit teaches that kameyot (kosher amulets) for different purposes (E.g., ‘protection for pregnancy’, see Taamei HaMinhagimToldot AdamRabi Menashe Ben IsraelNishmat Chayim 3:25; Midrash Talpiyot 1, Efod s.v. VHaEvenDeguel Machane EfraimVayicraetal.) need necessarily be written not only by someone with extraordinary knowledge and purity, but in precise times, that is, on specific months, days, and even hours of the day! The writing of the kameyot, which disrespects the correct times, loses its positive value, which comes from its alignment with the intermediary angelical forces that govern the five dimensions, thus rendering it incomplete (i.e., without the influence on the angelical entity) and even dangerous (i.e., by calling the attention of negative entities, chaz v’shalom).

And this is exactly how it was for Yosef. He knew the secrets of the illumination from kedusha (holiness) called the time of “seasons, for days and years” (Bereshit 1:14) of plenitude. But he also knew well the secrets “illumination” from tumah (impurity), called the time of time of ‘seasons, for days and years’ of famine. For to know the secrets of kedusha is to know the secrets of tumah. And what is this secret of tumah? “The secret of not procreating [when the sitra achra is ‘illuminated’, to wit] on the ‘seasons, for days and years’ of famine… When the time of famine reigns, it behooves man to sexually restrict and not to allow that the sitra achra be ‘multiplied’ [through the strange souls that in this time of famine descent to the children to be] in the world, chaz v’shalom” (Zohar 204a, Miketz). In fact, the Ramak (R’ Moshe Cordovero) explains that, “The husband’s marital union with his wife should occur only when the Shechinah is in Its place, which means, between the ‘two arms’ [Chesed and Gevurah]. Now, when the Community is in danger [of famine] and the Shechinah is not between the two arms, these unions are prohibited” (Sefer Tomer DevorahPerek Tet, citing the Tikkunei Zohar from parashat BereshitTikun 69). It is for this reason that Yosef HaTzaddik made sure to procreate ‘before’ this bitter time, thus avoiding any admixture in his acts – through the use of the holy and creative power of his brit kodesh – with the sitra achra. In this manner, he truly prevented the increase of the domain of profanity that would have benefited otherwise, chaz v’shalom, from the kedusha.

(Note: it is equally not a proper time to have marital unions on a night preceding a tzom/fast save exceptions).

 

IS THERE AN ISSUE OF MARITAL UNIONS ON NIGHTS OTHER THAN SHABBAT AND SPECIAL DATES?

It is important to understand that the halachot in general, and the ones guiding the couple’s sexuality in particular, are even more stringent and deep when treated with the benefit of the hiddurim (the various embellishments) of Kabbalah. The ‘ideal’ moment for the couple with a true Jewish soul to be united is on the night of Shabbat, for on this time, “thene shamot are distributed for the initiated on the mystical Wisdom [i.e., the Bnei Torah]… On this night, a holy and sublime ruach descends to those who are ‘sanctified’ [in order to fulfill the mitzvah of procreation, saying the prayers before the act, ‘both’ ritually washing their hands and giving tzedaka]… Thus, for these men of wisdom, the appropriate time for this ‘holy function’ is when this exalted ruach is diffused amongst them… And it is in this manner [and in this time] that the tzaddikim ‘transmit’ their holy souls for the new conception” (Zohar 204b, Vayakhel). Al pi halacha, “all nights are appropriate, in particular if the act occurs at midnight [when the Holy One, blessed be He, rejoices with the tzaddikim in the Gan Eden]… However, [it is important to know that] on the other nights, ‘another’ type of ruach hovers” (ibidZohar). This means that, “the joy of fulfilling this mitzvah is complete on the nights of Shabbat, when the person does not need to worry if there are any admixtures from the sitra achra in the conception” (ibidZohar). On the other nights (save on those prescribed by the halacha) it is possible that instead of simple joy for the mitzvah, there is also “the deliberate desire and awakening for the simple pleasure to give in to lust, to wit, without the real ‘need‘ to fulfill this holy act. This means that he is only following the advice and force of his yetzer hara” (Kitzur Shulchan AruchHilchot Tsiniut), which is vitalized, after all, by the sitra achra.

 

WHY DOES THE TORAH TEACH US THAT IT IS IDEAL TO HAVE MARITAL UNION AT NIGHT? IS THIS TRUE FOR ALL NIGHTS?

The Kabbalah asks: “In what are human beings distinguished from the horse and the mule? By sanctification and self-perfection. Hence the marital intercourse of human beings should be at fixed times, that they may concentrate their thoughts [of Torah] on cleaving to the Holy One, blessed be He” (Zohar 49b, Tazria) with the kavanah of V’yehi noam Hashem Elokeinu aleinu u’ma’aseh yodeinu konenah aleinu, um’aaseh yadseinu koneneihu, “May the pleasantness of Hashem our G-d be upon us, and may the work of our hands prosper” (Tehillim 90:17). And what is the time of the day that they may have marital union? Our Sages answer that, “It is the derech eretz [proper conduct] that intercourse should be at night” (TalmudKetubot 56a). And regarding the frequency, it is known that ‘man of faith’ have marital union with their wives “all Fridays, on the Shabbat nights” (Ibid. 62b; Orach Chayim 280:1) – certainly a great mitzvah. Note that, although thehalachah permits relations occuring on the other nights, ours Sages insist in the rigour of fulfilling this mitzvah only on the holy nights of Shabbat (see R’ Eliyahu de VidasReshit ChochmahShaar HaKedusha 16) and on the night of the woman’s immersion on the mikveh etc., unless this frequency is not sufficient in order to avoid machshavot zarot and equally strange behaviors (see Kitvei Arizal).

Now, why is it so important to fulfill this mitzvah on the nights of Shabbat? In fact, there are great mysteries regarding the origin of zivugim (holy unions) on Shabbat, the time when the Holy One unites with the Shechinah. These celestial unions cause blessings to descent from above in order to nourish the days of the week. Indeed, they are put into effect both on the spiritual and physical domains. Kabbalah explains that, on each and every Shabbat night “occur zivugim which are initiated [and awakened] by the malachim (angels). Through these zivugim, spiritual answers of beneficence from the levels above them are elicited… Therefore, we are allowed to engage in conjugal relations on that particular night” (the Ari”zalSha’ar HaPesukimPinchas). The reason these zivugim are awakened by malachim is the manner Hashem has established the Divine plan through which His blessings are channeled and thus brought to all of Creation – including the more inferior degrees (i.e., our physical world). Marital unions on the night of Shabbat emulate the zivugim (occurring on the Partzufim) that are awakened by the angels. Hence, the vital importance of fulfilling this mitzvah in the exact manner described – to bring great blessings to the couple and the world at large. However, even though it is still Shabbat, the daytime (of Shabbat) is not permitted for marital unions, for during the day, “we need to awaken the celestial zivugim which elicit a flux of neshamot [to the world]” (ibidAri”zal). This means that, at night, our marital unions have the power to emulate the celestial zivugim, which are already occurring, but we cannot initiate them. We can channel the shefa (of blessings) through this emulation of the malachim while it occurs on Shabbat at night. During the period of Shabbat day, we are the ones that need to awake the zivugim through our avodat Hashem (e.g., in our study of Torah, holy seudah, etc.) – for presumably in this period of the day, the angels do not do any awakening! On the other side, when we put into effect these unions, we cannot channel them, for in order to do so we would need to stop the (described) holy activities to then engage in marital unions (which when emulate the zivugim of the angels, can truly channel down the shefa). This would leave us without anything to channel, to wit, no blessing would result from the conjugal act. This is obviously contrary to the described kavanah and this mitzvah’s purpose of procreation, as we would be left out of blessings, chaz v’shalom.

 

HOW CAN THE ACTIONS AND KAVANOT DURING MARITAL UNION INFLUENCE THE CHILD BEING CONCEIVED?

The Talmud explains (see Nedarim 20a-b) that, ‘different actions’ during the marital intercourse determine important physical and spiritual aspects from the soul that will, G-d willing, descent for the child’s body. The Tanna Rabi Yohanan ben Dahabai – who mystically explains having received knowledge on these subjects through the agency of angels – says in this tractate that, in accordance of “certain” sexual acts, children may be born “dumb, deaf, or blind”! Moreover, there are also effects caused strictly through the ‘time’ when the union occurs. Thus, Kabbalah affirms that: “Truly, there is that which is a ‘proper time’ for marital intercourse… and no other time is appropriate for this junction to be performed with all joy without any ‘extraneous admixture’ [i.e., the chitzonim] save that night [i.e., Shabbat. See Talmud, Ketubot 62b] – when the souls are distributed to the wise, the righteous, and the pious” (Zohar 204b, Vayakhel). We see then that actions and distinct times in the fulfillment of the mitzvah (of marital union) can afect the soul that is to come. Moreover, through kavanot, the parents may spiritually elevate themselves to infinite heights and greatly impact this soul!

Regarding the subject that the ‘the parents may spiritually elevate themselves etc.’, as it is known, the ‘sexual energy’ (the physical form of the spiritual energy) is an extremely pure energy and must be care for and not wasted due to its fundamental role. As it has been explained, it allows – in accordance to the degree of purity it is used – great ascensions or great falls, chaz v’shalom. As it is written: Vehineh sulam mutsav artsah verosho magia hashamaymah vehineh mal’achei Elokim olim veyoredim bo, “Behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of G-d ascending and descending on it” (Bereshit 28:12). On this pasukKabbalah explains (see Zohar 149b, Vayetze) that, “The ladder signifies the spiritual attribute of Yesod [connected to sexual subjects]. To Ya’acov avinu, it was shown that this attribute exists on earth – it literally belongs to ‘mundane subjects’, however, the ‘top of it reached to heaven’ – to wit, when the person heeds to the Divine will and raises this attribute to its origin, then he truly reaches heaven… and ‘this is alluded in thesecret of the pasukMi ya’aleh lanu hashamaymah, Who shall go up for us to heaven [Devarim 30:12]. The initial letters, the Reshei Tevot of this, spell out the word milah [circumcision], and the final letters, the Sofei Tevot, spell out Havaya’ [Tikkunei Zohar 2a] – this means that the person can ascend on high if he purifies this attribute” (the Slonnimer RebbeNetivot Shalom).

Regarding the subject of ‘greatly impact this soul’, beyond of has been already considered, it is important to comprehend something of the kavanot during the sexual union. It is very important that these unions be fulfilled in complete joy and happiness. Every mitzvah must be done with great joy, but this one, even more so. It is also important that the married couple, “both should have the same kavanah” (Zohar 81a, Kedoshim; see ibid. 83b for the contrary): to bring down to this level a noble soul, with yirat shamayim (fear of Heaven), a soul that will illuminate the world, to wit, a tzaddik. Hence, it is good to bring to mind a tzaddik on the moment of procreation (see RambanIggeret HaKodeshR’ Eliyahu de VidasReshit ChochmahSha’ar HaKedusha 16). Furthermore, “it is necessary to know that, a child born from the predominant desire from the husband [to have a child, as have been described], receives an ‘extra’ vitality from the father, for this desire means the father’s wish ‘to connect to the Etz Chayim’” (Zohar 209a, Vayigash) in the secret of “She is a Etz Chayim to those who lay hold on her; and happy is every one who holds her fast” (Mishlei 3:18). It is also known that, “‘If the woman emits her semen first she bears a male child; if the man emits his semen first she bears a female child’ [TalmudNiddah 31a]… Now, he who emits seed last is the one who prevails [i.e., something of his strength]… so the man [who wishes to have a male child] becomes cold, so as to not become heated [during the act], and in this manner the woman is heated [giving seed] before. Afterwards, he is the last to emit seed [thus ensuring that child’s vitality, as explained]. However, many who have followed this did not succed, for all is [baruch Hashem, and thus,] in the Divine will” (Rabi Yehudah FatiyahMinchat YehudahParashat Shmuel I, Siman BetAyin Tet, pg. 118). In any case, the person must sanctify himself at the time of marital relations, for all comes from merit. And let him pray throughout the first 40 days of conception: Yehi ra’avah mi’maarei alma shenizke lebanim yierim ushlemim va’chareidim lidvar Hashem venire’eh bachem kedushat tanaim ve’amoraim amen, “May it be the will of the Master of the Universe that we merit G-d fearing and flawless sons who tremble at the word of Hashem. And may we observe in them the sanctity of the Sages of the Mishnah and Talmud. Amen” (Rabi Tzvi Hirsch KaidenoverKav HaYashar, Perek Yud Zayin).

 

IN PRACTICE, HOW TO EFFECT TIKKUNIM THROUGH A SANCTIFIED SEXUAL ACT?

For instance, as it is written regarding the verse, “Behold, the kings were assembled, they came on together” (Tehilim 48:5), “No sin in the world is expiated until the kings, to wit, Ze’ir Anpin and Nukva are united… for with the ‘illumination of this union’, all of the Partzufim shine and all sins are expiated” (Zohar 206b, Vayigash). So it is above, and so it is below. This means that, through the sanctified sexual union, the sins (which are after all, ‘separations’ from G-d) are expiated, subjugating evil and making it incapable to act, as it will be explainned with the help of Heaven.

There is an important secret in this Zohar – which explains the reason for possible attonement through the sexual union – and is called Tikkuna dKarbana (rectification through an offering): an animal sacrifice to G-d, “[to be] accepted to make atonement for him” (Vayikra 1:4). Moreover, says the Zohar that, “when an offering is brought, ‘everyone receives their provisions’ [i.e., the whole world receives blessings], each one in accordance to his own merit, and then all is united as one… When they, in both worlds [the supernal world, Ze’ir Anpin, and the lower world, Nukva,] ‘were assembled’ [i.e., man and his wife] and were connected [in the sexual act], they ‘came on together’ [also in Aramaic, they ‘passed upon’, in the sense of forgiving as in Micah HaNavi 7:18] – they expiated sins and caused a celestial illumination, so all Partzufim shine and all sins are atoned for” (ibidZohar). Now, on another level this means that, “‘If any man of you brings an offering [yakriv] to the L-rd’ – in order for him to come closer to G-d – truly, ‘any man of you’, meaning that he needs to bring an offering of ‘himself’. He needs to sacrifice his ‘personal animal’, which is the desire for evilcalled the nefesh habahamit” (the Alter RebbeLikkutei TorahVayikra). That which was offered as a sacrifice on the altar in the Beit HaMikdash was ‘fat and blood’ from the animal. And the corresponding sacrifice for a man who needs ‘to bring an offering of himself’ is a ta’anit(fast), in order to atone for his transgressions – “the fat and blood from his body are ‘burned’, and in this way, they are considered as a pleasing offering to G-d” (TalmudBerachot 17a; Zohar 20b, ShemotReshit Chochmah [Kitsur], Shaar HaKedusha 9; TanyaIggeret Hateshuva 2). In a similar manner, during the sexual act (with the kavanah of fulfilling the mitzvah of procreation), the power, body movements, and necessary fluids to ensure the fulfillment of the mitzvah also burn ‘fat and blood’ from the bodies, and are truly an aspect of the offering to G-d. However, this alone is not enough to complete the actual offering; albeit important, this is still makkif (external). It is necessary to act in the manner that ‘he needs to bring his personal animal’, that is, something pnimiut (deeper, from inside), truly rupturing and breaking with the ‘desire for evil’ which is rooted in the nefesh habahamit, to wit, the desire for self-gratification. So the Gemara explains how to attain this level of completeness: the person needs to imagine  with all his strenght that, during the mitzvah of uniting with his wife, he is moved ‘externally’ (literally) by a shin-dalet (demon), and not by his own physical appetites (see TalmudNedarim 20b). Now the kings can be united above and below y”H.

 

HOW DOES THE KOSHER SEXUAL ACT HELP RECTIFY THE WORLD (TIKKUN HAOLAM)?

It is important to understand the basic spiritual law that, ‘actions establish connection between the spiritual and the physical domains’. This is very pertinent insofar as (kosher) sexual acts are concerned. First, due to the act’s intrinsic ‘creative force’; next to it’s active spiritual component, and finally, in the Torah’s great emphasis on sexual purity as a true path to kedusha. When properly united in the sexual act – in accordance to the halachot, and thus using the physical energies correctly for they are the physical form of the ‘spiritual energies’ – the married couple realizes its potential for great spiritual connection and ascension. Through the couple’s holy union with the kavanah (intention) of connecting to Hashem (dvekut) in a manner of ‘altruistically returning joy to Him’ in their fulfillment of the mitzvah of union and procreation, then an answer of ‘light above’ in the celestial levels is truly elicited. In Kabbalah, this is a metaphor for subject of Ohr Hozer (Returning Light) – something of great importance in the celestial dynamics of the diffusion of the Ohr Ayin Sof (Hashem’s light) throughout the Olamot (worlds), in particular as it relates to the Malchut of Olam HaAsiyah (our physical universe). Basically, the sefirot lights are diffused from above to below, and return from below to above. All of this “spiritual system” of illumination converges onto our physical world. The (positive) cycle of illumination depends on the actions and intentions of man. Without the union of the appropriate actions (the mitzvot) with correct intentions (the kavanot), the “reverberation” of spiritual energy, the part of this cycle that emanates from the Creation towards theHashem is damaged and hindered chaz v’shalom. As the Tikkun HaOlam actually depends on this “spiritual process”, it is then essential for man to ‘correct his behaviors and intentions’ in order to do his part in returning light to G-d, as this causes tikkunim to occur, elevating thus the physical and spiritual olamot. In this manner, a “partnership” is established between G-d and man, helping with the purpose of Creation: to sanctify and reveal Hashem’s glory in the inferior world, where He is naturally negated. Truly, without these desires for the “returning spiritual light” and the spiritual ascensions of the world, humanity is destined to moral degeneration and an unilluminated existence.

 

WHY IN SOME SIDDURIM, AFTER THE MARITAL DUTIES, IT IS WRITTEN WE SHOULD THROW A LITTLE BIT OF WATER ON THE FLOOR, NEXT TO THE BED?

In continuation with related material to Sod HaZivug, Kabbalah brings that, “When one has eaten and is satisfied in a seudah, it is necessary to give the scraps and the dregs to the sitra achra, and any particles left upon the hands after a meal must be washed away [with the water called mayin achronim] so that the ‘other side’ may receive its due. Therefore the washing of the hands after a meal is an imperative duty [in order to avoid the ‘tribulations’ of the sitra achra. See Kaf HaChayim Sofer 181:8] and the water must be poured away into an appropriate place” (Zohar 154b, TerumahTalmudChulin 105a-b).

Now, the negative spiritual element that seeks to ruin man through constantly seducing him sexually to procreate (from the zera levatalah, as already explained) its progeny of shedim, and “who lives in the depth of the great abyss of the ocean… is a certain hot fiery female spirit named Lilit, yemach shemo“ (Zohar 19a, Vayikra). If man hears the Torah’s pronouncement, Kedoshim tihiyu (Be holy!), and treat the sexual act with his wife with awe of G-d, this most destructive of spirits does not have authorization to come close and injure, chaz v’shalom, this man and his loved ones – for it is hindered by three malachim. However, if the man is in fact seduced to stray off the praiseworthy path of the L-ord, “then, as a fool, he comes close to her [Lilit y’s]. She dresses with jewelry like an abominable prostitute, hugs and kisses him, and serves him wine filled with dregs and the remains of the Serpent’s venom. And when she sees him desiring her and moving away from the path of truth, she removes all of her adornments she worn for him… She then leaves him sleeping and goes up High in order to denounce and accuse him, so as to receive permission to destroy him. The fool then awakens, thinking he will have her again with all of his pleasurable fancies, but he sees her without her sweet vestments, for now she has become a powerful oppressor dressed in a hot and fiery garment, causing this fool great terror to the whole of his body and soul. This oppressor has terrible eyes, and a sharp sword with drops of venom dripping from it… She kills the fool and throws him in Gehinom” (Zohar 148a-b, Sitrei Torah).

As such, it is vital to know that Lilit y”s is always on the look out wishing to damage the world, seducing the ego of men with the illusion of our material existence. In fact, even when man unites with his wife in holiness to procreate, it is necessary to know the “medicine” to ward off this shed from any opportunity to bring harm, chaz v’shalom. In a low tone and “with the heart devout to Hashem, should the mane pronounce [in Aramaic]: Atifa be’kitefa izdamnat, sha’arei sha’arei, lah tiol ve’lah tinpok, la didan ve’lah be’advan. Tuv tuv, iamah it’reguisha, galgaloi lin karan, be’chulakah kadisha achidnah bikdusha de’malka it’atafna. ‘He who is covered by a sheet [to wit, Lilit y’s, who is always covered and wailing, for the name Lilit y’s is derived from crying, in Hebrew, yelalah] is here. Go far away from me, go far away from me. Ye shall not enter nor leave. This is not yours, nor does it belong to your portion. Return, return, the waters revolt, its waves expect you back. I connect to the holy portion. I am covered with the holiness of the King’. The man should cover his and his wife’s head for a short period, and then they should unite. After the act, it is necessary to spill a bit of water around the bed. This is the best protection” (Zohar 19a, Vayikra), since it is as much her barrier and her portion! It is her mayin achronim. In this way, man ensures that she will only take the drops of water, but not the “drops of life” (i.e., the vital and creative force of semen).