Parshat Vayigash: Searching for the True Tzaddik
More secrets of the Torah with Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita.
In all three of the parshiot Vayeshev, Mikeitz and Vayigash the ‘Tzaddik Yesod ha’olam’ (Tzaddik, the foundation of the world), the true Tzaddik, is being sought for. This week, in Parsha Vayigash, the Tzaddik cries out: “I am Yosef!” – and then the true Tzaddik is revealed.
The brothers were all true Tzaddikim of the utmost holiness, but they didn’t believe that Yosef was the ‘Tzaddik Yesod ha’olam’. The brothers erred with Yosef, they thought that Yosef HaTzaddik was just like them, just that he served Hashem even more than they did, learned more than them, guarded his eyes more. Each of the brothers was certain that he was a true tzaddik, but they didn’t know that the Tzaddik Yesod Haolam is something else entirely.
Yosef lit up the whole world, from one side to the other
The Heichal HaBracha says that the light of Yosef HaTzaddik shone in all the worlds, and in all the Sefirot (kabbalistic realms). He shone like the sun, and the brothers had absolutely no idea what a big light they’d found here. It’s written in the holy Zohar, on Parshat Vayishav, that Yosef was everything, he was the root of everything, all the shefa (bounty) continued to flow from him.
And this is what Rabbenu brings in Lesson 67 in part 2 [of Likutey Moharan]: “Because there is a Tzaddik who is the beauty, and the glory and the grace of the whole entire world, and his whole being is from the aspect of (Bereishit 39:6) “And Yosef was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance.” [And] from the aspect (Psalms 48:3) “A beautiful landscape, the joy of the entire earth.”
“For this true Tzaddik represented by Yosef is the glory and beauty of the entire world, and when this beauty and splendor is revealed to the world, that is, when this tzaddik who is the beauty of the entire world becomes renowned and famous in the world, the eyes of the entire world are then opened. Whoever is encompassed within this true beauty of this tzaddik who is the grace and beauty of the world – that is, whoever becomes his follower and becomes ‘part’ of him – his eyes are opened and he becomes able to see….one becomes able to look into oneself regarding all the character traits, where one is holding in them…One also becomes able to see and behold God’s greatness.”
The True Tzaddik comes to reveal Hashem in the world
For the true Tzaddik only comes [to the world] for one thing: to reveal Hashem. The true Tzaddik comes to reveal that there is Hashem in the world, and that a person shouldn’t think that he’s making things happen under his own steam, that he can walk by himself, or do things by himself, or run around by himself, or make things happen by himself, without Hashem. Here, he’ll get a blow on his hand, there he’ll hurt his leg, every second he’ll get another blow, but he still continues to think ‘I’m walking, I’m running around, I’m doing things’.
A person thinks that he’s the ruler of the world, he walks around, he breathes – but they can show him in a split-second that if even just something tiny moves in his body just a thousandth of a millimeter – he’s finished! He immediately needs surgery, medical tests, x-rays, and then he already comes to understand that he’s not Hashem, he’s not an angel, and he doesn’t rule the world.
We don’t rule the world…
Slowly, slowly, life teaches us that a man is built with “all manner of openings, and all manner of cavities. It is obvious and known before the throne of Your glory that if even one of them would be ruptured or blocked, it would be impossible to survive and to stand before for you even for a single hour.” (From the ‘Asher Yatzah’ blessing).
Once a person gets to 60, already one of his vertebrae starts to move around here, and there some nerve starts to move around. At age 60, the limbs start to wither, the sinews start to dry out. Up to the age of 60, a person can fool himself that he’s something, that he can do everything. But by this age, he already starts to see plainly that he’s really not something. ‘See, here I fell over. I can no longer walk so well over there.’
Everything is only Hashem
But who can open our eyes, and show us while we’re still healthy, strong and robust that everything is really only Hashem? Our health comes from Hashem, our strength comes from Hashem – everything’s from Hashem! Only the Tzaddik who comes from the aspect of Yosef can show us that there’s Hashem in the world.
The whole reason we come down to the world is just to know that we aren’t doing anything. We came here to know that Hashem is running the world; all we need to do is see Hashem’s Divine [hand], to see Hashem everywhere, to see Hashem in every movement, to see Hashem in every thought and word.
A person moves his hand, or moves his leg – everything is Hashem! Hashem is moving his hand, Hashem is moving his leg. A person lives in the world as though he’s ‘cool’, he’s constructing buildings, he’s building yeshivas – if he doesn’t know that really Hashem is doing everything, then everything is really just a Tower of Babel, as King Shlomo said: “I surely built a fertile house.” Hashem said: “You built it?! If so, the house (i.e. Temple) has been decreed for destruction. You should say ‘Hashem built it! Hashem did it!’
Why Tzaddikim don’t say ‘I’
The Maggid of Mezeritch forbade himself from saying the word ‘I’. The Tzaddikim are very careful not to say the word ‘I’. If a person says the word ‘I’ – oy vavoy! All the Torah, all the Gemara, all the Shulchan Aruch, all the Yoreh Deah, all the prayers – everything is only so that we’ll know that Hashem is doing everything, and that there is Hashem in the world.
We’re not doing anything. We’re not even moving our hand, or moving our leg, we aren’t breathing ourselves ‘every breath will praise Hashem, halleluyah’. Every single breath we take is from Hashem. The whole work of a person over 120 years is to know who this tzaddik is, who is enlivening the whole world, and whose merit the shefa is coming to the world, as the Gemara recounts about Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa:
“The whole world is sustained in the merit of Chanina Ben Dosa, but he is sufficed with a measure of carobs.”
A Jew needs to know on what foundation the world rests
The first thing that a Jew needs to know about is on what foundation the world rests, and in whose merit the world is sustained. We have to search for this Tzaddik who is truly sustaining the world with his merit, and to seek out the Tzaddikim who are saving the world. Who are these Tzaddikim, who are protecting us?
And each person who comes close to this Tzaddik, and who is encompassed within this Tzaddik for the sake of truth, he’ll be able to see where he’s really holding in relation to rectifying his middot (character traits). The idea is that when a person comes to the Tzaddik, he starts to detest the bad that’s within him, and to detest his yetzers (inclinations to do evil). He starts to hate all the materialistic stuff that’s surrounding him, and he starts to hate his corporality, and all the bad things, and all his lusts. He no longer makes everything he wants ‘the ideal’, he no longer boasts about all these things.
The second a person comes close to the true Tzaddik, he only starts seeking out good things; he only sees the good in other people, and starts to love Am Yisrael with a deep love that causes him to sacrifice himself for others. He only wants to escape from all of his bad middot, and all his lusts, and to make complete teshuva and return to Hashem Yitbarach.
This is the power the true Tzaddik has to rectify the world, because this Tzaddik can bring the whole world back to its Benefactor. If people would come closer to him and believe in him, they would escape from all their evil and become completely refined.
Abridged and translated from the Tzama Nafshi newsletter.