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(5751) Rashi (Gen 41:14): "and he shaved" - "in honor of the throne".

The difference between shaving and changing clothes according to the simple meaning of the verse.

Two aspects according to Halacha and Pnimiyut. And the connection to to Rosh Hashanah (when Joseph went forth from prison - Talmud Rosh Hashanah 10b)  



1. It states in our Parsha (Gen. 41:14)

“So Pharaoh sent and called Yosef, and they rushed him from the dungeon, and he shaved and changed his clothes, and he (then) came to Pharaoh”.

Rashi states:

“And he shaved: in honor of the throne”.

The commentators ask, why does Rashi explain: “in honor of the throne”, just on the words “shaved”. For also his “changing clothes” was in honor of the throne.

(As is also explained in the comment (that is attributed to) Rashi in the Midrash Rabba

(On the homily of the Sages, “So Pharaoh sent and called Yosef. . in honor of the throne”),

“And he shaved and changed his clothes in honor of the throne.

(Which is a semblance of the Supernal, where He allotted from His honor to a mortal being”.)

One cannot explain that it is a simple thing to understand that the changing of clothes is because of honor to the throne, and therefore, Rashi does not need to explain it. Like the words of the verse, “for one may not enter the king's gate dressed in sackcloth”. For seemingly, even the lack of honor, when one enters to the king while his hair is unkempt without being shaved, is a simple thing to understand.

Seemingly, one could explain this according to what is written in the commentators why Rashi, needs to explain this, at all. For seemingly, it is simple that before one comes to a king, one shaves and changes his clothes.

However, it is problematic why it states in the verse, “So Pharaoh sent and called Yosef”. For this was after, “his spirit was troubled”, from his dreams and there was no one to interpret it for Pharaoh. In other words, Yosef’s coming to Pharaoh was greatly needed, which is why they “they rushed him from the dungeon” quickly and with haste. According to this, it is difficult - how could Yosef tarry in order to shave himself etc.?  For this is not respectful and courtesy to have the king and his ministers sitting and waiting for him. Moreover, this is like rebellion against the king (מורד במלכות). Therefore, how did he not fear for his life, that the king would kill him since he tarried in coming? Therefore, Rashi explains that he did this “in honor of the throne”. Therefore, he acted properly and Pharaoh did not condemn him for this.

According to this, it is possible to say that the need to answer Yosef’s conduct is mainly with regard to “shaving”. For this takes an extreme amount of time and care. Which is not so with changing clothes. For this does not involve so much time and great effort, because of which would delay his coming to Pharaoh.

However, this explanation is seemingly somewhat difficult to understand:

For at the very end, even changing one’s clothes, and especially changing into clothes that are proper for coming before the king, demands preparation etc.

(Moreover, clothes such as this, were certainly not found in the prison, and it required effort to find such clothes).

It is most problematic, that even if one were to say that the main necessity of the explanation, “in honor of the throne.” is with regard to “shaving”. Nevertheless, why does Rashi not, at least, allude to the words, “changed his clothes” in the verse with the word “v’Gomer” (וגו').

(For from this is implies that his explanation “in honor of the throne” also refers to this).

However, since Rashi just cites the word “shaved” (without the addition of “v’gomer”) it implies that according to Rashi, only “shaving” was because of “honor of the throne” and not the changing of his clothes”.

2. One can explain this, simply:

Even though before Yosef’s coming to Pharaoh, he needed to shave and also change his clothes, nevertheless, there is a crucial difference between them:

  • The manner of incarceration in prison is that all the inmates do not wear their own clothes (normal clothes) but rather there are specific garments, prison garb.
  • Whereas with regard to the cutting of hair, there is no restriction on the inmates. Rather they are shaven periodically. This is especially so for those that are there for an extended period - their hair is cut periodically.

According to this, it is understood simply, that when Yosef came from prison, even though he both shaved as well as changed his clothes. Nevertheless, the reason that he changed his clothes was not just due to honor of the throne. Rather, it was because he went out from prison to another place (למקום אחר).

(Even if this is not an ultimate release from prison, going free. For Yosef did not know that he would be completely freed).

Therefore, he changed his clothes from that of an inmate to normal clothes.

This was not so with regard to cutting his hair. For although it is simple that he cut his hair when needed. Nevertheless, here it was a special grooming. Not because of a necessity (a normal shaving that all inmates take periodically) but rather a specific shaving, “in honor of the throne.”

In another manner, the reason that,

“One may not enter the king's gate dressed in sackcloth”,

namely, when one is wearing clothes that are not proper for coming to the king - is a negative aspect (ענין שלילי). In other words, one may not to enter before the king in a disrespectful manner. The same is in our case. For since he did not want to come before the king in prison garb, therefore he changed his clothes in order to not insult the king.

Whereas, this special shaving that took place before he came to the king, was not to negate coming to the king is a disrespectful manner.

(For his hair was indeed cut periodically)

Rather, it was a special act “in honor of the throne”.

3. According to Remez/allusion (ע"ד הרמז) one could say, that Rashi’s explanation here, alludes to an aspect of Halacha:

Yosef’s going out of prison was in order to be a king over Egypt, as it states, he went from prison in order to rule.

Among the obligations and laws of the king, there are two aspects:

  1. Shaving. A “king must cut his hair every day as it states, ‘The King in His beauty shall your eyes behold’”.
  2. Wearing dignified clothing (בגדי כבוד)

(As it states in the Talmud, “One who shaves his head in a dream, it is a good omen for him”, and as Rashi explains, “one who shaves – it is a sign of greatness and beauty for him, as it states, ’he shaved and changed his clothes etc.’”).

This is the allusion in Rashi’s explanation. Yosef’s actions “in honor of the throne” was mainly through “shaving” and not in changing his clothes. For his kingly garments were not given to him at that time, but rather afterward when Pharaoh appointed over his household and over the entire land of Egypt.

Whereas the shaving (that royalty must do) was immediately when he went out of prison.

3. According to this one could explain (in the Pnimiyut of the aspects) the “homiletic style of Torah” in Rashi's commentary (“Yayina shel Torah”), according to the statement of the Sages that Yosef went out of prison on Rosh Hashanah:

It is known that Rosh Hashanah is a time for the ”building of sovereignty” (Binyan HaMalchut – awakening G-d’s desire to be king “).

In other words, the vitality of all the words are from the attribute (Midah) of G-d’s Malchut/sovereignty. For from G-d Himself, there is not even a suggestion for the existence of worlds. In order for worlds to be created from nothingness to somethingness (ex nihilo), there must be Tzimtzum/Contraction and the concealment of G-d’s light and effluence so that there is no revelation except through the Midah of G-d’s Malchut, as it states “The L-rd has reigned; He has attired Himself with majesty”

In order to be King over the world, G-d, clothes Himself in the garments of “majesty” to be called king (להיות מלך שמו נקרא), and the light of G-d’s effluence is hidden and concealed in this garment.

This aspect of “The L-rd  has reigned; He has attired Himself with majesty” was, for the first time, on the sixth day of Creation, the day that Adam HaRishon was created. Similarly, this occurs each year on the day of Rosh Hashanah. For the general vitality (החיות הכללי) of the previous year is in a level of recession (הסתלקות) at the beginning of the night of Rosh Hashanah. However, through the Avodah of Bnei Yisroel on Rosh Hashanah, the building of G-d’s sovereignty is built from anew.

One could say that this aspect is alluded to with Rashi’s words, “he shaved and changed his clothes”, as will be explained:

It is known that there are two perspectives in “hair” (שערות).

  • Sometimes, we find in the Torah that there is a great advantage in the aspect of hair. Like with a Nazirite, where it says regarding him, “he shall be sacred, he shall let the hair of his head grow long”.
  • And sometimes we find that the Torah denigrates hair and it is called subordinate to his flesh (טפל לבשרו). In addition, to note from the statement of the Sages, that the hair of a woman is considered nakedness (ערוה).

The same applies to the Supernal “hairs” (שערות" למעלה").

(Note: “hairs/Sa’arot” represent, in the metaphor of “partzufim” (an analogy of human form), channels of Divine effluence)

For the hairs of Atika Kadisha () are the source of the vitality of all the worlds, and the hairs of Nukva () (of the Sefirah of Malchut) are susceptible to nourishing the outward forces (יניקת החיצונים).    


(Note: The term Atika Kadisha ("Holy Ancient One") refers to the Partzuf that develops from the outer dimension of Keter, Arich Anpin)

There are three partzufim: Arich Anpin, Zeir Anpin and Nukva that correspond to Divine Will, Middot and Malchut.

"Nukva" ("female") is a feminine/receptive dimension that corresponds to the Sefira of Malchut. The hairs of Nukva have the quality of judgment (din) and are susceptible to nourishing the "Other Side/evil")

It is explained regarding this, that hairs are the excess of Mochin (מותרי מוחין).

(Note: as above, “hairs” representing channels of Divine effluence, originate from the “excess” energy of the “Mochin/mind” (Supernal Intellect) represented by the Sefirot Chochmah and Binah that reside in the brain inside the skull. This is analogous to physical hair that grows on the outside of the skull)

In addition, their quality is according to the place that they are drawn from:

From the level of Atika Kadisha which is Ein Sof (G-d’s Essence), the excess aspects (מותרות) from there have abundant vitality (חיות רב), and the hairs are extremely and wondrously holy, as it states,

 “And the Ancient of Days sat; His raiment was as white as snow, and the hair of His head was like clean wool”

The same manifestation is in a Nazirite. During the term of his being a Nazirite, a great radiance illuminates and is enclothed in his hair. For his hair contains great holiness. Therefore, he is adjured not to shave and it is a Mitzvah to grow his locks.

Also in each person, the hair of one’s beard and his Peyot (i.e. side locks or corners of the beard) illuminate radiance from the holiness of the Supernal Hairs, and one is adjured not to cut them.

Whereas, with regard to the level of the “Nukva” which represents Malchut, which is the level of Tzimtzum. From the level of the excess aspects of its Mochin/mind (מותרי מוחין), there can be nourishment to the outward forces (יניקת החיצונים). For its vitality is with great constriction (Tzimtzum), as it states, the hair of a women is considered Ervah/nakedness etc.

Although the source of the vitality of all the worlds is from the level of the hairs of Atika Kadisha, Creation does not occur, when this aspect visibly illuminates.

In order for the creation of independent matter (יש ודבר בפני עצמו), there must be “shaving” – the concealment of the revelation of the vitality and drawing down of G-dliness into the worlds that is in a manner of “hairs”.

(Since in these hairs, the revelation of great light is illuminated).

Through this shaving, there is possible to be, after this, changing of clothes as it states, “The L-rd has reigned; He has attired Himself with majesty”. This refers to the garments of Malchut from which the entity of the worlds are created, as aforementioned.

This is alluded to in Rashi’s words, “and he shaved: in honor of the throne”:

In order for there to be “honor of the throne”, there must be beforehand “shaving”.

The intent in this is that Yisroel should effect in the world, which is an independent entity, the nullification of somethingness to nothingness (ביטול היש לאין) (transforming physicality to G-dliness). This is accomplished through the Avodah Yisroel in Torah and Mitzvot, that draw down the revelation of G-dliness into the world.

5. One could say, that just as this is related to the vitality of the worlds on Rosh Hashanah, for then it is the building of Supernal Malchut (המלכות שלמעלה), so too it was with the sovereignty of Yosef, who was appointed on Rosh Hashanah, and who went from prison to rule.

It is explained in many places, with regard to the difference between Yosef and his brothers, that the tribes chose to be shepherds, in order to be separated from the world and therefore in order that the world not distract (יטרידו) them from their attachment to G-d.

Whereas, Yosef was the king of Egypt, as it states, “Besides you, no one may lift his hand or his foot in the entire land of Egypt.”. In addition, Yosef “provided grain to the entire populace of the land”, for his dealings was with the entire world. Nevertheless, all these bothers did not distract him from his attachment to G-d. For even while he was dealing with them, he was a vehicle (Merkavah) for G-dliness.

The reason for this is because, from the perspective of the level of the tribes (the lower Merkavah –מרכבתא תתאה),

(Note: the state of the twelve tribes in Olam HaBriah where they are at the level of a Merkavah to Malchut of Atzilut)

the world has a grasp (תפיסת מקום). Therefore, if they would descend and deal with the aspects of the world, they would not be able to remain attached, in a manner of a Merkavah.

Whereas, the level of Yosef, within whom the G-dly light which is completely above the world, illuminated within him. At that level, the world has no significance. Therefore, even at the time of his dealings in the land of Egypt, it did not distract him from his attachment to G-d.

Moreover, he also effected and influenced the people of Egypt itself, as it is emphasized that he influenced them to circumcise themselves.

The way to attain this, is alluded to in the words, “he shaved and changed his clothes”. For the essence and root of Yosef did not descend and clothe itself in the level of Egypt. Therefore, in the beginning he “shaved”, meaning that he “contracted himself” (צמצם" עצמו “) from the revelation of the “hairs”. And afterward, “he changed his clothes”. For all the aspects of this world did not have significance to him, and it was not applicable that his dealings in the aspects of the world should distract and confuse him from his bitul and attachment to G-d.

Just as this is in the Heavenly Sovereignty, where the garment of Malchut, from which is the vitality and source of all the worlds, does not hide, at all, with regard to G-d. For with regard to G-d, there is no change (אין שום שינוי ח"ו), G-d forbid, as it states, “You were (the same) before the world was created; You are (the same) since the world has been created, in complete equanimity (בשוה ממש)”.In addition, in all facets, “Everything before You is as if it is naught”,

So too, is it with the level of Yosef below. For the aspects of sovereignty were just a level of a garment, that does not effect any change in Yosef’s essence himself.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Miketz 5748

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