Miketz: Chapter 12

"And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph's house"


The Zohar comments on the fear felt by Joseph's brothers. It meditates on the nature of sin and evil, and asserts that only by concentrating on the Day of Judgment at all times, and by avoiding wine, pride, and fornication, can we be free of the Evil Inclination. Whoever has sins on his hands is always afraid; thus, Joseph's brothers were full of fear when they were brought into his house.


A literal interpretation of Biblical text limits it to extremist views that can be misconstrued as puritanical. The Kabbalists of antiquity shed light on the deeper significance of the above verses. Fear of sin and the avoidance of wine, pride, and infidelity are not just moral values rooted in religious authority. Rather, there is a practical benefit to engaging in positive behavior. Kabbalah teaches us how to elevate all physical activity to the level of the spiritual. For example, relations between a man and wife are made more passionate when a man directs his sexual drive exclusively towards his spouse, limiting carnal activity to the spiritual confines of his marriage. Similarly, wine draws down enormous spiritual Light when used as part of a blessing, but brings alcoholism and spiritual darkness when used for self-indulgent purposes. Our eyes are opened to these insightful truths as we peruse these passages.