Guest post by R’ Daniel Krentzman
“ותהר ותלד בן ותאמר: אסף א-לקים את חרפתי,
ותקרא את שמו יוסף לאמר: יסף ה’ לי בן אחר”
The birth and naming of Yosef is a very significant event in the Torah. In the Torah, it is a general concept that the beginning of something usually includes within it everything that it will come to manifest. Because Yosef is the spiritual head-runner of Mashiach ben Yosef and all his associative qualities, this verse, hints at various aspects of the qualities of Mashiach ben Yosef and his mission in this world.
Firstly, Kabbalah teaches us that Rachel, the mother of Yosef, symbolizes the collective soul and destiny of the Jewish people. In this verse, Rachel’s conception and birth of Yosef is described, wherein she names Yosef and predicts the birth of another, un-named, son.
“Rachel”, the soul of the nation, “conceives and gives birth”; which represents the realization of the light of Mashiach and the Redemption. The first son, “Yosef”, is Mashiach ben Yosef, who will achieve the initial stages of the Redemption process. The future “son” who will be born, in addition to “Yosef”, represents the subsequent arrival of Mashiach ben David and the full Redemption.
Let us explore some more of the concepts in this verse which relate to this process of Redemption:
Rachel declares: “אסף א-לקים את חרפתי”, literally: “G-d (Elokim) has brought in (or gathered in) my disgrace”. First, the name “א-לקים”, is used; then, when she names Yosef she says: “יסף ה’ לי בן אחר”, “May Hashem (י-ה-ו-ה) add on another son for me”. What is the significance of the progression from Elokim to Hashem, a verse later?
Part of the deeper meaning behind this is that Elokim represents G-d’s attribute of “Din”, “Strict Judgment”, while Hashem represents G-d as He manifests His attribute of “Chesed” and “Rachamim”, “Kindness” and “Mercy”.
“Din” is related to Mashiach ben Yosef because his contribution to the Redemption process is dictated by “Strict Judgment”; the natural law and order which demands human effort and worthiness in order to achieve the Redemption.
“Rachamim” is related to Mashiach ben David because he ushers in the era of miracles and transcendence of nature, where we receive the bestowal of Hashem’s reciprocal spiritual and material kindness; in return for our human efforts and self sacrifice, which have made us worthy of it.
We also see that: “חרפתי” (which follows the name “Elokim”) is made up of the letters which form the words: “פרת” and “חי” , both of which relate to Yosef, and by extension, qualities related to Mashiach ben Yosef; as it says (Bereishis 49:22): “בן פרת יוסף בן פרת עלי עין”, and (Bereishis 45:28):
“עוד יוסף חי”.
“אסף”, which means “gather” is also used in relation to Yosef and Mashiach ben Yosef because of their relationship to the sefirah of “Yesod”, which is the sefirah that “gathers together” as it were, the light of the five upper sefiros before channeling them into Malchus. This also expresses the relationship between the two Mashichim, where Mashiach ben Yosef prepares the world for the realization of the Redemption and Hashem’s revelation, achieved fully through Mashiach ben David.
Mashiach ben Yosef’s mission also includes the “ingathering of the exiles” to Eretz Yisrael, which is also hinted at by the usage of: “אסף”, “gather in”, here in this verse.
“אסף”, also denotes “concealment”, which is its meaning in this verse’s usage of it (Rashi to Bereishis 30:23). This also relates to the quality of Mashiach ben Yosef’s efforts being “hidden” and “concealed” in order to avoid opposition against the spiritual and physical forces who work to prevent the Redemption (see Kol HaTor 1:14).
Regarding the words: “יסף ה’ לי בן אחר”, which, in reality, refers to the subsequent son of Binyamin also supports its deeper implied reference to Mashiach ben David; for Mashiach ben David is from the tribe of Yehudah and many times throughout the books of the prophets we find that when the tribe of “Yehudah” is described, in implies both the tribes of Yehudah and Binyamin. They not only bordered each other and shared the area of the Beis HaMikdash, but were also spiritually rooted together; which is why the initial kingship of Shaul, which preceded that of David from Yehudah, could be from the tribe of Binyamin. Thus the “בן אחר”, which refers to Binyamin, can appropriately allude to Mashiach descended from David and Yehudah, as well.