In honor of Yosef’s yahrtzeit today, I would like to share a recent email conversation I had about Yosef. The questions came from a fourth grade teacher, whose students asked the following:
Binyamin got 5 portions form Yosef of food and clothing.
Yosef took 5 brothers to meet Pharoah.
1/5 of the fields the mitzriyim had to give to pharoah.
All is initiated by Yosef.
Is there a connection between Yosef and the number 5?
why is it his favorite number?
To which I responded:
These three fives are all different. The first five is five times the amount each of the other brothers got. The second five is five out of twelve – 5/12. And the third five is one out of five, or 20%. So, to say there is a theme of five here may not be accurate.
Notwithstanding that, the first thing that comes to mind on this is that the 20% number – one fifth – is significant as follows. There are ten sefiros. The sefiros are split into two groups, the top three and the lower seven. Yosef and Dovid correspond to the last two (six and seven), which are Yesod (Tzaddik yesod olam – Yosef), and Malchus (Dovid). These two sefiros are the place where heaven and earth touch – they are Friday (six – Yosef) and Shabbos (seven – Dovid). These two represent the perfect balance between heaven and earth, where all of the spiritual influx are focused. If you take these two out of the whole series of sefiros, we are looking at 20%. This is who Yosef was – the tzaddik (yesod) who is in a position of kingship (malchus). He’s got the balance and therefore is the conduit for all of the livelihood of the whole world. That balance is expressed in the 20% that he takes from the Egyptians – it is his due, as it corresponds to him.
It seems to me that the five out of twelve brothers are an expression of the concept of the number five, which is the gematria of the letter Heh. Heh is the female letter, and therefore expresses the aspect of physical weakness (as per the drasha of chazal that the extra Heh of ‘yodchah’ teaches that the tefillin are worn on the weaker hand – the left hand). These five were the weaker of the brothers, and Yosef wanted Pharaoh to see that his brothers were not to be taken and used.
The five times clothing refers to the five different things that Mordechai (from Binyomin) would wear when he was raised up at the end of the story of Purim. This is very interesting, because it also is the ascendency of the tzaddik to a position of rulership and power, much like Yosef; only this time it manifests in Binyomin’s progeny, Mordechai and Esther. Mordechai is the Tzaddik (yesod – six), Esther is the queen (malchus – seven). Still, it is five times, which means that there is an aspect of multiplicity that is inherent in the character of the tzaddik. The tzaddik is the neshama kolleles – the soul that includes all of the Jewish people within him, so this could be hinted to in the fact that Binyomin/Mordechai got a multiplicity of garments. They are also called a ‘change of garments’ – because through the advent of Moshiach ben Yosef there is a changing from the old order, to the new. Garments are the result of the sin of Adam harishon. The changing of garments is brought about through the deeds of the tzaddik (MBY) and his leading the Jewish people – changing their garments from regular physical garments to garments of mitzvos (as per Rashi in Bereishis in reference to Adam being naked of commandments through his sin).
This five could also have to do with the five universes (Asiyah, Yetzirah, Beriyah, Atzilus and Adam Kadmon) which correspond to the five aspects of the name Yud Kei Vav Kei.
Needs more thought.