The mission of the children of
The Sfas Emes sees an allusion to this concept in Yosef’s first dream, “וְהִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ מְאַלְּמִים אֲלֻמִּים בְּתוֹך הַשָּׂדֶה .../And behold, we are binding sheaves in the middle of the field …” A field connotes an abandoned place. We find, for example, that the Torah calls Esav a, “אִישׁ שָׂדֶה/man of the field”. Chazal tell us that Esav lived with abandonment, killing and stealing other men’s wives. This world seems to be “abandoned”. Like the field, it appears as if the world has an autonomous existence and there is no one running the show.
A defining factor of nature and the material world is plurality. A defining factor of the spiritual is unity. Since the spiritual underlies the physical, the plurality of the physical is an illusion. In reality, there is unity in the physical as well. Binding the sheaves symbolizes this unity. This unity is the antithesis of abandonment. The unity underlying the physical world points to Divine Providence.
Recognizing that events are not happenstance, that the world is not “abandoned” but rather that there is Divine Providence, we can understand the Midrash on the next part of the dream, “... וְהִנֵּה קָמָה אֲלֻמָּתִי .../… and behold my sheaf arose …”
The word for sheaf – אֲלֻמָּתִי – has the same root as the word for mute – אִלֵם. The Midrash says that this is an allusion to Yosef’s mother Rachel who refused to speak up when Ya’akov sent gifts for her and Lavan, her father, gave them to her sister Leah. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said, “My entire life I was raised among the sages and I haven’t found a better thing for the body than silence.” Why was Rachel silent? Why did she not stand up for herself? Rachel was silent, the Sfas Emes explains, because she was aware of the limits of her intelligence and abilities in the face of Divine Providence. She was quiet because she knew that there was nothing she could possibly do to change the
If events constantly occur that are opposed to our desires. If our desires are constantly being thwarted, then it’s time to entertain the possibility that God is sending us a message. Since our intelligence and desires are of no value against