Dixie Bit: [short ideas taken from various sources or my thoughts - not as well formed or with clear citations as a proper blog post]
Who and what is Binyomin as a shevet and in his essence? The following is based on the Mei Hashiloach and Beis Yaakov of Izhbitz.
As I've posted before, the essence of Binyomin is the ability and proclivity to take the good from the nations of the world and the physical world generally and bring it into the Jewish people, and thereby, back to its source, Hashem. This is the avodah of "v'yinatzlu es Mitzrayim, and you shall empty out Egypt," mentioned in the last pasuk of the 2nd perek in this week's parsha (Shmos).
This is based on Yaakov's blessing, "Binyomin is a Wolf that tears" sparks of holiness from the nations of the world in order to bring them into the Jewish people. It is also based on the stone from the Ephod corresponding to shevet Binyomin, the "yashpeh" which the Izhbitzer says is a contraction of the words "yesh peh, there is to him a mouth" to consume the holiness that is trapped among the nations of the world to bring it back to the Jewish people.
Why is Binyomin consumed by the need to look for holiness outside the walls of the beis medresh in order to bring it back? Why is he not satisfied and calm, willing to look for holiness only where it is apparent? Why isn't he patient enough to wait for "b'ita, its time," the appointed time of redemption when Hashem Himself will bring back everything to its source and redeem those sparks of holiness Himself when He decides the time is ripe? Why must he insist on "achishena, I will hasten it?" Why must he reach into the mud to bring goodness back *now*?
The Izhbitzer's son, the Beis Yaakov, gives us the backstory.
The Beis Yaakov explains the differences between Yehuda, Yosef, and Binyomin. In short, their essences are the following (I'll note below some obvious questions about the following given other things we know about these players):
- Yehuda is the tzadik who recognizes that the whole purpose of life is the higher world. This world is transient and our avodah is to live purely for the higher world. He is patient and will wait for "b'ita, its [the redemption's] time." He has no need to live for or see the redemption of the holiness that he know intellectually exists in this world. So he is patient and doesn't see the rush to involve one's self in the physical world or the nations to redeem the holiness trapped there.
- Yosef expands on Yehuda's satisfaction with only involving one's self with things that are already outwardly spiritual. He stretches out Yehuda's interests by showing how there is value in being involved in the world, settling and improving it. Yosef takes care of every detail of running a country. He gives Yehuda the ability focus on those details of this otherwise insignificant world in Yehuda's own malchus.
- Binyomin takes this a step further. He is not satisfied with "b'ita," waiting until Hashem is good and ready to redeem the holiness within this world at the end of time. He has no patience for that. He demands redemption in the way of "achishena, I will hasten it." That is why he looks to the good points within the physical and within the nations of the world in order to take them away from their captivity there and bring it into the Jewish people, Hashem's bride, into Hashem's household. He must do this now, before the ultimate redemption.
This is why Yehuda was so distraught when he came to Yosef-viceroy at the beginning of Vayigash. He knew that his kingship had no staying power in this world without Yosef and Binyomin. Without a focus on the good/the value in this world, Yehuda would disappear as far as any existence in this world goes. Granted, he was part of the cause of the loss of Yosef, but sometimes "you don't know what you've got till it's gone."
Yehuda had already lost Yosef, which, together with his intent to focus on the higher world, gave him the ability to extend his upper-worldly life into this world. But at least he still had Binyomin. Now, though, Binyomin was about to suffer the same fate as Yosef. He was about to be swallowed up by the very impure world he was trying to redeem. Yehuda therefore guaranteed Binyomin's return to his father Yaakov. If he lost Binyomin, he would have no further reason to live in this world, so he guaranteed Binyomin's return with his own life.
And by doing so, Yehuda merited not only the ability to retain physical life by keeping Binyomin's influence in his life, but he also merited to regain Yosef's influence as well.
We can see from this how all types of Jews and darchei avodah across the spectrum (i) of living only for apparent holiness while rejecting any essential purpose in this world, on one hand, to (ii) intense involvement with the nations and the physical world, on the other hand are both needed. It is a symbiotic relationship whereby we are only complete as a people when we have both sides to do their respective jobs but also to keep the other side grounded and balanced.
I previously commented that Binyomin would be a great name for a Ger because such a person extracted his own soul from captivity among the nations. It's not a completely clean extraction though. There's junk that comes along into the Jewish people along with the holiness that had been there. Binyomin struggles to cleanse himself from that junk while still able to see the good in the world outside and trying to bring it up without being taken captive again by it. He must be anchored by the purity of Yehuda who'll save him from the brink when he's almost lost.
As I learn more, I don't yet know enough to fully get my head around these ideas or how they shtim with the fact that Yehuda is the son of Leah, the embodiment of the "alma d'iskasya, the hidden world." He should be the one to look for the hidden kedusha in this world, right? He's also malchus, the ability to bring all of the higher kochos all the way down into the details of this world. Isn't that the essence of malchus? Why does he need Yosef for that? Or is Yosef the reason why Yehuda can do it? But if so, what is malchus?
And Binyomin is a son of Rochel, the embodiment of the "alma d'isgalya, the revealed world." Shouldn't that mean he's the one who only deals with the world of revealed holiness, nigleh? Shouldn't he be the one with patience who doesn't need to see how the hidden holiness in the physical world will return to the world of holiness? He should be satisfied with the revealed holiness of the spiritual world and not so preoccupied with revealing that which is hidden.
Perhaps some of you can help me fit some more pieces of the puzzle together.