Magical Clothing

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Vayeishev
Magical Clothing


If you enjoy shopping for clothing, you are going to really appreciate the topic found within this week's story. Ya'akov made a special "Kesones Pasim" for his favorite son, Yoseph (Gn. 37:3). The word "Kesones" means "coat". However, it is the word "Pasim" that has an entire host of definitions. Some say that "Pasim" means that the coat had long sleeves, or lines, or stripes, or that it was made out of fine wool, or that it had colors.

However, the Midrash (Bereishis Rabba, 84:8) has an alternative interpretation. The word "Pasim" represents the four challenges that Yoseph would have to face throughout the journey of his life. We can see these challenges hinted at in the word "Pasim" which is spelled pey, samech, yud, and mem. These four letters serve as the acronym for the following four words. The pey stands for "Potifar" whose wife posed a threat to Yoseph's holiness. The samech stands for "Socharim" (merchants) who sold Yoseph, (these Socharim may refer to Yoseph's brothers who sold him first). The yud stands for "Yishmaelim" who bought and sold Yoseph. The mem stands for "Midyanim" who also bought and sold Yoseph.

After Ya'akov made this Kesones, he called it "Pasim", implying that these would be the tragedies that would face Yoseph during the course of his life. One must wonder why Ya'akov would make such a coat for Yoseph. What benefit would it serve? On the contrary, this coat now had bad omens and negative implications. Wouldn't that make this coat jinxed? Would you wear something that carried such negative connotations?

There is a bit of information buried behind this story which is less known. We are going to share this piece of information right now. Yoseph did not only have one Kesones; he had two! The first one was worn on Yoseph's flesh in order to soak up any sweat. This coat was an ordinary coat which was just called "Kesones".

However, the second one was worn on top of the first one. This second coat was made special with its stripes in order to lend importance to Yoseph. This second coat was called "Kesones Pasim" (Chassam Sofer, Maharal in Gur Aryeh, R'eim, Maharshal, Sifsei Chachamim, Rashi Gn. 37:23, based on Bereishis Rabba 84:16).

When Yoseph's brothers stripped Yoseph of his clothing, they grabbed his "Kesones" (undercoat) and pulled it off. When they did so, the "Kesones Pasim" (outercoat) came off automatically. The reason why they did not just remove the outer coat first was because they were unable to. This is because the outer coat had much more to it than stripes, sleeves, colors, etc....

When Ya'akov made the Kesones Pasim, he Kabbalistically wove the twenty-two letter name of Hashem into it. This name of God works like a charm to protect its owner from any harm. The name that Ya'akov gave to this coat, "Pasim", is actually part of that protective twenty-two letter name of Hashem (see Rabbeinu Bachya Gn. 37:3; Ramak Pardes Rimonim 21:14).

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this explains why Ya'akov named this coat a "Kesones Pasim" after all the difficulties Yoseph would face. This did not jinx the coat. On the contrary, the name "Pasim" was meant to safeguard Yoseph from Potifar's wife, from the Socharim, from the Yishmaelim and from the Midyanim.

This magical coat that Yoseph wore did indeed protect him from many potential dangers. Unlike his brothers who always traveled together, Yoseph would roam about the wilderness all alone. Although there were many hazards and threats in the desert, Yoseph never even got a scratch. This was due to the mystical Kesones Pasim that he wore.

However, the Kesones Pasim did not protect Yoseph from his brothers. Yoseph's brothers realized that Yoseph's coat had powers which served as a spiritual force-field shielding him from any harm. Therefore, they wisely went around the Kesones Pasim by grabbing Yoseph's undercoat which was just an ordinary article of clothing. In this way, Yoseph's brothers snuck under the Kesones Pasim's radar. Once they pulled off the undercoat, the outercoat came off automatically.

However, one question still remains. Why didn't the Kesones Pasim protect Yoseph even from his brothers' plan? Apparently, the Kesones Pasim should have even been able to stop an attempt of going under its radar.

The Sar Shalom m'Belze, in his Midbar Kadesh, answers this question by pointing out that there was a spiritual ruination in the Kesones Pasim. This special coat generated jealousy and hatred between the brothers and Yoseph ( Rava bar Machsiya citing Rav Chammah bar Guriah citing Rav, Shabbos, chap. 1, "Yetzios HaShabbos, pg. 10b). As such, there was a crack in its spiritual force-field. Although the Kesones Pasim still worked at protecting Yoseph from most harm, it did not shield Yoseph from his brothers who were hurting from the favoritism that was displayed from the coat. Yoseph's brothers found the weak spot in the force-field and penetrated it.

Nevertheless, the Kesones Pasim was not a waste of time. The brothers sent the Kesones Pasim to Ya'akov so that he could identify that it was indeed Yoseph's clothing. Once the Kesones Pasim was in Ya'akov's possession, he himself was energized by its holiness. There is proof of this. The moment Ya'akov held the Kesones Pasim in his hands; he said that a savage beast devoured Yoseph (Gn. 37:33). Although the simple meaning of this statement is understood, there was a deeper meaning behind Ya'akov's words. Ya'akov was suddenly filled with Divine inspiration and foresaw how Potifar's wife was going to try and seduce Yoseph. Ya'akov referred to her as the savage beast. This vision came to Ya'akov as a result of being spiritually charged from the Kesones Pasim.

What did Ya'akov do after having this vision? He immediately began telegraphing the Kesones Pasim's spiritual energy to Yoseph. It worked! Yoseph was still protected from all potential harm and was even highly successful in all of his endeavors. It even strengthened Yoseph from sinning with Potifar's wife.

We can see this from the verse that says that she grabbed Yoseph's garment (Gn. 39:12). The reason why she was capable of grabbing his garment was because it was not the Kesones Pasim. What did Yoseph do? He left his ordinary clothing in her hand in order to redress himself in the spiritual garb of the Kesones Pasim. Where do we see that?

Just as Potifar's wife grabbed Yoseph's clothing, Yoseph saw an image of his father in the window (Sotah, chap. 7, "Eilu Ne'emarin", pg. 36b). The Midbar Kadesh adds that Yoseph saw that the image of Ya'akov was wearing the Kesones Pasim. Ya'akov was beaming the Kesones Pasim's holiness to Yoseph in this hologram. By drawing from its holiness, Yoseph was able to fortify himself spiritually and stand up to the temptation.

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 32:5; Rebbi Chiya bar Aba) says that when Yoseph withstood the temptation of being with Potifar's wife, he broke the ice and paved the way for the rest of the Jewish People. Now they, too would be able to withstand the temptation of behaving immorally with their Egyptian counterparts. This served as the necessary merit for the Jews to be redeemed from Egypt by having the waters part for them.

I guess we could apply the age old adage that says, "Gam Zu L'tovah" (this too is for the best; Ta'anis,chap. 3, "Seder ta'aniyos Eilu", pg. 21a) to this story. It was imperative for Ya'akov to give Yoseph a special coat because this would trigger a whole series of events that were necessary for the Jewish People's salvation. The Kesones Pasim led to jealousy which led to Yoseph being sold which led to him being tested which led to him passing the test which led to the Jews passing their tests which led to the parting of the waters. This is another reason why the Kesones was called "Pasim". The word "Pasim" can be broken in half to spell two words, "Pas Yam" (the water parted; Bereishis Rabba, 84:8; Tanchumah Vayeishev, #9; Midrash shocher Tov, Psa. 114).

If Ya'akov never gave the Kesones Pasim to Yoseph, the brothers would not have been jealous. There would never have been a sale. Yoseph would not have passed the test of Potifar's wife because it never would have happened. The necessary spiritual infrastructure for the Jewish People would have never been set into place. The Jews would have had to descend to Egypt anyway due to God's decree that He shared with Avraham at the Covenant Between the Parts (Gn. 15:13). The Jews would have assimilated and disappeared into Egyptian culture.

The Kesones Pasim, which was responsible for this whole chain of events, had another dimension of spirituality to it besides the twenty-two letter Name of God. The Shelah (Vayeishev, Torah Ohr, #2) says that prior to sinning with the Eitz Hada'as (forbidden fruit) Adam Ha'Rishon was clothed in "Kasnos Ohr" (a garb of light). However, after he sinned, he lost the Kasnos Ohr. To cover Adam's nakedness, Hashem made for him "Kasnos Ohr" (a garb of skin). When the word "Ohr" is spelled with an aleph, it means "light". When "Ohr" is spelled with an ayin, it means "skin".

Whatever became of the Kasnos Ohr (with an aleph)? The Zohar says that Ya'akov inherited it. This is why the Talmud says that the beauty of Ya'akov was likened to the beauty of Adam Ha'Rishon (Baba Metziah, chap. 7, "hasocher Es Hapoalim", pg. 84a). The Talmudic word for "beauty" is "Shufrah". "Shufrah" is a word which implies a "shine". The shine or glow of Ya'akov was like that of Adam because Ya'akov received the Kasnos Ohr from Adam.

Then, Ya'akov gave the Kasnos Ohr to Yoseph. The Shelah says that the Kesones Pasim was the Kasnos Ohr! (See Targum Yerushalmi, Gn. 48:22). After all, the word "Kesones" and "Kasnos" are spelled exactly the same.

At first glance it appears that there is a contradiction between the Shelah who says that the Kesones Pasim was the Kasnos Ohr and the previous commentaries who said that the Kesones Pasim was an actual piece of clothing that Ya'akov injected the twenty-two letter name of God into. Perhaps we could suggest that there is no contradiction whatsoever.

The Kesones Pasim was an actual fabric of fine wool into which Ya'akov sewed the twenty-two letter name of Hashem. In addition to that, the Kesones Pasim also received the spiritual light of the Kasnos Ohr. The light together with the name of Hashem was intended to protect Yoseph, which in the end it did.

The Shvilei Pinchas adds that the Kesones Pasim had another dimension of spirituality to it. Not only does the Torah use the word "Kesones" by Yoseph's coat and by Adam's clothing, but it also uses that word by one of the clothing of the Kohein Gadol (High Priest) who wore the "Kesones Tashbeitz" (coat of a box-like knit; Ex. 28:4). This meant that Yoseph was in possession of a garment that had atoning abilities (Rav Shmuel bar Nachmeini citing Rebbi Yochanan, Eiruchin, chap. 3, "Yeish b'Eiruchin", pg. 16a).

There is also a connection between the Kesones Tashbeitz and the Kasnos Ohr. Adam Ha'Rishon served as the Kohein Gadol in Gan Eden who brought offerings to God (Agra d'Kallah, Tetzaveh). This is why the Midrash (Bamidbar rabba, 4:8) says that Adam Ha'Rishon wore Bigdei Kehunah (Prirestly Garb). The Kasnos Ohr was Bigdei Kehunah which included the Kesones Tashbeitz! However, once Adam sinned, it says that he realized that he was naked (Gn. 3:7). This meant that he understood that he had been stripped of his Bigdei Kehunah - Kasnos Ohr. When the Kasnos Ohr went to Yoseph, it meant that he would possess clothing that also had atoning properties.

I was thinking that each and every one of us could possess such holy clothing as well, even today. May I suggest that each day, at least once, we put on aristocratic clothing. The best time to do this would be prior to Davening, even when we pray at home when we might be tempted to Davin in our pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers. Since our prayers substitute the offerings, an elegant piece of clothing in honor of those prayers would take on the status of Bigdei Kehunah. After all, we are a "Mamleches Kohanim" (Kingdom of Priests; Ex. 19:6).

Once we designate a stylish piece of clothing as our Bigdei Kehunah, it will also receive the spiritual light of the Kasnos Ohr. It will also be imbued with the twenty-two letters of God's Name. This will help protect us from sin for the rest of the day, even if we do not wear them all the time. The special clothing will beam its holiness to us from the closet, no matter where we are.

Perhaps, the best time to think about all of this would be when we recite the blessing "Malbish Arumim" (The One who dresses the naked). Even if we have been stripped of the Bigdei Kehunah in the past, we call still redress ourselves in them once again.

So, may we b'nei Ya'akov and b'nei Yoseph be blessed to don the clothes of aristocracy and soak up the light of God's twenty-two letter Name, and thus, be forgiven for all sin and be protected from any physical or spiritual harm.