Weekly Kabalistic Bible Study: What’s the Deal with Joseph and his Technicolor Coat?

Weekly Kabalistic Bible Study: What’s the Deal with Joseph and his Technicolor Coat?

Parsha: Vayeishev

In Bereishis/Genesis

Joseph, 17 years old, is sold by his brothers into slavery…

They viewed him as being a threat. He was having dreams of them bowing to him… naturally, they thought he was making arrogant claims. They sold him into slavery as retribution because he was acting devisive… ‘not being a part of the family.’

Now, what is the deeper meaning of this?!

We’ll get to that in a moment.

The bible describes Joseph as Jacob’s favorite son. Joseph was the son Jacob decided to share all of his spiritual knowledge with. However, Jacob also does something a little weird: he gives Joseph a woolen tunic made from a very special kind of garment!

It was this very same garment Joseph’s brothers present to Jacob, dipped in blood, to convince him of his favorite son’s death.

All types of secrets are withheld in this story.

In the Talmud, there is a discussion of how one who beautifies himself (pays extra-ordinary attention to caring for his superficial appearance) is usually a person of little wisdom. This is because people who are very wise often have a little bit of humility to them… not to mention, better things to do! (just think of SOCRATES for a moment or MARX… often these people didn’t even bathe! Much less care about fashion!) The thought goes: someone who goes to great lengths to put up a front probably does not have much substance behind it… like a hollywood facade.


if Joseph was THE individual that Jacob decided to transmit all the secrets of kaballah and torah to (he was the chosen one amongst the brothers)– that is, if he is the one deemed MOST WISE — why did Jacob make for him this flamboyant clothing? Especially when we hear that only one that is not so wise would don on himself such ornate clothing.. so prominent that the other brothers become jealous of him, no less –

why would Jacob endow Joseph with such superficiality?


This teaches us important lesson: our job is to unite physicality with spirituality. Not to separate them.

So often, people wish to separate the two: you cannot be material and spiritual simultaneously. That is, Jesus says “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew19:23-24

We have to be clear what we mean by a “rich man.” Surely, someone who exploits others for the sole purpose of his own material advantage could not be deemed “spiritual” or even noble for that matter. However, what about the person who uses her material advantage to help others and to elevate their consciousness?

The meaning of this parsha is that the holy one is that person who can ENDOW the physical with the spiritual: who can unite the two–not divorce them.

A man asks the rebbe: If I own a big house on the hill is that a bad thing? The rebbe responds: the bigger the house, the bigger the Shabbat table. As long as we BALANCE these things — the material with the spiritual — we extend our blessings on the world. By renouncing the world, we can do nothing to aid to it’s beauty… we can do nothing to help others learn how to be conscious — to wake them up.

The spiritual person can easily reject/dismiss the physical. But, again, our job as people-in-the-world is to MARRY physicality with Spirituality. To be “in the world but not of it” as the good book says.

So Joseph’s job is to take this spirituality and manifest it: EVEN IN a coat of many colors–the paragon of superficiality.

How do we apply this to our own lives? Well my friend and teacher used to always say: DRESS THE PART and ACT THE PART — hence his turban and white “uniform.” How you dress is how people distinguish you. Now, perhaps, one of the points is: we can use our physicality (literally the way we dress) in order to enhance our spirituality. That is, we can answer the question through our appearance: what does it mean to DRESS authentically.

Often in my life I’ve dismissed the impulse for any fashion — just as I have had intensely fashionable phases. Now I have returned to the idea that I wish to “look the part” — in the same way that the buddhist who dons his saffron robes does. When I put on my yarmulke or my crystals I make a special prayer. I am creating an outward testament to my higher Self by proclaiming to the world: THIS is what I stand for: Holiness… Consciousness… Enlightenment… Self-Mastery. How we dress is our “uniform.” The question is: who’s team are you playing for?

Now, someone who is NOT ABLE to realize godliness in gross physicality should not indulge in gross physicality. But, once one has reached a certain level of mastery, they can use physicality any way they want. My good friend Rachel Leah Bello dresses like a goddess. When asked about it, she often says that by taking good care of herself she inspires other women to take good care of themselves too: to treat themselves like goddesses… However, just as you can dress like a goddess as a form of self-respect, worship, and divinity – you can also do it as a form of ego, vanity, and manipulation. It’s a very fine — albeit important line to tread! [for example: if you’re dressing like a slob and not taking care of your appearance… maybe you’re not honoring yourself either…]


“Kitonet” – the word for external garment in Hebrew – equals “nefesh elokit” (divine soul).

The hint there: until one’s divine soul can be manifest even and despite his clothes: he cannot attain the heights of mastery…

Joseph was able to manifest godliness even in superficial garments. That’s why Jacob loved him above all others.

Thus, Joseph finds godliness in all things.

How can we use what we have to emulate the greatness of joseph: use our physical things for spiritual purposes?

This also relates to the first point — Jacob being sold into slavery. The question this poses for us is: when a person ends up in an undesirable place, can they maintain their spiritual identity?

Again: Joseph brings godliness to all things, becoming king of Egypt.

This is the uniqueness of Joseph, he can RECOGNIZE the divine.

Remember: the 10 commandments were written on stone… what does this mean? That we can bring holiness even to a stone.

The question we’re left with is:





If you liked this, listen to my post on Lech-Lecha: our need to GO INWARDS before we can find the Holy-Land.