The further away you get from the cause the more you become immersed in the effects and become distanced from the cause of these effects. In a sense this Parsha speaks about the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life.
The Tree of Knowledge answers the following question; 'what would it be like if so and so happens?'
The Tree of Life speaks solely about the cause of all being saying return unto this cause for here is where your life begins and never ends. This cause issues forth the light of understanding flowing effortlessly into and through our souls. If we do not listen for and attend to this cause of all causes we cannot possibly expect harmony to be present in our lives. Always the direction is towards Hashem and too many times do we turn away forgetting or willfully assuming that our thoughts of the moment will overreach all the thoughts that have come before. There is a method to all of this and it is this method that we learn about here and elsewhere throughout Torah.
The theme of this Parsha and its accompanying Haftorah is "Listen." Listen to the word of YHVH spoken in dreams by Yosef or spoken by the prophets for the sake of Israel. When Yaakov sojourns in the land of his fathers his actions are at rest. He has come to terms with YHVH and now must pass it along to his children to follow in his footsteps. Now it is up to the generations of Israel to make their own way in the world; to live and die by the word of YHVH in all of their relationships with the world. What is this word of YHVH?
Amos 3:7 For the Lord GOD will do nothing, but He revealeth His counsel unto His servants the prophets. 8-The lion hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?
The spirit of prophecy represents the recognition of the channel through which the Shekinah travels connecting Yesod and Tiphereth and then Binah. This recognition is both a filling up and a pouring forth. These words we hear within whether they occur through dreams or the elevation of visionary moments are our direct connection to YHVH or the level of Yaakov called Tiphereth. Here is what happens that makes this prophecy the truth of the moment:
An alignment occurs between the mundane and the super conscious mind that foretells with accuracy the future moments to be experienced. This future telling depends upon the level of the soul that is connecting. Connection occurs when you are able to simultaneously rise both to the level of causation and to the level of demonstration. The two must be one. Prophecy is revealed only to those who choose to listen. What are they listening for? It is the word of YHVH and most importantly the feeling of YHVH through the intermidiary of the Shekinah. If the Shekinah does not rise or fall there cannot be any connection. This movement of the Shekinah occurs during meditations that include right thinking. What is this right thinking? It is righteousness or to put it succinctly thinking good thoughts for the sake of Torah, for the reason being that you are intentionally using the power of your mind to make things better in body and soul.
In this Parsha Yosef's actions are always for the purpose of making his world a little better. When his dreams portend his rulership over his brothers he is speaking metaphorically of how we must continuously choose the Tree of Life in order to rise above our circumstances. Yosef recognizes that soon he will be in Egypt and that his brothers will soon follow. He is telling them that he will watch out for them by rising above their fears and even the results of their negative actions towards him. He does the same thing for Potiphar and the prison warden calling YHVH and the awareness of the Tree of Life into all of his actions in order to make everything better. Despite his circumstances his attention remains upon Torah symbolic of the secrets of contemplation of the mystery that occupied his ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Josef accept his part in this Divine mystery and never stops his meditations.
Yosef is on the level of Yesod or Foundation on the Tree of Life. It is the level of dreams and of generation or the bringing forth of that which is to come. Yosef rises via the Shekinah to Tiphereth or the level of his father Yaakov. This level may not be achieved except by meditation on the unity of YHVH. It is this unity that covers the prophecy with truth. When Yosef speaks from here as he does so in his dreams what he has witnessed comes to pass. It is noteworthy that all of Yosef's brothers including his father do not fail to discern the meaning of his dream. It is not only their resentment of his place with their father that fuels their (the brothers) anger it is also the very real possibility that Yosef would then be ruling over them. Whether it is their pride or their ego that rejects Yosef it doesn't matter. The stage is set then for their plan which seems to be a solution in the moment to the problem of Yosef. The deeper problem they are trying to take care of is their own misdeeds. Yosef represents a truth of consciousness that the brothers are not yet ready to take on. Like many they would prefer to hide their misdeeds from themselves thinking that by doing so they hide it from G-d.
There are four levels to be considered when studying a Torah verse. One is the obvious on the surface take on the events presented. The second look tries to connect the verses of Torah to a unity within themselves giving subsequent verses wherever they appear either within Torah or Midrashim. The third level arises from the consideration of direct encounters taking place in the word of YHVH, Prophecy, or dreams all of which lead to the outworkings of the divine plan. The fourth level considers how all of these stories are allegories for our own thought process; what it goes through as we experience the various levels of attainment offered as a result of listening to and for YHVH in our lives. In this way we witness the Kabbalah of Torah study through the four worlds of inquiry, Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah.
Let us follow an example of our own thinking and follow it along with the events taking place here in this Parsha.
"Yes there are two paths you can go by but in the long run there still is time to change the road you are on." (Led Zeppelin -Stairway to Heaven)
Josef is able to follow the stairway to heaven, the very same one that his father Israel discovered. His brothers are not able to follow this stairway completely. It is for this purpose of finding the secret of the name of YHVH that Israel sends Josef out to look for his brothers. Israel wants a report of their welfare. What he is really doing is foreshadowing the help that Josef's brothers must receive. Israel has his own prophecy to contemplate. Therefore his thoughts in sending Josef after his brothers are in line with this prophecy. Israel knows that his sons will soon have to follow along with himself into Egypt or the land of darkness caused by the ill results of their negative thinking. Josef is his shining light symbolized by his brilliant coat of many colors. Israel sets the stage therefore for Josef's further spiritual education.
The central part of this story occurs early when Josef goes looking for his brothers. He is told to look to Shechem the scene of the slaughter of all the men due to Dinah's defiling. It is where the darkness of their actions began to send them further into the material realm until at last they must end up in Egypt.
Gen 37:15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying: 'What seekest thou?'
Look at this first word. Vayimsa-aihou, Vav, Yod, Mem Tzaddi, Aleph, Heh, Vav. and then Ish for man (And a certain man). This first word contains both YHVH and Mitzvah. This was no ordinary man. It was an angel of right action or the angel of Mitzvah. It is no coincidence that this angel meets Yosef in Shechem because it is only by right actions that the evil decree may be averted and transformed ala Mitvoth. The angel is wandering the field and asks Yosef, MaTVaKaiSh
"What are you seeking?" Josef answers that he is seeking his brothers but more to the point what he seeks in terms of his spiritual quest is the good intention that he wants help tend or bring forth despite their evil inclination. In effect Josef has already found what he has always sought which is the angel of Mitzvoth. The angel then sends Josef on his way following the path of Mitzvoth. It is this path that will lead Israel into Mitzraim and then out again four hundred years later.
The question always remains then as it does today; why does there have to be such a long way around for Israel. After all Yosef knew the pathway to righteousness. Why couldn't he simply have shown his brothers the 'right' way to live their lives? The question is answered in this way. The pathway to righteousness can be shown but each one has to take their own steps forward. Righteousness or right action must be experienced in order for it to become a pattern in a person's life. Yosef's brothers knew all about right action yet they chose not to follow this course.
When Reuben slept with Bilhah in the previous Parsha he demonstrates his misunderstanding of righteousness. Allegorically he thought to harvest from the works of his father but does not realize that the only fruit of such actions can only be ill. In effect he is pursuing the effect and not the cause. The same type of error occurs with Judah who produces offspring with the Canaanite woman. Judah seeks the Shekinah but only wants the effects that he sees and does not look deeper for the causes. The woman he lies with cannot awaken the Shekinah inside of himself. Because of this two of his sons die relating to those thoughts which having no center are not able to link up with the divine connection of YHVH in terms of one, righteousness and two the ability to inspire like thoughts in kind. Judah had wanted Er the wife of his first son to marry the second son and when he promises and doesn't deliver the third son to Er she devise her own strategy.
Judah is trapped because he still is looking at the effects and not at the causes. He tries to make things right for Er but he cannot do so unless he himself is directly involved. This is why after he finds out that he was tricked by Er he says that she is more righteous than he. Judah recognizes his error however it is too late to prevent the further passing of Israel's sons into the materialistic world of Mitzraim.
Everything depends upon the direction that our thoughts are taking from moment to moment. If we are like Yosef we continually seek righteousness and will not accept any substitutes no matter what the short gains may seem to be. In terms of the Tree of Life we are talking about the aspect of Man in terms of his relationship to Deity. Man realizes Unity by his constant attention to Unity. This attention includes not only his thoughts but his actions as well. It is towards this end of discovering and promoting within himself the divine connection that he can become absorbed by the feeling inspired by the Shekinah.
The butlers dream show him offering wine to Pharoah. He offers life he receives life.
The baker sees the food that he made being taken away by birds. These represent the evil inclination or those thoughts that the baker has been harboring against Pharoah. He holds the food above his head meaning that those thoughts which could have saved his life now doom his life.
Summary: The sons of Israel deny their redeemer Yosef and attempt to thwart him. They turn from righteousness reaping the bitter results of inattention. Yosef meanwhile keeps his high watch always doing what is right. YHVH favors Yosef because Yosef is unwavering in his attention to Mitzvah. It is one thing to repair a fence when you see the rails have been broken. It is another thing to plan for the building of another stronger fence that will withstand the elements of indifference and the world we live while still providing a blueprint for the thoughts and actions we must follow in life. That fence is Torah because it is from this strongest fence that all other fences are modeled after. Yosef's single minded journey here is the inspiration of following the thread of Torah through until you are one with it in its expression and most importantly in your own committment to the inner discovery of your own inward journey.