The Place Where We Grow

Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. -Genesis 42:34

Dear members and friends,

Benjamin was the youngest son born to Jacob, yet the only child who was born after Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. This itself could signal the important symbolism of Benjamin. However, there are two other noticeable things about Benjamin in Genesis. One is that he had two names; one from his mother and another from his father. His mother Rachel died during birth, and thus named him as Benoni, meaning son of my sorrow. However, his father Jacob named him Benjamin, meaning son of the right hand. Benjamin’s other noticeable characteristic is that he is very quiet, meaning he never speaks a single word in the entire story. His name was mostly mentioned by Joseph or in connection with Joseph. According to Swedenborg, the reason for this is because Benjamin symbolizes the intermediate between what is natural and what is spiritual.  

The word “intermediate” is defined as “coming between two things in time, place, order, character, etc.” In Swedenborg’s theology, the intermediate comes in between the internal and the external, which is also between the spiritual and the physical. The role of the intermediate is to connect and bridge the two realities, and thus is crucially important in our spiritual cultivation. In a way, it could be illustrated by our consciousness, which is fully attached to the physical reality at birth, but can transcend inwardly or upwardly toward spiritual reality (symbolized by Joseph) by means of the intermediate (symbolized by Benjamin).  

Joseph and Benjamin are brothers from the same mother, and thus together they symbolize the spiritual good (Joseph) which is the goal of our spiritual cultivation, and the spiritual truth (Benjamin), which is the means through which we cultivate spiritual good. This is why Joseph gave five times more from his table to Benjamin compared to his other brothers. Our focus and attention in this life should be much more on cultivating the spiritual truth.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee