Parshat Vayeshev/Chanukah Vol.10 No.14

Date of issue: 26 Kislev 5761 -- December 23, 2000

This week's issue has been sponsored
by the Shinnar family
in memory of Sarka Friedrichs, z"l,
a woman of valor who loved learning.

How to sponsor

This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Yosef Adler
Yechiel Shaffer
David Pincus
Rabbi Howard Jachter
-
*The Haftarot of Chanukah*
The Best of Kol Torah
-*Yehuda Shmidman*
Halacha of the Week
Food For Thought
-by *David Gertler*

Chanukah

Spiritual Guidance
by Rabbi Yosef Adler

At the beginning of Hilchot Chanukah, the Rambam describes the historical background of the Chag. He shares with us the well-known story of the Chashmonaim capturing the Mikdash and defeating their enemies. Rambam acknowledges that the Chashmonaim assumed the Malchut (kingship) and despite the fact that the Chashmonaim were not from the Davidic dynasty and should not have seized the Malchut, Rambam does not criticize them.

The Ramban, however, commenting in Parshat Vayechi on the Pasuk, Lo Yasur Shevet Miyehuda, "the scepter shall never leave Yehuda" (49:10) praises the Chashmonaim for their heroism but is critical of their seizing the Malchut and violating the edict of Lo Yasur Shevet Miyehuda. The Ramban also quotes a Sifri commenting on the juxtaposition in Parshat Shoftim of the Pesukim, Lemaan Yaarich Yamim Al Mamlachto Hu Ubanav Bikerev Haaretz, "[Fulfilling the Mitzvot incumbent upon a king will serve] to lengthen the days of his and his sons' dynasty in Israel" (17:20), and, Lo Yihye Lacohanim Haleviim Col Shevet Levi Chelek Venachala Im Yisrael, "The Kohanim and the entirety of Shevet Levi shall not have a portion with Bnai Yisrael" (18:1) Sifri comments that Shevet Levi is precluded not only from taking a portion in Eretz Yisrael, but also from accepting the kingship. The phrase Lemaan Yaarich Yamim Al Mamlachto does not apply to Shevet Levi.

The Rav, zt"l, explained the significance of this prohibition. Rambam writes in Hilchot Melachim that although we prefer to bestow the Malchut upon Shevet Yehuda, a king appointed by any Navi from any Shevet is valid. The notable exception is Shevet Levi. Levi is never to occupy the Malchut. This is because every king required a spiritual guide to serve as his Mochiach. During the time of the first Bait Hamikdash each king had a Navi who served as his Mochiach. Shaul had Shmuel, David had Natan, Chizkiyahu had Yeshayahu, and even Yeravam had Achiah Hashiloni. During the second Bait Hamikdash, Nevuah ceased to exist. The spiritual advisors were then the Kohanim and Leviim. Consequently, Shevet Levi could never occupy the Malchut, for no checks and balances could exist if the king and Mochiach merged into the same person. Hence, Ramban is critical of the Chashmonaim. Despite their bravery and heroic actions, they should never have seized the Malchut. It was this merger of Malchut and Mochiach that eventually led to the downfall of the empire.

Every individual today also needs a spiritual guide. On this Yom Tov of Chanukah we should seek any luminary who can pave a Torah way of life for us. By establishing a link with a Torah light we will all be Zocheh to the fulfillment of the text expressed at the conclusion of the Hanerot Hallalu prayer as formulated in Masechet Sofrim: Cain Yaaseh Hakadosh Baruch Hu Nissim Uniflaot Lanu Ulechol Yisrael.

Spread the Word
by Yechiel Shaffer

A fundamental question regarding Chanukah is what the purpose of lighting Chanukah candles is and what Kavanut we should have in mind when we light Chanukah candles. The answer is that we are fulfilling Pirsumei Nissa, spreading the miracle of Chanukah, and by doing so we show our belief in Hashem and His miracles. This is accomplished by lighting the candles, either in our windows or outside our homes.

An obvious question comes to mind: what is the point of lighting one's Chanukiah in public view if the majority of the public is not Jewish? Does the Mitzva of Pirsumei Nissa mean we must spread the news of the miracle to non-Jews as well? If it does not, then we should light inside so that Jewish people inside the house will see the lights.

Rabbi Herschel Reichman, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, related that according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, Pirsumei Nissa does apply to non-Jews. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik is cited as agreeing with this assertion. According to these opinions, a fundamental difference between Chanukah and Purim emerges: We know that the Mitzva of reading the Megila is also Pirsumei Nissa, yet we do not read the Megila in public to enable Jews and non-Jews alike to hear about the miracle of Purim.

To explain this difference we need to recognize that the miracle of Purim was that Jews were saved and elevated above their non-Jewish oppressors. One of the reasons we light candles on Chanukah is that the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days. This miracle, which happened in the Bait Hamikdash, was not only for the Jewish People, but also for every nation of world. Non-Jews were permitted to bring Korbanot in the Bait Hamikdash, and the seventy bulls brought on Sukkot were brought for the seventy nations. The Megila is read inside, privately, so as not to embarrass the non-Jews or appear as if we are making fun of their defeat, but we go out of our way to put the Chanukiah outside to remind the world of the miracle that occurred in the Bait Hamikdash.

Vayeshev

No Rest For the Weary
by David Pincus

At the beginning of this week's Parsha, Yaakov wishes to rest and retire. Yaakov thought that he had successfully met all his challenges: He had spent twenty years with his conniving father-in-law and had not been affected. He had avoided a violent reunion with his brother Esav. He had fought with an angel, and, although his leg was wounded, he came away with a Beracha. His daughter Dina was rescued from her kidnappers, and although Levi and Shimon had wiped out Shechem nobody took revenge on Yaakov's family.

The Midrash (cited by Rashi on Bereishit 37:1) tells us that now Yaakov just wanted to take it easy. The Midrash then says that Hashem disapproves when Tzaddikim rest in this world. Since they will be able to rest and enjoy Olam Habah, they should not slack off in Olam Hazeh. Hashem therefore caused Yosef to be sold into slavery, and Yaakov endured twenty-two more years of agony while Yosef was missing. This begs the question: Why it is so horrible for Yaakov to want to live some part of his life in peace; did he not deserve it?

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky relates the following story: On the fast day of the Tenth of Tevet during the height of World War II, Rabbi Aharon Kotler took the well-known activist Irving Bunim on a train trip to Washington. The war in Europe was raging, Jews were being exterminated, and the two had to see a high-ranking Washington official to plead with him in every possible way to save the Jewish People. On the way down to Washington, Rabbi Kotler tried to persuade Bunim to break his fast. "Bunim" he explained, "You cannot fast now. You need your strength for the meeting." But Irving Bunim refused to eat. He was sure that he could hold out until the evening when the fast ended.

The meeting was intense. Rabbi Kotler cried, cajoled, and begged the official to respond. Finally, the great rabbi felt that he had impressed upon the man the severity of the situation. The man gave his commitment that he would talk to the President. When they left the meeting, Bunim was exhausted. He mentioned to Rav Kotler that he thought the meeting went well and now he would like to eat. Rav Kotler was quick to reply. "With Hashem's help it will be good. And Bunim," he added, "Now you can fast!" Yaakov wanted to rest, but Hashem knows that there is no real rest in this world. As soon as you finish one conflict, another one pops right up to take its place.

This Shabbat is also Shabbat Chanukah. The word Chanukah means "they rested on the 25th [of Kislev]." However, the Chashmonaim did not really rest. Although they rested from physical battle, much work remained to restore the Bait Hamikdash to its former splendor. They engaged in a spiritual battle to rescue the Jews from the Hellenist culture surrounding them. Indeed, this battle is still being waged. The Chanukiah that we light symbolizes that we won the battle, but the war is far from over.

Halacha of the Week

The Biur Halacha (670:2 s.v. V'nohagim) frowns upon the practice of some people to play cards on Chanukah.

The Best of Kol Torah
Vol.8 No.12
The Colored Coat
by Yehuda Shmidman

It is amazing how Yosef's woolen tunic acts as such a major symbol in the opening of this week's Parsha. We are first introduced to this garment when it is presented to Yosef when a gift from his father Yaakov: Ve'asa Lo Ketonet , "And he made him a fine woolen tunic" (37:3). It is clear that this object augments Yosef's brothers' frustration, as they were extremely jealous of his relationship with their father. Several verses later, when the brothers are about to throw Yosef in the pit, the brothers choose to strip Yosef of his special tunic: Vayafshitu Et Yosef Et Kutanto (37:23). Here, the Torah singles out this article of clothing which the brothers went out of their way to remove from Yosef.

The next time we hear of this coat is after Yosef is sold and Reuven returns to the pit only to find it empty. Following Reuven's discovery that the other brothers had sold Yosef, the Torah records the brothers slaughtering a goat and using its blood to color the coat with bloodstains. The tunic is then brought to Yaakov in order to trick him into believing that Yosef had been killed.

A question may be posed as to why the brothers chose to deceive their father with the coat when they could have just remained silent while pretending they had no idea where Yosef was.

The Or Hachaim explains the actions of the brothers based on the juxtaposition of the verses. Observing that the brothers only created their "evidence" upon Reuven's outburst, he suggests that Reuven was afraid that if Yosef were just missing Reuven would have to be sent to search for him, since Reuven was the firstborn.

One may suggest an alternative explanation based on the same observation. Just as we saw Reuven had previously objected to actually killing Yosef (see 37:21), now, when Reuven returns to find that Yosef had been sold, he chooses to take a positive action on behalf of Yaakov. If Yaakov had found out that Yosef was missing, he would have been in much more severe pain than he was in upon hearing of Yosef's death. The uncertainty of where Yosef is is worse than the knowledge of his tragic death. In fact, we see the brothers attempting to console Yaakov in 37:35, demonstrating their love for him despite their hatred of Yosef.

In light of the established significance of the woolen tunic, one could interpret the verses as totally negative on the end of the brothers. It could be that the brothers simply despised Yosef so much that they felt it to be Midda Kineged Midda (measure for measure) to present his special tunic - the very object that encapsulated their jealously towards him - as the last remaining piece of his existence.

Regardless of which way one interprets the verses, it is interesting to note that the brothers specifically used the blood of a goat to substitute for Yosef's blood. This is noteworthy because in the listing of offerings brought in the Bait Hamikdash on holidays (Bemidbar Sinai 28-29), we see that all of the Chatat sacrifices use a goat. Various Pesukim in those chapters reflect verse 28:15, which says, Useir Izim Echad Lechatat, meaning that the goat was the designated animal for this type of Korban.

There, Rashi points out that this sacrifice is brought for a sin known only to Hashem, meaning one where that the sinner was unaware that he had sinned. Perhaps one may relate this idea to the goat used when Reuven returns to find that Yosef had been sold without his consent. It is he who chooses to use the goat, which later symbolizes the Korban Chatat, to show that while he was responsible, he did not know of the occurrence of this sin. Perhaps one can infer that Yosef would not have been sold if Reuven had been there.

Food for Thought
by David Gertler

1) In 37:8, the Torah says that the brothers' reaction to Yosef's dream is Vayosifu Od Seno Oto, "and they added more to their hatred of him." Where else does the Torah pun a person's name? What might this mean?

2) The Parsha of Yehuda and Tamar is found immediately before the Parsha of Yosef and Potifar's wife. There is a Midrash that says that Yosef saw the image of his father and therefore he did not sleep with Potifar's wife. Does this illustrate the concept of "absence makes the heart grow fonder"? What else can we learn from this juxtaposition?

If you have a response to these questions, please contact us at koltorah@hotmail.com Responses may be published upon agreement of the provider.

Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Dani Gross
Managing Editor: Moshe Glasser
Publication Editor: Daniel Wenger
Business Manager: Ilan Tokayer
Staff: Josh Dubin, Zev Feigenbaum, Shuky Gross, Michael Humphrey, Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter
Consultant: David Gertler
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter

Subscription information

Report an error

Back to the home page

This publication contains Torah matter and should be treated accordingly.