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Miketz - Chanukah

This Issue's Halacha Article

Parshat Miketz - Chanukah

28 Kislev 5768

December 8, 2007

Vol.17 No.13

In This Issue:

Make it Public

by Rabbi Yosef Adler

Throughout the days of Chanukah, we recite two Berachot prior to the lighting of the candles: "LeHadlik Neir Shel Chanukah" and "SheAsah Nisim." This second Berachah also is recited on Purim prior to the reading of the Megillah. However, on Pesach night there is no such formal declaration. What might be the difference between the two? Furthermore, the Rambam, in his description of the obligation to light the Menorah each night, states that the purpose of the Mitzvah is "LeHarot UlGalot HaNeis," "to show and to reveal the miracle." What exactly does the Rambam mean by to "reveal" the miracle? Is it hidden from view or disguised?

At the end of Parashat BeShalach, the Torah describes the battle waged against Amaleik. After the victory, Moshe builds a Mizbeiach, "VaYikra Shemo Hashem Nisi," "And he proclaimed its name 'God who performed this miracle for me'" (Shemot 17:15). Moshe had seen Hashem perform dozens of miracles in Mitzrayim. He never felt compelled to erect a Mizbeiach to thank Hashem for having performed any of those miracles on behalf of Am Yisrael. Why did he feel compelled to erect a Mizbeiach after the battle with Amaleik?

Perhaps the answer lies in the miracle itself. In regard to the miracles in Mitzrayim and at the splitting of the sea, everyone recognized the hand of Hashem as being responsible for the events. Chazal state that a simple maidservant at the splitting of the sea saw the hand of Hashem more clearly than the prophet Yechezkeil. After the third plague, even the Egyptian lords admitted, "Etzba Elokim Hi," "It is the finger of Hashem" (Shemot 8:15). Under those conditions, it was not necessary to build a Mizbeiach in tribute to Hashem, because it was obvious to one and all that He was responsible. That is why Am Yisrael burst into song after the Egyptians drowned in the sea. However, when battling Amaleik, members of Am Yisrael participated in the actual battle under the leadership of Yehoshua. They bore arms and waged war physically against Amaleik. It is possible that one could have concluded that the victory came as a result of his own initiatives and efforts. It was more difficult to recognize and identify the hand of Hashem in that situation. Therefore, Moshe erected the Mizbeiach, which would direct the attention of Am Yisrael to the fact that this victory also was a result of divine intervention.

The same is true of the events of Chanukah and Purim. The battle against the Yevanim was waged by the members of the Chashmonai family. The name of Hashem does not appear in the Megillah. Therefore, someone might be led to believe that Hashem did not orchestrate those miracles. To dispel this misapprehension, we recite the Berachah "SheAsah Nisim," emphasizing that Hashem in fact was responsible for all of the miracles associated with those days. It also is for this reason that the Rambam states that it is our obligation to reveal the miracle, because it may not be that obvious that Hashem played the primary role, albeit in a disguised fashion, in the unfolding of these miracles. The Rambam therefore concludes his description of Hilchot Chanukah, "Mitzvat Chanukah Chavivah Hi Ad Meod VeTzarich Adam LeHizaheir Bah Kedei LeHodia HaNeis UlHosif BeShevach HaKeil," "The Mitzvah of Chanukah is very precious, and one should be very careful to publicize the miracles and to add praise unto the Almighty."

In our own generation, one senses the identical problem. Hashem has been kind enough to our generation to make possible the creation of the state of Israel, to allow a Jewish government to control its affairs, and to see to the reunification of Yerushalayim. However, a good segment of the Orthodox community does not perceive these events as emanating from Hashem. Those in our community that have come to that recognition should make every effort to publicize those miracles, and, perhaps, even recite the Berachah of "SheAsah Nisim" to accomplish that objective.

Antiochus' Decrees

by Michael Billet

The story of Chanukah relates how Antiochus and the Syrian Greeks tried to prevent the Jewish people from observing their religion. To this end, they prohibited them from performing three major Mitzvot: Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and Brit Milah. What do these Mitzvot have in common and why did Antiochus want them stopped? They all are core elements of Judaism in their own way, so they had to be stopped in order to make Jews abandon their religion.

Shabbat symbolizes that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. By observing Shabbat, we proclaim to the world that Hashem is the Creator and that none is higher than He. The Greeks, however, believed that they were the highest power in the universe, so they didn't allow Jews to observe Shabbat.

The observance of Rosh Chodesh was prohibited because it is the cornerstone that enables the Jews to observe all other Jewish holidays. When the Sanhedrin would declare Rosh Chodesh each month, the dates of all holidays that would fall in that month automatically were set. For example, the date of Pesach can be determined only based on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Since the Jewish holidays strengthen the relationship between Hashem and the Jews, Antiochus wanted to prohibit the observance of all holidays. The most efficient way to do this was to ban Rosh Chodesh.

Finally, the Mitzvah of Brit Milah demonstrates the connection between the physical and spiritual. The Brit is the physical mark that a person is Jewish and symbolizes his spiritual connection to Hashem. For this reason, Antiochus had to stop Milah.

Each of these three things also has a connection to Chanukah. Every Chanukah contains at least one Shabbat and a Rosh Chodesh. Also, Chanukah contains eight days, the same number of days of a baby's life before his Brit Milah. Even though Antiochus tried to force us away from our religion, we still stayed strong and kept it. Because of the Jews' perseverance in the time of the Yevanim, Jews are able to exist today.

Why Spies?

by Ilan Griboff

When the brothers first came down to Egypt, Yosef immediately accused them of being spies and jailed them for three days. The Chatam Sofer asks how Yosef could have delayed them for three days if their purpose in coming to Egypt was to collect food. It must be that Yosef knew that Yaakov still had food left. In reality, though, how could he possibly have known this?

The answer lies in the Pasuk, "VaYizkor Yosef Et HaChalomot Asher Chalam Lahem VaYomer Aleihem Meragelim Atem," "Yosef remembered the dreams that he had dreamt about them and said, 'You are spies!'" (Bereishit 42:9). What is the connection between the dreams and Yosef's accusation that his brothers were spies? Yosef remembered that in his first dream, other bundles of wheat had bowed down to his bundle of wheat. He now interpreted this to mean that even while his brothers were bowing down to him, they and Yaakov still had food left at home. Because Yosef remembered the dream and expounded its significance, he could rationalize keeping his brothers in Mitzrayim for more time, so at this point he began his accusation.

A second question arises: of all things, why did Yosef accuse them of spying? Why not accuse them of something more severe, like murder? The Kli Yakar answers that this accusation was a strategic way to defend against his discovery. The brothers might have been tempted to go around Mitzrayim trying to find out what had happened to Yosef when he arrived as a slave. However, now that they were allegedly spies, they no longer would be able to exhibit such suspicious (and incriminating) behavior. Fabricating the claim that his brothers were spies allowed Yosef the security of knowing that they couldn't find out that he, the Mishneh LaMelech of Mitzrayim, actually was Yosef, their brother.

There Always Is Hope

by Shlomo Klapper

After Israel's famine became too severe for Yaakov's fortitude, the Torah asserts that "VaYar Yaakov Ki Yesh Shever BeMitzrayim," "Yaakov perceived that there were provisions in Egypt," (Bereishit 42:1) and therefore instructs his sons to descend to Egypt to obtain these provisions. Why does the Torah employ the seemingly inaccurate language of "perceived," since confirming Egypt's alleged sustenance requires merely obtaining information and not conjecturing? Additionally, since "VaYar" is utilized only in a sense of seeing literally with one's own eyes, its use here is flummoxing, as Yaakov obviously could not literally witness Egypt's happenings. Ergo, Rashi substitutes "Shever" with "Sheiver," or hope, explicating that Yaakov foresaw that hope resided in Mitzrayim via inadvertent prophecy, but that Yosef's presence there spawned that optimism was concealed. While Peshuto Shel Mikra renders Shever as foodstuffs and the Sages homiletically translate it as hope, what is the two different interpretations' correlation?

Yaakov comprehended Egypt's unique holiness, since Egypt was privileged to ensure the world's survival by meting out food to others. However, Yaakov wondered why such an immoral country deserved to save the world, an opportunity that theoretically should originate only from an exalted person. When Yaakov saw Egypt's "Shever," food, and that the dissolute Egyptians surprisingly allocated it to others, a flicker of "Sheiver," hope, glowed in his mind that perhaps Yosef, his long lost son, was orchestrating this moral effort. Only Yosef, embedded with Jewish morals, could cause such an ethical and decent episode, since Yaakov knew that even when faced with adversity, Jews are an Or LaGoyim, beacons to nations, due to their entrenched morals, honesty, and decency.

Using Chazal's play on words, Rabbi Elimelech of Gordzisk sanguinely explicated this Pasuk by changing "Yesh Sheiver BeMitzrayim," "there is hope even in Egypt," to "Yesh Sheiver BeMetzarim," "there is hope even in narrow, astringent straits," teaching that even when spiritual constriction and narrow perspectives constrain a person, he never should disregard the constant silver lining of "Sheiver," hope. As David HaMelech said, "Ashrei SheKeil Yaakov BeEzro Sivro Al Hashem Elokav," "Praiseworthy is one who has the aid of the God of Yaakov, whose hope is in Hashem, his God."

The Meor Einayim alternatively suggests an additional outlook, based on the Midrash that deals with the many other, failed worlds that God destroyed before creating the perfect planet in which we presently reside. Kabbalistic literature refers to the other worlds' annihilations as "the breakage before the Tikkun (perfection)." Yaakov's family's descent to Mitzrayim was the preliminary "breakage" that led to the formation of the perfect nation - the Bnei Yisrael that left Egypt and received the Torah on Har Sinai. Thus, Egypt's only task was to prepare Bnei Yisrael for Kabbalat HaTorah on Har Sinai. Yaakov saw "Shever," or breakage, in Egypt, but comprehended that his nation's settlement there was a temporary sojourn and was meant to ripen them for spiritual opulence and religious sumptuousness on Har Sinai.

Mutual Responsibility

by Chaim Metzger

When the brothers leave Yosef and head back towards Canaan, they are intercepted by a servant of Yosef, who accuses them of having stolen Yosef's goblet. The brothers are shocked and say that if one of them in fact has pilfered the cup, they all will become Yosef's slaves. The servant understands what the brothers are saying but says that only the one who has it will be taken as a slave. Rashi states that the servant initially had said as the brothers did, but was lenient and decided to take only the one who stole the item. Why would Rashi state that the law, which generally does not function based on group punishment, in this case was to punish all the brothers for the sin of one of them?

In order to understand Rashi, one must consider that though a group is not accountable for the theft of one person by the courts of this world, Beit Din Shel Matah, it is held accountable in the heavenly court, Beit Din Shel Maalah. If the members of the group are careful to distance themselves from theft, anyone in their presence would sense their abhorrence for theft and never would consider stealing. However, if one member of the group was to commit a theft, it would mean that they all were not careful enough regarding stealing and therefore all should be liable to divine retribution. Only because of Hashem's great kindness is the rest of the group spared.

The implications of this explanation are quite troubling, as it seems to mean that whenever one sees his friends or relatives being lax in Mitzvot or rules of society in general, he himself is responsible for not setting a good enough example.

Yet one can see the positive aspect of this from Shmuel HaNavi. Upon Shmuel's death, David was forced to flee outside of Eretz Yisrael for the first time. Previously, all he had to do was go to Shmuel, and Shmuel's very presence would dissuade others, even Shaul himself, from exacting upon David what they felt he deserved. Upon Shmuel's death, there no longer were any men of that caliber, and as such David was forced to flee. Shmuel's shining example warded off David's antagonists.

While it may not be necessary to go to the extremes that the brothers did, one still must keep in mind the positive as well as the negative influence we can have on one another and be careful as to with whom we associate.

-Adapted from Darash Moshe

Why is Chanukah called Chanukah?

by Yonah Rossman

What significance does the name "Chanukah" have to the holiday? There are many different approaches to this question.

An answer mentioned by the Kol Bo, Avudraham, Tur, and Ran is that the Chashmonaim rested (Chanu) from fighting with the Greeks on the 25th (in Gematria, Kah) of Kislev. Chanukah thus is a compound word with both of these ideas. The Noam Elimelech believes that Chanukah actually is based on the Hebrew word Chein, grace; Hashem showed the Jews divine grace on the 25th of Kislev.

The Or Zarua and Maharsha (Shabbat 21b) observe that the name Chanukah sets up the parallel to the Chanukat HaMizbeiach, which is particularly relevant to the holiday of Chanukah. As the Gemara states in Masechet Avodah Zarah (52b), the Chashmonaim stored away the old Mizbeiach (because it was now invalid) and built a new one. Also, on every day of Chanukah we read from the section about the Chanukat HaMizbeiach in Parashat Naso. Rav Yaakov Emden suggests that in addition, Chanukah represents the Chanukat HaBayit, which happened on approximately the same date many years earlier.

The Avudraham, Ateret Zekeinim, and Pri Megadim all point out that Chanukah is an acronym for the Halacha "Chet Neirot VeHalacha KeVeit Hillel," "Eight candles, and the Halacha is like Beit Hillel (who opined that we start with one candle on the first night and add one every night)."

These are a few of the reasons why the Chag that we celebrate at this time of year is known as Chanukah.

-Adapted from The Artscroll Mesorah Series on Chanukah

Staff at time of publication:

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