This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Vol. 24 No. 10
R' Leibush ben Yaakov Shimon z"l
whose Yohrzeit will fall on 3 Teves
All for the Sake of Yisrael
The Rambam tells of a mighty emperor, who employed many thousands of workers and spent vast sums of money to build a magnificent palace. The palace took years to build, and soon became the scene of numerous balls and banquets, and many a royal display was held there. Yet many years would pass before the main function of the palace would be realized.
What could have been the main function of that perfect palace? It was when a tzadik passed through the town on his travels. Weary and footsore, he searched for some shade, where he could relax from his arduous journey and gather strength for the next leg of his trip. And it was in the shade of the palace walls that the tzadik ultimately found relief from his weariness. That, says the Rambam, was the chief purpose of the entire project. All the money and all the time, the effort and the hazards were worthwhile so that one tzadik could find a brief spell of tranquility in this world.
If, as Rashi explains at the beginning of Bereishis, the world was created for the sake of the Jewish people, then it stands to reason that the G-d who created it will govern it to suit the needs of those very people for whose sake He created it. Sometimes He will arrange the events for the sake of one tzadik. For our Sages have also said that it is for the sake of Avraham that He created the world (see Ba'al ha'Turim Bereishis 2:4), and indeed that is one of the reasons why the human race began with only one man.
For Yosef's sake, Hashem provoked Par'oh to jail the butler and the baker, thereby causing a public scandal and disrupting the smooth running of the Egyptian royal court. For Yosef's sake, Par'oh had strange dreams which nobody seemed able to decipher, until Yosef himself revealed the imminent upheaval which would shake the entire world and which was clearly intended to become closely linked with his own destiny. One could probably even say that Yosef's destiny was its main objective.
Yes, if palaces can be built to provide tzadikim with shade in which to relax, then why should nations and even the whole world not be thrown into turmoil, to suffer hunger and starvation, so that Yosef's destiny may be fulfilled, that he may become viceroy of the most powerful nation of his day, to play the role for which he was created.
What is particularly intriguing about the story of Yosef, is the part which he himself played throughout. For not only was he the object of the various upheavals of his time, but he was also the subject. He played a major role at every stage of the operation, he was not only the end but he was also the means.
Yet Yosef was not the sole objective of the events that took place in Egypt. He shared the distinction with his entire family. Indeed, he himself was only a means to a larger and more consequential end; for Hashem was setting into motion here, the beginnings of the history of the Jewish people, which He had destined to begin in Egypt. Consequently, everything that took place at the time was necessary to induce Ya'akov and his family to go down to Egypt - to begin the exile, and to prepare the way for what would turn out to be their two hundred and ten years' stay there.
Evidently, Hashem creates master plans that inevitably materialise the way He wants them to. The actors that play out these roles are the gentiles and sometimes the Jews themselves, but the main objective of these master-plans is invariably our own destiny, and it is we ourselves who actually determine the path that the master plans will take.
* * *
Highlights from the Haftorah
Shabbbos Chanukah Zecharyoh 2:14-4:7
The obvious reason for the choice of this Haftorah for Chanukah is because of its reference to the Menorah. And there are two reasons given as to why this prophecy has precedence over that of the Menorah of Sh'lomoh in Melochim:
1) That of the Beis Yosef, who explains that it also deals with the future, which the prophecy in Melochim does not; and
2) that of the Kol Bo, who writes that it refers to the second Beis ha'Mikdash, so that it is more reminiscent of the miracle of Chanukah, which took place then, than the one in Melochim which refers to the first Beis ha'Mikdash (Chumash Ha'mefo'ar Me'oras Einayim).
The Haftorah begins with a prophecy about the forthcoming return to Eretz Yisrael from Galus Bavel and describes how, when G-d will return His Shechinah to dwell among the people, many gentiles, impressed with the miracles which will occur then, will convert to Judaism.
The Navi then refers to Yehoshua (ben Yehotzodok), the Cohen Gadol whom the Sattan set out to prosecute (according to the Radak the Sattan actually refers to Samballat and the other enemies of Yisrael, who attempted to disrupt the building of the Beis ha'Mikdash) for allowing his sons to marry non-Jewish wives (as many of the Jews in Bavel had done).
But G-d interceded on his behalf, referring to him as "a log saved from the fire!" This in turn, is a reference to the story (quoted in Sanhedrin 93a) of Ach'ov ben Kulyoh and Tzidkiyah ben Ma'aseyoh, two pervert men who tried to convince Nevuchadnetzar's daughter to commit adultery with them. Each claimed to be a prophet and each tried to talk her into having illicit relations with the other, claiming that they were prophets of G-d, and that this was the Divine will. She reported it to her father, who put their alleged righteousness to the test. If they were prophets of G-d, like Chananyoh, Mishoel and Azaryoh, as they claimed to be, then they ought to be able to withstand the heat of the furnace, just like they had. But Ach'ov and Tzidkiyoh protested that Chananyoh, Mishoel and Azaryoh were three men, whereas they were only two, and so their merits did not match those of the former. Whereupon Nevuchadnetzar gave them the option of selecting a man of their choice to be thrown into the furnace - together with them. They chose Yehoshua, the Cohen Gadol, with the expectation that, on his merit, they would be saved. But they were burnt, and he alone was saved. Hence the title "a log saved from the fire". (Although according to the Yerushalmi, the log etc. could also refer to the fact that at the time of the Churban, eighty Cohanim hid in the rooms at the side of the Beis ha'Mikdash. All of them were burnt to death besides Yehoshua Kohen Gadol.)
If Yehoshua's sons will separate from their non-Jewish wives, G-d concluded, then his sin will be forgiven, and he will merit being the first Cohen Gadol in the Second Beis ha'Mikdash.
The Navi continues to address Yehoshua the Cohen Gadol and his friends (Chananyoh, Mishoel and Azaryoh), informing them that G-d was about to send the Mashiach - Zerubovel, alias Nechemyah, to organise the rebuilding of the Beis ha'Mikdash. They had begun to build the second Beis ha'Mikdash, but the work had been stopped (18 years earlier), by Koresh, King of Persia, the very man who had originally ordered its construction. Then, says the Navi, the work will proceed with G-d's protection - seven-fold more than before. G-d Himself will adorn the House and embellish it so that it will be exceptionally beautiful. And there will be total peace.
And it was then that Zecharyoh was shown the vision of the seven-branch Menorah, whose lamps were automatically fed by an attached bowl, which was fed in turn by a constant supply of oil from two olive-trees which grew beside it. And each lamp was joined to the bowl by means of seven pipes through which the oil flowed.
The purpose of this vision, the Mal'och explained to Zecharyoh, was to let Zerubovel know that work on the Beis ha'Mikdash would proceed - the light of the world would be rekindled - but not by force. Just as the Menorah in the vision functioned automatically, purely by G-d's design, so too would the second Beis ha'Mikdash be built in this way. G-d would place His spirit upon Daryovesh, King of Persia (son of Esther) who would not only rescind the ban on the building, but would also provide all the necessary funds, as well as giving the builders every encouragement to complete the work. And from that time on, Zerubovel will be able to travel a straight road; no-one will interfere with his leadership any more.
* * *
This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Vol. 24 No. 10
R' Mordechai ben Yitzchak z"l
whose Yohrzeit falls on 2 Teves
Women and the Chanukah Lights
Women are generally exempt from positive mitzvos connected with time. Three notable exceptions are: kindling the Chanukah lights, reading the Megillah on Purim and drinking the four cups of wine on Pesach (all three Rabbinical mitzvos).
The reason that women are included in these three mitzvos is because in each of them, women were also part of the miracle (Gemara Pesachim 108b, Shabbos 23a and Megillah 4a). This can be interpreted in two ways:
1. That, in all three cases, the women were threatened and subsequently saved, no less than the men, and therefore Chazal required them to participate in the celebrations no less than the men.
On Chanukah, not only did they suffer the same threat as the men, to relinquish their religious practices under pain of death and torture, but they also had to endure a particularly nasty decree; namely, that every bride had to spend the first night of marriage with the mayor of the town.
On Purim, of course, the women (if Haman's plan had materialised) would have suffered the same fate as the men (i.e. total annihilation).
Finally on Pesach, the women were subjugated into slavery no less than the men; the Medrash that the Egyptians forced the men to do women's labor and the women to do men's labor is well-known.
- That is the opinion of Tosfos. -
2. The Rashbam, however, understands the Gemara differently. According to him, it is not simply because the women were also saved that they were commanded to participate in the ensuing mitzvos - after all, this is also true of Succos (see Tosfos Pesachim 108b d.h. "hoyu") yet they are exempt from the Mitzvah of Succah!; and besides, the Gemara writes "They were also included in the miracle" not "in the salvation".
What Chazal mean, explains the Rashbam, is that women actually played major roles in the miracle.
It was thanks to Yehudis, wife of Yochonon Kohen Gadol, that a major victory over the Greeks took place on Chanukah. It was thanks largely to the role that Esther played that the Jews emerged victorious on Purim and, as Chazal have told us, it was due to the righteous women in Egypt that the Jewish people were redeemed from slavery.
It is by virtue of the bravery and righteous deeds of the respective tzidkoniyos that the women earned the special obligation in the three mitzvos asei - Chanukah lights, reading the Megillah and the four cups of wine, despite the fact that they are connected with time.
* * *
"I am With Them in their Tzoros"
We have learnt in a Brayso: "I did not reject them" - in the days of the Kasdim (the Babylonians) because I set up for them Doniel, and Chananyoh, Misho'el and Azaryoh. (Golus Bavel)
"I did not spit them out" - in the days of the Greeks, because I set up for them Shim'on ha'Tzadik, the Chashmona'im and their children, and Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol. (Golus Yovon)
"To exterminate them" - in the days of Haman, because I set up for them Mordechai and Esther. (Golus Poras & Modai)
"To annul My covenant with them" - in the days of the Persians - because I set up for them the House of Rebbi (Reb Yehuda ha'Nosi) and the wise men of those times. (Golus Edom)
"Because I am Hashem your G-d" - in the days of Moshiach, when no nation of people will be able to overpower you.
(Gemara Megillah 11a, commenting on the pasuk at the end of the Tochochoh [Vayikra 26:44])
The Torah Temimah explains that up to the time of Moshiach, even after the salvation from our enemies, we remain under the jurisdiction of one nation or another. It is only in the times of Moshiach that we will be entirely under the jurisdiction of G-d, and G-d alone. That is why, when relating to that era, the Torah writes "I am Hashem your G-d", just as it writes with regard to the miracles of Egypt "I am Hashem" and as the Ba'al Hagodoh explains there, "I and no angel" etc., "I alone and no other".
Indeed, the pasuk writes (Michah 7:15) "Like the days when you left Egypt. I will show you wonders". May we merit to witness them soon.
The Great Escape
"Tell me how many lights we light during the whole of Chanukah, and you will be allowed to go home," the Rebbe asked his young Cheder children.
In a flash, little Yisroel (Salanter)'s hand shot up. "Ha'pach nishbor" (the jar breaks) he exclaimed, "va'anachnu nimlotnu" (and we escape). - Tehillim 124.
What he meant was this: The gematriyah of 'pach' (jar) is 88. Break it and you have 44, the "44 lights", he was saying, "and we all escape".
The children were duly dismissed!
* * *
All About Chanukah
(Adapted from the Besomim Rosh)
Come, Let's Light on the Twenty-Sixth
According to some commentaries, the battle against the Greeks terminated on the 24th Kislev, and on that very same night (the 25th), they lit the Menorah.
But the Rambam writes that they rested from the battle on the 25th (in accordance with the popular interpretation of the word 'Chanukah' - 'Chonu kof-hey', they rested on the 25th).
In that case, we need to understand why we kindle the Menorah on the 25th. We ought to be lighting the first Chanukah light on the 26th, since that was the night on which the miracle began according to the Rambam, not on the 25th.
The Besomim Rosh answers the question using one of the answers to the Beis Yosef's question: Why do we kindle eight lights, when in reality, there was already sufficient oil in the Menorah for one night, leaving the miracle at only seven days?
The lighting on the first night he explains, is not to commemorate the lighting of the Menorah, but to celebrate the miraculous victory over the Greeks.
Consequently, he points out, it may well be that the battle was concluded on the 25th, and that the Chanukah light was only lit in the Beis ha'Mikdash on the 26th. But that does not matter at all, because the first Chanukah light that we light serves to commemorate the miracle of our defeat of the Greeks, which took place on the 25th, not the miracle of the lights, which took place only the following day.
How Many Miracles Were There?
The above answer to the famous Beis Yosef's question (which is already asked by the Meiri in Shabbos) initially seems a little strange. Where do we find one ongoing Mitzvah, the beginning of which comes to commemorate one thing, the end another? And why should Chazal do such a strange thing? They should have initiated one Mitzvah to commemorate the victory (which Hallel probably is) and another (the lights) to commemorate the miracle of the lights?
Unless we can forge the two miracles into one! Unless we say that, unlike Purim, the Jewish victory over the Greeks was not a physical one, that is to say, its roots were not on the material side, since that was not what the battle was all about. The battle against the Greeks was about spiritual survival; it was a battle of light against darkness, Torah v. Hellenism. And it was to demonstrate this point, to round off the victory, as it were ("Sof ma'aseh be'machshovoh techiloh"), that Hashem concluded the episode of Chanukah with the miracle of the lights. The miracle of the lights only served to reveal the true meaning of the victory.
That is why we kindle one light to demonstrate that "a little light lights up much darkness", and continue to light for another seven days, to show that, once the spiritual enlightenment of Torah is kindled, it continues to generate its own glow, it dispels the falsehood of Hellenism, known in today's world as secularism.
According to what we just explained however, the question remains that since we begin celebrating the day before the first light was lit, it transpires that we do not celebrate the eighth day that they burned at all!?
Relying on Miracles?
Others answer the Beis Yosef's question by explaining that they divided the oil into eight parts, one of which they poured into the lamps on the first night. Yet it burnt the whole night, as it did on the subsequent seven nights.
However, this answer is difficult, if we consider that the mitzvah was not to kindle the lamps for a short while, but to kindle them for the whole night, so what is the point of performing half a mitzvah?
Nor can one answer that they did so, because they relied on a miracle, since one does not rely on miracles. So it would have been more correct to pour all the oil into the Menorah, and to perform the Mitzvah properly - at least for one night.
The Oil Just Did Not Burn Down
Yet others say that they poured all the oil into the Menorah, but in the morning they found the lamps still full (in which case the original question remains: The miracle only lasted seven days, not eight, because on the eighth day, the oil would have burnt out completely - since the miracle was no longer necessary - unless one says that on the eighth morning too, for some reason, the oil remained intact - even though they already had fresh oil and the miracle was no longer necessary).
It Still Did Not Burn Down
And in a similar vein, some answer the question by saying that the jar just did not empty (like in the story with Elisha and the widow of Ovadyoh) - and again the question that we asked previously will remain - what about the last day, when the miracle would have served no purpose?
* * *