Back to this week's Parsha| Previous Issues
by Daneal Weiner
A Freilicha Chanukah! Chanukah Somayach! Happy Chanukah! Or if you get paid by the letter, Happy Channukkah!!! And I just found out, the proper greeting is "A lichtigeh Chanukah!"
Last week we left off with the brothers selling Yoseph which, from their perspective, was to prevent him from destroying the Torah tradition of their fathers. Eventually Yoseph was purchased by the chief butcher of Pharaoh's court, Potiphar. For a year Potiphar's wife tries seducing Yoseph. Yoseph won't even look at her! She has her guards hold white hot irons under his jaw to get him to raise his head. Not a chance! For fending her off the entire year Chazal- our Sages refer to him as Yoseph Hatsaddik- Yoseph the Righteous. Chazal actually credit Potiphar's wife's (Mrs. P.) saying she saw in her stars great descendants coming from her and Yoseph. She wasn't persuing him out of physical desire rather to fulfill their destiny. Well, you know how fuzzy the messages from the stars are (especially those late night infomercials). What Mrs. P. couldn't imagine was that their adopted daughter, Osnas, would marry Yoseph which would bring their destiny to fruition.
What she could imagine even less is that Osnas was born to Dina from her being raped by Shchem. Dina was the 7th child of Leah. Leah's 7th child was supposed to be Yoseph himself! After becoming pregnant, again, while Rachel was still barren, Leah prayed her child would be a girl so Rachel might give birth to two of the tribes. Leah's prayers were answered affirmatively by Hashem and Yoseph was changed to Dina. Shchem, though the name of a slime-ball, is also the name of the city in which he lived which is located in the portion of Israel destined for Yoseph's descendants (and where Yoseph and his sons, Ephraim and Menashe, are buried). All this came together under the roof of Potiphar, the butcher, and his wife. If anyone has any ideas on what they did to deserve that I would love to hear it.
Frustrated by a year of rejection Mrs. P. claims Yoseph attacked her. If you can't beat 'em, kill 'em. Potiphar is not short of utensils for punishing a slave guilty of assaulting his wife. (Did we mention he was a butcher?). Upon investigation he realizes Yoseph was the victim. To save face he puts Yoseph in jail, one of the finest jails in Egypt. A special pit where all the 'royal' criminals are incarcerated. You thought the republicans were the first to think of that? A fellow inmate has a dream. Yoseph interprets it that he will be released and twice Yoseph asks him to remember him before Pharaoh in hopes of a pardon. This takes us right into the opening words of this week's
Vayihe mikaits shnasayim yomim- And it was at the end of two years of days. ArtScroll translates it, "It happened at the end of two years to the day." Rav Wolfson offers, "It happened at the end the two years were like days." But more on this later, G-d willing. What everyone does agree on is that these two years were a punishment, one additional year in jail for each time Yoseph asked for help. It is widely asked on this why Yoseph is punished two years for asking twice? Many answers are given. The two newest ones I've heard are as follows.
Rabbi Zev Leff notes that the first time Yoseph says, "remember me." The second time Yoseph says, "mention me." The first was a request. Fine. But the second was a 'direction', as in an act of directing. He thinks he's the director of events?! Hashem will show Yoseph that he will, in fact, get out exactly as he thought he would and it will have nothing to do with him!
According to Jewish law, after a year testimony is no longer valid. The Chasam Sofer explains that the memory of a person is such that after a year it can not be depended upon to be acted on. Therefore testimony after a year is inadmissible in a Beis Din- Jewish Court of Law. The released prisoner could have said something to Pharaoh within the first year, even on the last day of the year. Then Pharaoh has a year of days to do something about it. But Vayihe mikaits shnasayim yomim- It happened at the end of two years that Yoseph was released, exactly as he hoped he'd be and yet it had nothing to do with him. Pharaoh could have had his dream two years and a night earlier if Yoseph asked for help only once. Or maybe even if he didn’t ask at all!?
On the verse in Tehilim "Praiseworthy is the man who has made Hashem his trust…" the Midrash Rabbah says David Hamelech is referring to Yoseph Hatsaddik! The verse continues, “…and [he] turned not to the arrogant nor to the strayers of falsehood." The Midrash concludes that because Yoseph asked twice to be remembered before Pharaoh he was punished with two more years in prison! Oy! Every Midrash requires analysis, certain one which seemingly contradicts itself.
Some insight is provided by the sefer Degel Machaneh Ephraim in the name of the Baal Shem Tov on the verse Baruch hagever asher yivtach baHashem v'haya Hashem mivtacho- Blessed is the one who puts his trust in Hashem then Hashem will be his Security. We see from here there is a trustee, a Trustor and the trusted. For clarity sake, the one who trusts is the trustee, the One Who is trusted in is the Trustor and that thing upon which trust hangs is hishtadlus. The Hebrew for having trust is bitachone.
Bitachone is a trait which can be worked on a lifetime. Someone who works on perfecting his bitachone to its fullest is one who is capable of making no hishtadlus what-so-ever. Such a man, relative to our time, was Rav Pinchas of Koritz, zt'l, one of the earlier Chassidic Rebbe's. Although penniless he would ask no man for assistance. Once, he was walking to the Bais Hamidrash and saw a coin on the ground. He bent down to pick it up. He thought for a moment and decided that it was negligent of him to bend down for if Hashem wanted him to have the coin He would have delivered it into his hand. He threw the coin back to the ground, returning it to its path for which it is destined. He went to the Beis Hamidrash and started learning.
A while later a wealthy man came into Beis Hamidrash. He looked around the room, scanning all the men engrossed in their gemorahs. He finally approached Rav Koritz and said, "While on the street I happened across this coin on the ground and I decided I would give it to someone in the Beis Hamidrash, the one who seems most virtuous in my eyes. I offer it to you." The Bialer Rebbe, zt'l, of last generation, when he told his chassidim this story he added, "That Tsaddik was on that level. WE have to bend down! We have to make the hishtadlus and know that Hashem has prepared the matter for us."
An example of someone who had to ‘bend down’: Once a fundraiser for a Yeshiva was thinking of taking a trip to an out of the way place. A country less traveled. He has a responsibility that the trip be worth the Yeshiva’s investment. He found out that there was a wealthy ba’al tseddakah- giver of charity in this place who would write a check for $5,000 to any representative who came his way. With this new information he bought a ticket. The collector tried repeatedly to make an appointment with the wealthy man and it seemed it wasn’t going to happen. Finally, baruch Hashem, on his way to the airport he’d have his chance! All he need was a minute because this man gives to anyone who asks. With gratitude to Hashem and a measure of confidence he was introduced to the ba’al tseddaka who told him, “I’m sorry. I just can’t help you out.” Not having the time to spare the fundraiser had no choice but to return to the yeshiva puzzled and upset that his trip was not as worthwhile as he hoped.
Back in his office the fundraiser was making some phone calls to his usual patrons when he was greeted on the phone by, “I’m so glad you called! I would not have thought to call you. My grandfather had just passed away and I would likto do something special in his memory. For $5,000 would the Yeshiva dedicate a plaque in his honor?”
The level that Yoseph Hatsaddik was on was the former. He did not need to make any effort other than knowing he was in Hashem's hands. The Midrash isn't a contradiction to itself. It's the reason for itself. Because Yoseph was the one who had perfect faith in Hashem he was punished 1 year for each time he asked for help from an outsider.
The Imrei Emes writes this lofty level of bitachone in Hashem is the inheritance of every Jew and on Shabbos we collect. It says in Breishis, "Six days you will labor and do your work." Someone with an eye for grammer will notice the verse really says, "Six days you will labor and have done your work"! Past tense. Like it’s finished. Chazal derive from here that when one leaves work Friday afternoon to prepare for Shabbos, part of the preparation is to consider that their work is done! Finito! Not “it's on hold till Monday” but rather that the entire week had been a single project and it had just been completed. Once Shabbos comes, not just our bodies but even our minds become free to focus and reflect on what Shabbos is all about. That really we are entirely in the hands of Hashem. Our work is just hishtadlus which we are obligated to engage in, but, the 'results' are a gift from Hashem.
41:2-8> Pharaoh has a disturbing dream which wakes him out of his sleep at night. Rav Moshe Shternbach says it must have been a nightmare! But he goes back to sleep!!!! (I get paid per the exclamation mark) Then he has another dream! Another shocker!!! So real, the Torah tells us, that only after he woke up did he realize it was a dream! But verse 8 starts..."And it was in the morning that his spirit was agitated." In the morning? He fell asleep again!!!! Two nightmares in one night and he gets his last few winks in?!? Can you believe it? Of course not. Because your thinking like a human being. But for a moment, think like the King Cretonne, the Monarch of Materialism, the Czar of Czelfishness. You think a self made god is going to give up a couple hours of good shut-eye?!? Speaking of the Baron of B'haimahs, were else in Jewish history do we find a comparable 'man'? Someone who can throw a party for 6 months straight and then throw another? King Achshveirosh! But he had trouble one night and he couldn't sleep? Did he have a soft spot? Ah! Rashi explains (in ýMegillas Esther, verse 6:1ý), "It was a miracle."
41:33>"Now let Pharaoh seek out a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt." Hold the phone, Yoseph! You were asked for your interpretation but no one asked you for your 2 cents on what to do about it!?!
The Sha'arai Aharon brings down a few answers to Yoseph's inclusion of this advice. In the name of the Ra'avam who says in the name of his grandfather; Yoseph was stressing the degree of his belief that these were the true interpretations. None of Pharaoh's advisors would dare advice on something they weren't sure of because then they would be held accountable if they were wrong. Yoseph was willing to go the extra measure.
The Avraham Hachasid says that Yoseph knows he is risking his life but if things aren't arranged quickly, they will all die of starvation anyway.
The Be'air Yoseph emphasizes that Yoseph said Pharaoh's two dreams were one. During that ‘one’ dream Pharaoh woke up in the middle and went back to sleep. Yoseph was simply adding that into his interpretation. Pharaoh, you need to wake up fast and appoint a man and 'set him over the land,' meaning, he’ll take over your job, and the you can go back to sleep. Pharaoh thinks, Great idea! (41:39) "You be in charge of my palace and by your command shall all my people be sustained: only by the throne shall I outrank you. Call the club house and reserve me the front 9 for...the next 14 years."
Actually, there was one little glitch in Pharaoh's plan. He knew the officers of his court weren't going to be thrilled with a Hebrew slave suddenly becoming Viceroy over all Egypt. If things were to run smoothly Pharaoh knew that everyone would have to get along. So in 40:37-38 he first asked from his court if it would be ok with them. Then he spoke to Yoseph directly.
Rabbi Yechezkel Fox says, "Wait!" Everyone is not happy yet. Who, in all Egypt, would have the hardest time taking orders from Yoseph? Someone…say…with unlimited access of the palace kitchen (where food poisoning is the number one source of early dismissal for unappreciated Pharaoh’s and Viceroy's)? Potiphar, Chief of the Butchers, that’s who! And he just happens to have a single daughter named Osnat. "My son-in-law, the Viceroy!" Everyone is happy!
As long as we're up on the Chanukah spirit and down in time I wanted to briefly mention a couple holiday ideas. The Gemorah Yuma compares Queen Esther to the shachar- the sunrise. Just as the shachar is the end of the night, so too is Esther the end of the miracles. Obvious question, what about the miracle of Chanukah which happened after Purim? The Gemorah explains it means Purim was the end of the miracles that were written down. Esther is a megilla, part of Tanach. Not so for Chanukah. Not only no megilla but not even a mishna. Hardly even any Gemorah for the magnitude of the event.
The Gemorah Shabbos is talking about Shabbos candles and happens to mention the opinion that the wicks and oils used for Shabbos can be used for Chanukah. It brings 2 differing opinions as well. Now that the door is open, it spends some time on Chanukah (Gem Shabbos 21a). What's with the 'back door' treatment? What's the hush hush about Chanukah?
Most would define a covenant as a relationship between 2 people. Taken for granted is the definition that a covenant is to the EXCLUSION of all others. When did the trouble start for the Jews under the Greeks? When King Ptolome ordered 70 Elders to translate the Torah into Greek. It was all down hill from there. Then it was translated from Greek to Latin. Latin to English. The written Torah is now a public forum. The Christians say, "Oh look, this is Jesus. This is Jesus.” 1st coming, 2nd coming. 3rd coming. However many times it takes to smooth out the rough spots. Then Islam got a hold of it. "This is really Mohammed, not Isaac. Gimme the eraser. No, the big one that erases 1500 years." The written Torah became a bible, r'l. Just a bunch of stringed together verses. But no one will ever get their hands on is the Torah sheh'b'al Peh- the Oral Law!
Chanukah was a time of salvation for the Jewish people. A miraculous salvation for the self sacrifice of a few. Even though we were saved from the Greeks, there exists in Chanukah the salvation from all four exiles, may it come speedily in our day. A salvation on behalf of a covenant that Hashem made with our forefathers and no one is going to get their hands on it. A salvation hidden away even within the elusive framework of the oral law. A person can have every dictionary in the world and translate every word of a page of Gemorah. Without the oral tradition they won't have a clue what Chazal are talking about. And about Chanukah they’ll know even less.
Coming back to the parsha, when Pharaoh sent for Yoseph it says, "they rushed him from the dungeon." The Hebrew for 'they rushed him' is 'vayeritsuhu', the root word 'rahts'- run. It can also be read as from the root word 'merutseh'- satisfy. Using the Zohar, Rav Wolfson says the message here is more than salvation for Yoseph and more than the satisfaction of just being taken out of the pit. The satisfaction stressed is like a pacification. Yoseph came out with the understanding that the years in the pit was part and parcel to the end result of being taken out and crowned Viceroy. As it was for Yoseph it will be for Israel.
Rav Wolfson translated the parshas opening words as , "It happened at the end the two years were like days..." With an eye for grammar the Gemorah Shabbos mentioned above says that the 25th of Kislev IS the 8 days of Chanukah. Shouldn't it say that the 25th BEGINS the 8 days of Chanukah? This answer will answer another question. How did the Chashmonaim let the oil burn for 8 days? Isn't there a law tolight the Menorah in the Temple every day and what ever oil and wicks are left over is possul- contaminated and not to be used further? The answer, which I won't do justice to, is "the two years were like days." What was two years to the outside world was just days for Yoseph. What passed as 8 days outside was one day inside the Temple. The oil never had to be changed. Our message of salvation is that it will come with satisfaction and pacification that all the years of suffering become but a few worthwhile days of waiting.
From Tehillim we say that a day of Hashem is a thousand years to us. "Vayihe mikaits shnasayim yomim"-"It happened at the end the two years were like days..." Perhaps 2 days? Two days to Hashem is 2000 years to us. Our "vayihe mikaits shnasayim yomim" must be very close. Our 2000 years of exile will be turned into just a couple days of worthwhile waiting. What a time that will be! May it come speedily and in our day!
Shabbos Chanukah is a special time. A once a year opportunity when the light of the Mashiach and the light of Olam Habah burn together! And this year, this special year we have it twice! Have your sunglasses ready and make sure a bag is packed and have more than satisfactory Shabbot Shalom.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Back to this week's Parsha| Previous Issues