Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

by Daneal Weiner

Based on the Torah of Rav Moshe Wolfson.  


It happened at the end of two years to the day…” So begins the story of Yosef’s release from enslavement and his miraculous ascent to viceroy over Egypt. If you polled… everyone, who would consider that it would take but a 5-minute conversation for that Hebrew slave to become second to the king of the most powerful empire in the world, and particularly at a time when all the world would fall to the mercy of Egypt.

Parshas Mikaits

is a story of miraculous redemption and what more fitting a time to be read then on Chanukah, a holiday reliving another period of Hebrew history when Hashem granted miraculous redemption to His enslaved ones. Seeing how unique a parsha it is for Jews, Israel and the world at large, is it any wonder that there is something unique to the opening of our parsha, not seen anywhere else in the Torah.

Parshas Mikaits opens with a zakaif gadol. It is one of the cantillation marks, part of the Oral tradition which tells us how to punctuate and chant the words of the Torah. No other parsha opens on this note.

You may be familiar with the word zakaif from the morning blessings. Every day we say, “Blessed are you Hashem… zokaif kifufim- Who straightens the bent.” In a microcosmic sense, when we arise from bed in the morning we bless G-d for the ability to do so. Elevating ourselves from a bent position to one that is upright.

In a nationalistic sense, our forefather Yaakov, the root of his name, akove, meaning ‘crooked,’ was later called Yisrael, its root, yashar, meaning ‘straight.’ When we wake in the morning, proud to be a Jew, we thank Hashem for having given us the ability to elevate ourselves, sanctify ourselves and refine what is crooked in our character so that after 120 years we will be judged as having lived straight in the eyes of the Almighty.

In a macrocosmic sense, G-d sought to create the world straight, but He saw that it would not endure, so He created it bent. In the morning, our higher soul having returned from its nightly venture amongst the world of truth to this world of lies, we thank Hashem for having bestowed upon us the honor of leading a world, bent in its ways, towards its potential of straight and universal harmony.

The Zohar says that the zakaif gadol alludes to the eventual zekifas Yisrael- straightening of Israel [lit.] in messianic times. Like Yosef, we will also be freed from the enslavement of our exile. But more than this (for we also bless Hashem every morning for releasing the bound).

Yosef was not just released, given a suit, bus fare and sent on his way. 13 years early Yosef was shown in two dreams that he would be in a position of leadership. Shortly thereafter he ends up as a slave! That’s more than just wrong. That’s twisted. When you aim for the sky and you hit the ground [fig.], somewhere along the way was a bend in your flight path. Hashem did not just see that Yosef was released. He straightened what was bent. He elevated Yosef to the position befitting him in order to lead the world when they most needed it. This, I imagine, is the zekifas Yisrael the Zohar is referring to.

With all we have said these past weeks about Kislev, Chanukah and the events in the parshas which led up to it, it is no wonder that Parshas Mikaits, opening with its zakaif Gadol, is read most only on Shabbos Chanukah. If we are able to set up our menorahs in their ideal position, within 10 tefachim from the ground (lower than 3ft.), then after bending down to light the messianic lights of Chanukah, we straighten ourselves up, portending to that time when the complete release of that hidden light will inspire all Israel to their potential of uprightness, to lead the world in our universal service of Hashem.

As only Rav Wolfson can, he summarizes all this in a handful of words. Hashem zokaif kifufim- Hashem straightens the bent = 455 = kaf-hey b’chodesh Kislev- the 25th of the month of Kislev = Chashmonayim. What happened, when it happened and in whose merit it happened. What more need be said?

Just one more thing. Mikaits = 230 = zakaif gadol.

Of course.

Shabbat Shalom.

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues