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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


It happened at the end of two years to the day. (41:1)

On most years, Parashas Mikeitz coincides with Chanukah. The commentators explain that this is by design. In his notes to the Mordechai, Meseches Shabbos, at the end of Perek Bameh Madlikin, the Shiltei GiBorim writes that a number of allusions from the parsha render it a prime candidate for Shabbos Chanukah. At the opening words of the parsha, Mikeitz shenasaim, "At the end of two years," the letters of the word shenasaim, comprise a notreikun, abbreviation: shin - s'moel/left (side); nun - ner, candle; taf - tadlik, you shall light; yud - yemin, right (side); mem - mezuzah. This indicates that the Chanukah candles shall be lit and placed at the left side of the doorpost opposite the mezuzah. The author suggests that the words, v'tavoach tevach v'hachein, referring to Yosef's dinner for his brothers, is also an inference to Chanukah. The ches of tevach, followed by the word v'hachein - vov, hay, chof, nun - are the letters of the word Chanukah. Additionally, the words v'tavoach tevach have a numerical value of forty-four, coinciding with forty-four candles that are lit during the entire holiday of Chanukah.

Horav Levi Yitzchak, zl, m'Berditchev and the Koznitzer Maggid, zl, both offer a different pasuk that alludes to the Chanukah experience. When the brothers returned with Binyamin, Yosef prepared a lavish meal for them. He commanded his servant to give each one a portion. The pasuk reads, Va'tarev masaas Binyamin mimasaas kulam chameish yados, "And Binyamin's portion was five times (hands) as much as any of them" (Ibid. 43:34).

The Torah uses the word yados, which means "hands," an atypical term for the portion that Binyamin received. Why is the word, yad/hand, used? They explain that the five yados are an allusion to the five yados connected with Chanukah: "You delivered giborim b'yad chalashim, the strong into the hands of the weak; rabim b'yad meatim, the many into the hands of the few, temaim b'yad tehorim, the ritually impure into the hands of those who are pure; reshaim b'yad tzaddikim, the wicked into the hands of the righteous; zeidim b'yad oskei torasecha, and the malicious, into the hands of the diligent students of your Torah."

This is the underlying meaning of v'tarev masaas Binyamin, "and the portion of Binyamin was more." Binyamin's name can be broken up into the words, Ben Yamin, son of the right, referring to Klal Yisrael, who are Hashem's children from the yemin, right side, signifying the stronger position, reflective of Hashem's unstinting love for us.

We now understand why Yosef gave Binyamin five portions at the special banquet in the brothers' honor. It was a seudas Chanukah, festive meal commemorating (what would become) Chanukah. But why Binyamin? While it is true that his name signifies the Jewish people, there must be a stronger connection.

Horav Pinchas Friedman, Shlita, quotes the Talmud Megillah 16a, as a source for his elucidation of this question. The Talmud cites the pasuk in Parashas Vayigash (45:22), "To Binyamin he gave… five changes of clothing." Chazal explain that Yosef's giving Binyamin five changes of clothing is an indirect reference to Mordechai, a descendant of Binyamin, who would one day walk out from his session with King Achashveirosh bedecked in five royal garments.

Why would Yosef need a "gift" of "five": first five hands; and now five changes of clothes? Applying the thesis of the Koznitzer Maggid and the Berditchiver, we now know that the first "five" was an allusion to Chanukah and the second "five" a reference to Purim. Thus, the Talmud questions the second "five," since we already know about Chanukah. Their response fits perfectly into the equation: Yes, the first "five" is about Chanukah; the second "five" however, is the Torah's allusion to Purim.

If one were to question the sequence of the two festivals (i.e., How do we know that the first "five" refers to Chanukah and the second "five" is a reference to Purim?), we would apply the pesukim at the beginning of Parashas Mikeitz, which indicates that this parsha belongs to Chanukah.

Rav Friedman takes this thesis to the next level. Five changes of clothes clearly has a stronger affiliation with the Purim miracle, since it was Mordechai's royal clothes that catch our attention. Additionally, Mordechai was from the tribe of Binyamin. That all seems to fit, but what compelled Yosef to give Binyamin specifically five yados, hands/portions, corresponding with the miracle of Chanukah. What relationship exists between Binyamin and Chanukah?

As usual, there is no dearth of esoteric explanation for their interrelation. The Arizal writes that the twelve months of the year correspond with the twelve tribes in sequence, coinciding with their positions of travel and encampment according to their degalim, banners. Thus, as is posited by the Bnei Yissachar, the ninth month of the year, Kislev, corresponds with Binyamin, who was the ninth tribe in the order of travel. Kislev is the month of Chanukah - but that is not all.

The Zera Kodesh writes that the ninth month of the year is Kislev. Corresponding with this month, Shevet Binyamin offered its sacrifice in honor of the chanukas, inauguration, of the Mishkan on the ninth day of Nissan. This is because the Torah writes concerning Binyamin, Yedid Hashem yishkon lavetach alav kol hayom, "Beloved of Hashem, he rests securely with Him. He caused His covering to rest upon him at all times and takes up His abode between his high places" (Devarim 33:12). This is a reference to the fact that the Bais Hamikdash was built in Binyamin's portion of Eretz Yisrael.

To take this idea even further, Rav Friedman quotes the Talmud Yoma 12a, that distinguishes between the parts of the Bais Hamikdash complex that were contained in Shevet Yehudah's portion and those which were included in Shevet Binyamin's portion. The Har HaBayis (Temple Mount), the Lishkos (Chambers), and Azaros, (the Courtyard), were in Yehudah's portion. The Ulam, (antechamber), Heichal, (Sanctuary), and Kodoshei HaKodoshim (Holy of Holies) were included in Binyamin's portion. The Talmud Shabbos 21b teaches that when the Greeks entered into the Bais Hamikdash, they came through the Heichal and contaminated the oils that were there. This was situated in Binyamin's portion. Through their defilement of the oils stored in the Heichal, the Greeks created a blemish within Binyamin's portion. Thus, when the miracle of Chanukah occurred and the Jews emerged victorious from the battle with the Greeks, they cleansed the Bais Hamikdash, thus repairing the spiritual taint that existed within Binyamin's portion. This was foreshadowed by Yosef when he gave Binyamin five portions.

Yosef instructed Pharaoh to appoint overseers on the land, Yaase Pharaoh v'yafkeid pekidim al haaretz, v'chimeish es eretz Mitzrayim b'sheva shnei ha'sova, "Let Pharaoh proceed and appoint overseers on the land, and he shall prepare the land of Egypt during the seven years of plenty" (41:34). The Bnei Yissachar writes that the word v'chimeish, "and he shall prepare," is an inference to Chanukah. In their diabolical plan to destroy the Jewish nation, the Greeks focused on three essential mitzvos: Chodesh, the sanctification of the New Moon, which essentially grants the Jewish Rabbinical court license to determine the calendar and decide when the various Festivals are to be celebrated; Milah, circumcision, which bonds the Jew with Hashem; and Shabbos, the day of rest, whereby the Jew attests to the Almighty's creation of the world. He is accorded a day during which he reflects on his mission in life and is able to commune with Hashem, unencumbered by mundane restraints. Exactly why these three specific mitzvos were selected by the Greeks is a separate thesis. For our purpose, however, we may take note of the chameish, the first letter of each of these mitzvos - ches - Chodesh; mem - Milah; shin - Shabbos, which collectively spell out chameish, which is the number five. Having discussed earlier the significance of the number five, we now have a further allusion from this parsha to Chanukah.

Yosef said to them on the third day, "Do this and live; I fear G-d." (42:18)

What is the significance of Es haElokim ani yarei, "I fear G-d"? What does this have to do with the fact that it was three days into their "visit"? Simply, Yosef was conveying to them that he had no plans to keep them all in Egypt while their families starved at home. He would detain only one of them as a hostage. He was doing this because he was a G-d-fearing man. Apparently, Yosef felt that by adding his G-d-fearing nature into the equation, it would immediately relax them and counteract the anxieties they must have been harboring concerning their "future."

Horav Gamliel Rabinowitz, Shlita, underscores the significance of yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven, acknowledging that there is a Higher Power, a Supreme Authority, Who determines right and wrong and discharges appropriate punishment when necessary. On the other hand, if one is up against an individual who only pays lip service to G-d, to whom fear of the Almighty is something he declares, but does not mean, who thinks that it is all about "him" and that he has license to do whatever he pleases - he is in serious trouble. The Shivtei Kah were acutely aware of this verity. Thus, when Yosef assured them that he was G-d-fearing, they realized that they were not in danger.

There is a famous insight of the Malbim, which was quoted by Horav Elchanan Wasserman, zl, in a lecture to a group of Rabbanim in Germany in the early 1930's. Going back to Parashas Vayeira, as Avimelech complains to Avraham Avinu for claiming that Sarah Imeinu was his sister when she was actually his wife, Avraham replied, Rak ein yiraas Elokim ba'makom hazeh, "Only because I said there is no fear of G-d in this place" (Ibid. 20:11). A lack of Heavenly fear was prevalent in Gerar. Thus, Avraham feared for his life. The Malbim underscores the Torah's use of the word rak, "only," as if intimating that, indeed, Gerar was a wonderful place. It had culture, refinement; its people were upstanding, kind and polite. Regardless of the community's exemplary qualities, however, at the end of the day one's life could still be forfeited, if he were to stand in the way of someone's desire. Why? "Only" because Gerar lacks yiraas Elokim, fear of G-d. When mortal, subjective, prejudicial man is the ultimate authority, if laws are man made, then they have little value. Man makes the law; man can alter the law as he sees fit. The only law that will compel society to be disciplined and law abiding is Heavenly Law, the code authored and regulated by Divine Authority.

When Rav Elchanan spoke, it was prior to the malignant change in Germany's government. When the Nazi party came to power, it was all too obvious that Rav Elchanan's message was on the mark. Suddenly, the polite, cultured, refined German became a cruel monster, capable of committing the most heinous atrocities.

Horav Yissachar Frand, Shlita, relates a story he heard in the name of Horav Yitzchak Hutner, zl, which gives practical expression to the above. When Rav Hutner was learning in Slabodka, he remembers that Horav Avraham Elya Kaplan, zl, who later because rector of the Seminar in Berlin, went to Germany. He returned prior to Rosh Hashanah. The Rosh Yeshivah, reverently known as the Alter m'Slabodka, asked Rav Avraham Elya for his impression of the German people. Rav Avraham Elya raved about the German People's kindness, their impeccable manners and refinement of character. He even cited their manner of speech as demonstrating extreme politeness to one another. For instance, if someone asked for directions, the response would not simply be a curt set of directions. Rather, after completing the directions, the man would politely ask, "Nicht wahr? Is this not correct?" This indicated their refinement. By refraining from asserting himself in a definitive manner, he would always conclude the sentence with, "Nicht wahr," thus maintaining the questioner's dignity.

The students who were privy to this exchange between Rav Avraham Elya and the Alter debated if it was appropriate to praise the Germans. It was not as if we derived a way of life from other gentile nations. Why should the Germans be any different? What did they have to offer us that others did not? We do not learn from the gentile world how to live. Baruch Hashem, we have a Torah that guides our lifestyle. One student among them persisted in defending the Germans, maintaining that any people who ended their statements with "Nicht wahr?" indicated a sense of modesty and politeness worthy of emulating.

It took a half a century for the truth to be publicized, for that same student to declare his error publicly. Rav Hutner had just concluded his shiur, lecture, when a Jew walked in and asked, "Do you remember me? I was that student in Slabodka who complimented the German manner of speaking, who was amazed by their gentle manner and refinement of speech." The Rosh Yeshivah said that he did remember the man and stuck out his hand to give him "Shalom aleichem." The Jew reciprocated, but, instead of a hand, there was a hook, where his hand had been amputated. Apparently, he had lost his hand during his internment in the concentration camp.

The man looked at Rav Hutner and said, "When the Nazi cut off my hand, do you know what he said?" He said, "It hurts - Nicht wahr - Is this not correct?" - You were right - I was wrong!"

Rav Elchanan observed; Hashem created man after He had created all of the creatures. Animals, both domesticated and wild, all fowl and beasts - all preceded mankind. Rav Elchanan commented that man is a composite of all of the preceding creations. He has in him the nature of every creature. Thus, at times, he may manifest the qualities of the most docile creation, while, at other times, he acts like a venomous snake or a vicious man-eating lion. What keeps all of these natural inclinations in check? What controls are in place to see to it that the man remains a decent, ethical and virtuous human being? Only one guarantee exists: yiraas Elokim, fear of G-d. With it - one is a mentch. Without it - he is sadly capable of the worst abominations and the most cruel, heinous brutalities against his fellow man.

He took Shimon from them and imprisoned him before their eyes. (42:24)

The Yalkut Shimoni shares an intriguing Midrash with us. Yosef sought to incarcerate his brothers. He sent a message to Pharaoh, "I need seventy of your strongest men to apprehend a group of foreigners." When the soldiers arrived, Yosef told them to take chains and place them on his brothers. Shimon stood in front, while the rest of his brothers stood back at a distance. As they closed in on Shimon, he gave a loud scream, the sound of which shattered the teeth of all seventy men. Observing the debacle, Yosef turned to his son, Menasheh, who was standing by his side, and said, "You, take the chains and place it on his (Shimon's) neck." Menasheh approached Shimon, subdued him, and placed the chains on his neck, effectively taking him prisoner. Shimon declared, "This blow is from my father's house," indicating that only someone connected to the family of the Patriarch had the ability to overpower him.

An incredible story, but is its focus to teach us that only someone from Yaakov Avinu's home had the physical strength to subdue Shimon? Is this a lesson concerning who was stronger - Shimon or Menasheh? The Pardes Yosef offers an all-too-realistic homiletic rendering of this Midrash. Klal Yisrael is compared to a sheep among seventy wolves, an analogy that has, over time, proven itself true. We are not winning the popularity contest in the world. No one is for the Jewish People. We are tolerated, accepted by some, envied by others, but there is no one out there that is really on our side. No nation in the world, other than one engaged in pursuing its own self-interest, has our back. We have only Hashem upon Whom to rely, and we can live with it, because that is how the Almighty wants it. The less we have to do with them, the stronger is our spiritual health.

From a practical perspective, all seventy soldiers/nations of the world want to put the chains on Shimon/us. Shimon, however, is not interested in being subdued by them, so he screams out in prayer, as we do to the Almighty, entreating Him for help. The hands of Eisav are rendered powerless, when the kol, voice, is the kol Yaakov, the voice of Yaakov, in prayer, since prayer is what we do best, because it is our function and vocation. Eisav cannot subdue a Klal Yisrael that is committed to Hashem. His power is only when we remain spiritually docile, assimilated, and far-removed from the "Yaakov" we are supposed to represent.

We can deal with the external enemy; it is the internal antagonist whom we have little success in overpowering. When sonei Yisrael emerge from within our own ranks, then our lot is very bitter. Shimon realized that he could best the Egyptian soldiers with one scream, but when he saw a member of his own family strike him, it had a sobering effect on him. This "one" would be different. This one will not go away so fast. Such an adversary requires a much different game plan for success. When the enemies are from within - be they secularists with their cowardly liberal agenda; a member of our own camp who seeks to make a statement and garner personal recognition; or even a member of our own community, our own shul, whose insecure and low self-esteem provoke him to pour out virulent diatribe against anybody he can, for this is the only way he can promote himself and his agenda - such a disputant is a most difficult opponent.

Horav Reuven Abitbul, Shlita, quotes a sobering Midrash that is worth publicizing. When Hashem created steel, the trees began to shake with anxiety. After all, an ax/saw blade has the power to take down the strongest/tallest tree. So the (creation of) steel asked the trees, "Why are you afraid? As long as you do not put any wood into the eye of the axe-handle, the blade cannot function." In other words, the trees are in danger from the steel only if their own wood participates in their destruction. Am Yisrael, our nation, can stand up and survive the onslaught of the nations of the world. We will triumph over them. It is when our own people are bent on destroying us that we come up against a most difficult adversary. In such a war - nobody wins.

He searched; he began with the eldest and finished with the youngest. And the goblet was found in Binyamin's pack. (44:12)

In the Talmud Pesachim 7b, Chazal state that Bedikas Chametz, searching for chametz, should be performed by the light of a candle. This is supported by the process of derivation whereby the metziah, finding of chametz, is derived from another instance of metziah, which is connected to the word chipush, searching, which is derived from another instance of chipush, which is - in turn - connected to neiros, candles. Thus, finding is achieved via searching, and searching is executed through the medium of candles. The pasuk used to derive metziah, finding, from chipush, searching, is the above pasuk that describes the search for - culminating in the finding of-- the silver goblet in Binyamin's bag. There is also an earlier pasuk in Parashas Vayeitzei (31:35), when Lavan searched for his terafim, Va'yechapeish v'lo matza es ha'terafim, "And he searched, but did not find the terafim." Why do Chazal not use this pasuk to prove that chipush and metziah are connected?

Horav Zev Weinberger, Shlita, quotes the Tchebiner Rav, zl, who cites the custom of placing ten crumbs of bread throughout the house prior to the bedikah. Many have questioned this custom, since the obligation is to "search" - not necessarily to "find." Thus, let the person search; if he discovers chametz in his house - fine; if he does not - also fine. The Rav cites the above statement of Chazal which supports the notion that the word chipush, search, applies even under such circumstances that the person is aware, not only that he will find, but also, where it is located. On the other hand, concerning Lavan, he had no clue if he would find the terafim or where. Since we derive from Yosef's search that bedikah/chipush/metziah apply even under such conditions in which the objective of the search is to go through the motions, since Yosef knew where the goblet was to be found, we may place the crumbs of bread, even though we know that we are not searching in the dark - we will locate the crumbs.

Rav Weinberger suggests a profound meaning to this Torah thought. Although we know we will find, and probably where - we search nonetheless. That is the Jewish way of life. We have a deep faith in Hashem's protection. Netzach Yisrael lo yeshaker, "The eternity of Yisrael will not lie." Yet, we pray for salvation. Mordechai knew that Hashem would not destroy the Jewish People in Shushan. Yet, he cried out bitterly and prayed with incredible fervor. As a result of his prayers, the Purim Festival is a reality. He catalyzed a transformation from fasting and mourning into joy and festivities. Why? Because he prayed. He did not sit back waiting for the fulfillment of Netzach Yisrael lo yeshaker. A similar response occurred with regard to the neis, miracle, of Chanukah. The Chashmonaim "found" a small flask of oil that still had the seal of the Kohen Gadol affixed to it. They could have easily kindled impure oil, since the entire congregation was involved, allowing for such a dispensation. Yet, they adamantly refused. They wanted to expunge the spiritual contamination brought about by the Greeks. Their unstinting, uncompromising devotion and commitment to taharas ha'kodesh, pure holiness, is a tribute to them and a mandate for us.

Va'ani Tefillah

V'haer eineinu b'Sorasecha. Enlighten our eyes through Your Torah.

There is a mistaken notion that success in Torah scholarship is reserved for only the most brilliant minds. It could not be further from the truth. As Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, observes, every Jewish soul has his personal portion in the Torah. Only he can discover it, and no one can take it from him. Torah is not a mundane discipline. It is not a secular scholastic treatise which is mastered only by the most astute mind. Torah is Divinely authored and Divinely transmitted. Hashem gives His Torah to the serious student who is seeking enlightenment and is willing to expend diligent effort in pursuit of his goals.

Thus, we ask Hashem to grant us the ability to discover the hidden treasures of His Torah, to locate our personal share in His Torah. As Rav Schwab notes, despite the multitude of commentaries on the Torah, individuals - such as the late Acharonim and others until this very day -are revealing new insights into Torah and Talmud interpretation. The Torah is a sealed book which is opened by its Author to those who are sincere, committed to glorifying His work and those who seek deeper and greater clarity and meaning. The falsifiers, who misinterpret the Torah to suit their self-serving needs, are only doing themselves and their followers a gross disservice.

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