Chanukah 5775: Finding Meaning in The Eight Miracles of Yosef, and that Special Flask of Oil

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Chanukah vort is being sponsored by Avraham and Miriam Deutsch of Efrat who wish Kol Am Yisrael Chanukah Same’ach! To the Deutsch family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

Friends, you can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Chanukah 5775: Finding Meaning in The Eight Miracles of Yosef, and that Special Flask of Oil

by Moshe Burt

The sefer “Inspiration and Insight”, Volume 2, Discourses on the Holidays, by the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, z’l cites the Bach differentiating between Chanukah and Purim (pages 104-105):

…Purim… there is a specific obligation of drinking and happiness. The miracle of Purim is centered around the decree to annihilate the entire Jewish nation. Hashem brought about the issuance of this decree as punishment for the Jews having indulged in the feast of King Achashverosh. In celebration of the miracle which granted them new life, the Jewish people celebrate each year with a seudat mitzvah. The miracle of Chanukah, however, centered around the decrees of King Antiochus against Jewish observance. The Greeks wanted the Jewish people to forsake their Torah way of life in favor of their own [Greek] culture which glorified the physical and extolled indulgence in temporal pleasures. The Greeks were quite content to allow the Jews to remain alive — as long as they abandoned those mitzvot which are at the core of Jewish beliefs. This decree, writes the Bach (based on a Baraisa) was, in fact, Divine retribution for the Jews becoming lax in their mitzvah observance. The… self-sacrifice of the Chashmonaim to preserve Torah life, and restore the service to the Beit Hamikdash brought about the great miracle of their victory over the Greeks and the discovery of the flask of oil which miraculously burned for eight days. Thus Chanukah was a celebration of th spirit, a yom tov which commemorates a victory over the spirit led by warriors of the spirit, the Chashmonaim. Bach concludes, “This was the festival established only to Hallel [praise] and Hoda’ah [thanks], a service of the heart.

In last week’s parshat Vayeishev, we learn that Yosef was thrown in a bor (pit) seething with snakes and scorpions — and the miracle of his emerging unscathed. This author has written in the past venturing that there were seven subsequent miracles that played a role in Yosef’s life and in his becoming Viceroy, including who he was sold to and what was carried in their caravan, his ensuing journey to Mitzrayim and conditions of his slavery, his imprisonment on false charges and his liberation and ascendency to the position of Viceroy, second only to Pharoh.

Yosef’s experience in the pit brings this author back in time to Philadelphia, in “the “old country” and to a point made by Rav Yehoshua Kaganoff which bears repeating:

As we learned about the Neisim (miracles) of Chanukah, i.e., the one flask of oil found in the Beit HaMikdash which seemingly had enough oil to burn for one day, yet burned continuously for eight days, Rav Kaganoff spoke about a nace which happened when the brothers cast Yosef into the pit which contained snakes and scorpions. Although this pit was habitat to snakes and scorpions, Hashem held them back, restrained them within the pit. Therefore, when the brothers removed Yosef and sold him into bondage, he emerged unscathed from the danger within the pit.

And so, as noted above, Yosef’s emergence from the pit unharmed was one of at least 8 miracles which Yosef experienced from the moment the other 10 brothers acted against him. For one thing, our Parsha tells:

“…And behold, a company of Yishmaelim came from Gilad with their camels carrying aromatic gum (for censing), balm and landanum, …to carry it down to Egypt.” (Breish’t Perek 37, posuk 25 as rendered in Growth Through Torah, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin).

Rav Pliskin (Growth Through Torah, Parsha Vayeishev page 109), then cites Rashi;

Why did the Torah mention what the camels were carrying? To tell us the reward of the righteous. Those caravans usually carried kerosene and resin (used for fuel) which had an unpleasant odor. But the caravan that carried Yosef to Egypt had pleasant spices.

Pliskin then cites Rabbi Mordechai Pragamantsky of Telz, who heard from Rabbi Chayim Stein:

…It was a message to Yosef that all was not lost. Appreciate the Hand of the Almighty that is guiding your life and supplies you with minor pleasures to enhance your life. This is a sign that all the Almighty does is to enhance your life. This is a sign that all the Almighty Does is for your ultimate benefit.

It occurs to this author that other such miracles happened to Yosef which would seem to include; (3) his enslavement brought about his landing in the House of Pontiphar as his head servant and caretaker of all that was his (Pontiphar’s), (4) his escaping a judgement of death regarding Pontiphar’s wife’s false accusations and his sojourn in the dungeon where he emerged as assistant to the warden, (5) his being remembered, albeit after 2 years, by the wine steward for his translation of dreams resulting in his interpreting Pharoah’s dreams and being appointed Viceroy, 2nd only in power to Pharoah, (6) Asnat bat Dina, born out of wedlock (Dina and Shechem) and later banished from Yaakov’s house under death-threat from the brothers, and who landed in the House of Pontiphar and who was said to have witnessed Yosef’s actions on the day of Pontiphar’s wife’s false accusations, and (7) that when all of the women threw down their jewelry to entice Yosef, he was won over by Asnat, with her metal foil engraved by Yaakov testifying to her holiness. And finally, like the flask of oil found by the Macabees in the Beit HaMikdash which by natural means would maybe burn one day, but burned eight days; the final miracle would seem to be the fortune amassed by Yosef as Viceroy which would later be found by the Jews during the plague (mako) of darkness and which would be carted out of Mitzrayim upon the Yetziyat Mitzrayim.

So, the connection between Yosef, and his eight miracles, and Chanukah, and the miracle of the flask of oil burnng for eight days would be, as R’ Pliskin cited above:

Sign[s] that all the Almighty does is to enhance your life…. Sign[s] that all the Almighty Does is for your ultimate benefit.

Jews keep having to re-learn and absorb the message of Chanukah and of the miracles done to Yosef. Time and again throughout our history, the lessons are forgotten by Am Yisrael, including here and now in our times of successive iron-fisted, cruelty to the compassionate, corrupt ruling Israeli regimes posing as free and democratic while dividing and conquering the people it “governs.” ALL of the Medina’s political parties, leaders and governance appear as transparently corrupt, deceitful, selfish, self-serving and self-aggrandizing; as were the Hellenists of the time of the Macabees.

But yet again this Chanukah, as we remember this past summer’s renewal of the indecisive Gaza war, and the efforts of the nations to subvert and eradicate Israel’s nationhood by way of weapons such as possible UN recognition of PA statehood, and more. We keep seeking the cure for today’s illness, like the cure Hashem prepared for Yosef far ahead of time and for the other miracles which Hashem prepared for us throughout our history.

We anxiously await the revelation of what Hashem has prepared in advance for us today. We await the antidote which cures the present malaise which appears soo bleak to the eye — an Israel whose political parties and leaders, the leftist “elitists,” work systemically and intellectually to subvert the masses of B’nai Yisrael away from their history, Yiddishkeit, spirituality and the notion of how and why they came to be here — in the land of Israel. We await revelation of the cure from Israel’s leftist political parties’ and leaders’ blind hatred for anything Jewish — hatred that blinds, distracts and distorts them from the dire security peril of their actions. And we await the cure from a similar blind disdain amongst one or more sectors of the religious for other religious sectors. And we await the cure from the resigned, compacent mindset of much of the masses — “ein ma’la soat.”

The story of this cure, and it’s multi-miracles begins with the inspiration of the episode of Dina’s abduction by Shechem, the son of Chamor, and his proposal of marriage to Dina. We recall from the Torah portion of Vayishlach that the sons of Yaakov made any marriage conditional on Bris Milah of Shechem, Chamor and all the Shechemites. And while they were all incapacitated, they were slaughtered by Shimon and Levi. We recall that Dina became pregnant by her “union” with Shechem.

But what happened to the child? Seemingly, we never hear of the resultant offspring.

The Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities by Yishai Chasida (pages 97-98) cites Sofrim 21:9 which states that:

Dina was six years old when she bore Asenath (Asnat). The brothers sought to kill Asenath to avoid accusations of immorality in Yaakov’s tents.

And so, as Chasida cites from Pirkei d’Rabbi Eleizer Perek 38, Yaakov wrote all that had transpired on metal foil, or on gold foil (as Chasida cites from Midrash Aggadah, Breish’t 41:45), placed it on Asnat as a necklace and sent her away. The Moloch Michael brought her down to Mitzrayim, to the house of Potiphar.

Chasida cites The Midrash Aggadah, Breish’t 41:45 relates what could have happened;

Potiphar found the child crying while out strolling with friends, read the foil and said; “This is the daughter of a great man. Take her to my house.”

There we learn that his wife (named Zelichah, according to Chasida’s citing of Sefer HaYashar on Vayeishev) in the Encyclopedia page 497, unable to give birth, raised the child, Asnat as her own.

As we learned, Joseph ends up in Mitzrayim and incarcerated, on trumped up, false charges having to do with the wife of Pontiphar. Chasida cites Yalkut Shimoni on Vayeishev 146 which states that Asnat went to Potiphar and testified to the truth, thus sparing Yosef the death penalty:

Said Hashem, “By your life, since you have spoken on Yosef’s behalf, the tribes which I will raise from him will come through you.”

And so, as cited in Pirkei d’Rabbi Eleizer Perek 38, Targum Yonatan and Da’at Zekenim by the Judaica Press Chumash, Parsha Mikeitz, page 523b, after Yosef was appointed Viceroy by Pharoh;

When Yosef traveled throughout Mitzrayim, every maiden who saw him cast a trinket or an item of Jewelry at his feet. Asnat, too, cast her amulet at Yosef’s feet. He ignored all of the jewelry cast before him, but when he saw the amulet bearing Hashem’s name, he examined it and determined that the maiden who had cast it… was of the seed of Yaakov.

The Judaica Press Chumash, Parsha Mikeitz also indicates that Pharoh called to Potiphar (Poti-phera denoting emasculation, i.e. that he was bi-sexual and also had designs on Yosef — stuff of a different shmooze) to give his young daughter to Yosef for a wife;

The damsel was beautiful, a virgin, and no man had been intimate with her, and Yosef took her for a wife.

And so may the spirit of Yosef and Asnat, and the Divine miracles done to both, where their union came only after each of them were singularly committed to the same causes, hashkafic values and spiritual pages. May they inspire us all this Chanukah, and through to the future, that all is not lost, to appreciate and be thankful for what Hashem does for Am Yisrael and toward a modern-day emulation of the Macabees: to stand up against an evil regime, a regime set on self-destruction driven by their disdain for who and what they are.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Chanukah Same’ach!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.