This week, our Chanukah/Parshat Mikeitz/Rosh Chodesh vort is being sponsored by Avraham and Miriam Deutsch and family of Efrat lilui nishmas for the yarhtzeit of Avraham’s Mother Sarah Reitza bat Tzion bat Avram Yaakov and to wish Kol Am Yisrael Chanukah Same’ach and Chodesh Tov! 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.
In last week’s Parshat Vayeishev, we learn that that the brothers threw Yosef into a bor (pit) seething with snakes and scorpions — and (1) the miracle of his emerging unscathed. This author has written in the past venturing that there were at least seven subsequent miracles that played a role in Yosef’s life and in his becoming Viceroy, including (2) who he was sold to and the sweet-smelling aromatic gum that was carried in their caravan, his ensuing journey to Mitzrayim and conditions of his slavery, his imprisonment on false charges, his liberation and, as Torah relates in our Parshat Mikeitz, Yosef’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams and resultant ascendancy to the position of Viceroy, second only to Pharaoh.
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” (Sefer Breish’t, Parshat Mikeitz, pages 230-231) provides some insight as to why Pharaoh was impressed and believed Yosef’s interpretation of his (Pharaoh’s) dreams:
…Classical sources [offer] two approaches first found in Midrash:
Pharaoh actually witnessed, in his vision, both dream and interpretation. Upon awakening, Pharaoh deliberately withheld the true interpretation from his advisors in order to test them by determining the veracity of their explanations. He therefore rejected all of the interpretations until he recognized that Yosef’s was correct. (Citing Midrash Hagadol, Breish’t 41:37) Alternatively, Pharaoh forgot the meaning of his dream upon awakening. Subliminally, however, he remembered the the truth and recognize[d] it when he heard it. (Citing Midrash Sechel Tov Breish’t 41:37)
Pharaoh gravitated towards an explanation that offered positive, concrete suggestions for the future. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Hagadol, Breish’t 41:37) The Midrash maintains that each interpretation… offered by Pharaoh’s advisors was extremely bleak in tone.
We can only imagine Pharaoh’s relief, therefore, when Yosef presented him with a scenario which could be controlled.
Many later scholars build upon these original Midrashic proposals… [or] offer their own explanations for Pharaoh’s unhesitating acceptance of Yosef’s words…. These explanations may be unnecessary. The text of the Torah actually offers a solution of its own. A consistent pattern in the narrative reveals a… possibility: Pharaoh believed Yosef because only Yosef was willing to validate Pharaoh’s conviction that his two dreams were really one. Consider the text…: “….And Pharaoh awoke and behold it was a dream.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 41, posuk 7)
An Aish.com piece written several years ago by Rabbi Ken Spiro relates the Revolt of the Maccabees in this way:
The year is 167 BCE and the horrible persecution of Judaism by the Greeks is in full swing. The Greek troops show up in the town of Modi’in (a site west of Jerusalem which you can visit today off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway) and demand that the Jews there sacrifice a pig to the Greek gods. The elder of the town, Mattisyahu (Mattathias), who is a Kohen, that is of the priestly class, refuses.
“Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers…We will not obey the king’s word by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.” (1-Maccabees 2:19-22)
…There is a Hellenized Jew in the town who is willing to do what is unspeakable in Jewish eyes. As he’s about to sacrifice the pig, Mattisyahu stabs him, also killing the Greek official present. He then turns to the crowd and announces: “Follow me, all of you who are for G’d’s Law and stand by the covenant.” (1-Maccabees 2:27)
Rabbi Spiro writes, near the top of his piece and then continues:
…It is not just a war against the Greeks, it is also a civil war – Jews, who were loyal to Judaism, fighting other Jews, who had become Hellenized and who were siding with the Greeks.
Most of the battles take place in the foothills leading from the coastal plain area (Tel Aviv) to Jerusalem. The Greeks are trying to march their armies up the natural canyons that lead into the mountain areas, the stronghold of the Jewish army. There’s only a few places where the Greeks can ascend and this is where the Maccabees choose to take them on.
…When we read the story of the Maccabees it seems like it’s something that takes place over a few weeks – the battles take place, the Jews win, and the Greeks go home. But, in fact, it takes 25 years of fighting and a great many casualties on both sides until the Selucid Greeks finally reach a peace agreement with the Jews.
After the first three years, the Jews are able to re-conquer Jerusalem. They find the Temple defiled and turned into a pagan sanctuary, where pigs are sacrificed on the altar. When they re-enter the Temple, the first thing they do is try to light a make-shift menorah (as the real gold one had been melted down by the Greeks) but only one vial of pure lamp oil with the special seal is discovered. They use this vial to light the menorah and miraculously it stays lit for eight days, by which time fresh pure oil has been pressed and delivered to the Temple.
The Maccabees then purify the Temple and rededicate it on the 25th of Kislev, which is the date on the Hebrew calendar when we begin to celebrate the eight days of Chanukah. (The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication” or “inauguration.”)
Early in the morning of the 25th day of the ninth month which is the month of Kislev…they [the Kohanim] rose and offered sacrifices [korbonot], as the law directs, on the new altar [Mizbeiyach] of burnt offerings which they had built…it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes [flutes?] and cymbals…So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days…(I Maccabees 4:52-56)
Chanukah – one of two holidays added to the Jewish calendar by the rabbis – celebrates two kinds of miracles: 1) the military victory of the vastly outnumbered Jews against the Greeks; and 2) the spiritual victory of Jewish values over those of the Greeks. It is this spiritual victory which is symbolized by the lights of Chanukah.
The sefer “Inspiration and Insight, Vol. ll – Discourses on the Holidays and Other Themes,” by the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, s”l, as translated and arranged by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, relates (pages 104-105):
The miracle of Chanukah… centered around the decrees of [Greek] king Antiochus against the observance of the Jews. The Greeks wanted the Jews to forsake their Torah way of life in favor of their own 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 belief of Jews. This decree, writes the Bach (based on a Baraisa) was, in fact, a Divine retribution for the Jews becoming lax in their Mitzvah observance. The Mesiras Nefesh, 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 is a celebration of the spirit, a Yom Tov which commemorates a victory of spirit led by the warriors of the spirit, the Chashmonaim.
The Bach concludes, “Thus was the festival established only to offer Hallel and Hoda’ah, a service of the heart.”
It occurs to this author that other such miracles occurred 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 two years, by the wine steward for his translation of dreams resulting in his interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and being appointed Viceroy, 2nd only in power to Pharaoh, (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, (7) that when the women all 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 8 days; the final miracle (8) 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.
Jews keep having to re-learn and absorb the message of Chanukah and of the miracles done to Yosef. In addition, Rosh Chodesh Tevet falls out on Shabbos Chanukah/Mikeitz. Time and again throughout our history, the lessons are forgotten by Am Yisrael, including here and now in our times of successive weak-spined, indecisive, ineffectual, inconclusive, disunited, politicized and often iron-fisted cruel (to the righteous) corrupt ruling Israeli regimes as well as an ongoing judicial dictatorship both promoted by the swamp pundits as free and democratic while dividing and conquering the people they “govern” and “judge.” They stand against the righteous and the merciful, just as the Hellenists of the time of the Macabees. They desecrate the name of Hashem and diminish and discredit our Divine Right to Eretz Yisrael both in Shemayim, as well as in the eyes and perceptions of the nations.
And so, may our brethren from Gush Katif and the Shomron, as well as our Observant brethren, together with all intellectually honest and enlightened Jews, including new olim, rise up to do battle for the Jewish mind and soul, just as the Maccabees did in doing battle against the Greeks.
May it be in this year and in all future years, that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif – many still seeking their permanent places, our brethren in the South — S’derot and the other towns bordering Gaza who live under constant threats of rocket attacks, as occurred within the past few weeks, and tunnel infiltrations and fiery kites, those of Amona still awaiting their government-rebuilt homes, those in the North who still live under threat of Katushyas and Hezbollah attacks, as well as our dear brother, Jonathan Pollard and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, be central in our thoughts, prayers, chassadim and actions.
May we, the B’nei 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 and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — which can only occur when he is home in Israel and carrying for his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five years ago. 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 prevent Chas V’Challila 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Good Shabbos,Chanukah Same’ach and Chodesh Tov!
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.