Chanukah, Vayeishev and Mikeitz

29 11 2010

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Beinush Ginsburg

Chanuka, Vayeishev, and Mikeitz

Why does Chanukah always fall out during the parshiot of Vayeishev or Mikeitz?  The midrash in Mikeitz tells us that Hashem had a master plan. He wanted Yosef to be imprisoned for two years.  Therefore, he caused Pharoh to have a dream, so Yosef would be freed in a natural way. This is contrary to what we would think – that Pharoh had a dream, therefore Yosef was released. Hashem governs hashgacha through natural events, but in reality everything is part of a miraculous master plan. This is a central theme of Chanukah.


On this holiday, the prayer of Modim takes on extra meaning as we thank Hashem for all the hidden miracles we experience daily. The Greeks worshipped science, we worship the omniscient Creator behind it all.  This is what the Alter of Kelm meant when he explained why Chanukah is eight days and not seven. True we had seven revealed miraculous days, but the fact that oil burns at all, is a hidden miracle too that calls for celebration.


Rav Mirsky suggests another connection.  In Al Hanissim we say, “The mighty were given into the hands of the weak, and the many into the hands of the few.”  Similarly, in Yosef’s dream, the majority deferred to the minority.  In Pharoh’s dream too, the seven thin cows swallowed up the heavy ones.  Just as the small band of Maccabees fought bravely against the Greeks, Yosef stood up alone against the idol worshipping people of Egypt to proclaim Hashem’s sovereignty.


Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz relates a third explanation.  The midrash Yalkut Shemoni explains that although the Arab caravans would normally transport foul-smelling skins, Hashem made them carry sweet-smelling spices with Yosef so he would not need to endure extra discomfort. Rav Shmuelevitz depicts this as a kiss from Hashem to Yosef.  Yosef understood through this sign that Hashem had not completely abandoned him. On Chanukah too, Hashem gifted us with the miracle of the jug of oil to show His love for us. Pure oil was not necessary because the Jews were ritually impure, but Hashem wanted to give them the joy of performing the mitzva in the best possible way.


Rav Nebenzhal explores a fourth connection.  The Gemara in Shabbat discusses Chanukah and the law that a menorah that is taller than twenty amot is invalid for the mitzvah of Chanuka menorah. This is because one cannot publicize the miracle this way. The gemara continues with an analysis of the pit into which Yosef was thrown. “V’habor reik ein bo mayim.” The well was empty of water – but it contained snakes and scorpions. Yosef spoke lashon hara about his brothers. Therefore, he was punished and thrown into a well with snakes. Yet Hashem saved him in the merit that Yosef would later publicize Hashem’s name in Egypt.


As we gaze at the small twinkling Chanukah flames, let us contemplate the secret of our nation’s immortality, our commitment to Judaism, our strength to stick to the truth despite being the minority, Hashem’s extra special love for us, and the miracle of our very existence.




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