Parshas Vayeisheiv 5757 - 1996
Outline # 13
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
Chanukah is at the essence of Judaism. Throughout the year, the verse from Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) is recited: "Hashem has redeemed Yaakov, saved him from a force mightier than he..." (Yer. 31:10; Evening prayers, birchos krias shema). Yaakov, with his wives and children, seemed no match for Esav and his approaching army of four hundred. Yet, he was "saved from a force mightier than he." The Ramban, indeed, applies this verse in his introduction to the encounter of Yaakov and Esav (last week's parsha).
Isn't this the story of Chanukah? The children of Yaakov were overwhelmed by the invading Sryian-Greek forces, the most powerful in the world at the time. But -- "Hashem has redeemed Yaakov, saved him from a force mightier than he..."
The worse conflicts are internal ones. In our parsha, the sons of Yaakov turn against their own brother, Yoseif. Eventually, "redeemed, saved from a force mightier than he..." Yoseif rises above all of Egypt, and eventually his own family. His powerful enemies subdued, Yoseif proceeds to unite his family again. Once more -- the story of Chanukah rings. The greatest struggle was the internal conflict between the Cheshmonayim (Maccabees) and the Hellenists -- Jews who would sell their own brotherhood. The Cheshmonayim had to overcome the mightiest army before they could lead their own brothers to unification.
Chanukah came at a "late" period in our history, during the Second Temple period. The Ten Lost Tribes had long been exiled, and the main tribe was Yehudah (Judah -- hence the title Yehudi, "Jew"). Notice -- the Cheshmonayim (Maccabees) were not from this tribe... They were Kohanim from the tribe of Levi. Chanukah was actually a civil war. By initiating and winning the revolution, the Cheshmonayim won the civil war, just as Yoseif won the confidence and admiration of his brothers after subduing all of Egypt.
In ancient days, signals would be sent to the diaspora indicating that the new month had been declared in Jerusalem. When this method was sabotaged by the Samaritans, the Rabbis required that agents be sent to inform the diaspora directly. The agents could only cover a certain distance by the holidays; those areas beyond this distance had to observe two days of the holidays out of doubt. (The holiday [Yom Tov] is a date of the month; in the diaspora the date was in doubt until the arrival of the agents.) The wide-ranging historical and practical significance of this procedure will be discussed at length in future editions.
In regards to Chanukah and Purim, a particular difficulty arises. Since the diaspora observed an extra day of Yom Tov (festival), why was there not an additional day of Chanukah and Purim? (The diaspora should have nine days of Chanukah and two days of Purim.) The early commentators have a special answer for Purim; our investigation for now will examine Chanukah.
Several opinions emerge. One holds that Chanukah was only to have been seven days, but became eight due to the doubt in the calendar (Arvei Nachal). Another view holds that in ancient times, nine days were observed in the diaspora (Minchas Chinuch).
The Art Scroll commentary to Mishnah Rosh Hashanah quotes a refutation to each of these answers: There should have been a difference between those who dwell in Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel), versus those who dwell in the diaspora. Yet, we find in the Talmud that there was never a difference -- all observed eight days.
To us, however, the opinion of the Minchas Chinuch is very straight-forward. It is known from the Talmud that the doubt in the calendar is only one month at a time. It is always assumed that within thirty days, the entire diaspora is aware of the date. Chanukah is unique, in that it begins late in the month (the 25th), and continues for eight days -- going into the next month! In this case, the likelihood of having to observe an extra day is so small as to be negligible. The Minchas Chinuch only meant that in theory, if one was not informed of the date, he would be obligated to observe an extra day.
Next week: a deeper view of Chanukah and the calendar...
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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Spring Valley, NY 10977
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.
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Last Revision: January 27, 1997