Today, the last day of Chanukah is known as "Zot Chanukah."
This name is taken from one of the verses in the Torah reading
for the eighth day of Chanukah (Bemidbar 7:84), "Zot chanukat
ha'mizbeach . . ."/"This was the dedication of the altar . . ."
R' Zvi Elimelech of Dinov z"l (died 1841) elaborates on the
significance of that name and of the day:
The Torah reading for the eighth day of Chanukah (the maftir,
when it falls on Shabbat) begins with the sacrifice brought by
the prince of the tribe of Menashe. The twelve tribes correspond
to the twelve months, and the month that corresponds to Menashe
is Cheshvan. (This is true when one counts Nissan as the first
month and counts the tribes in the order that they traveled in
the desert and also brought their sacrifices, as related in the
Torah reading for Chanukah.)
Cheshvan is the month when, according to tradition, the Bet
Hamikdash will be rebuilt. (The first Bet Hamikdash was
dedicated in Tishrei, which corresponds to Ephraim, while the
second Bet Hamikdash was rededicated in Kislev, which corresponds
to Binyamin. Thus, all three Temples were or will be dedicated
in months that are connected with the children of Rachel, the
"Akkerret Ha'bayit"/"Mistress of the House" [i.e., the Temple].)
On the eighth day of Chanukah, when we read about the sacrifice
of Menashe's descendant, we allow ourselves to look forward to
the future redemption, which also is connected with Menashe, as
explained above. We say, "This is the dedication" - Let us soon
see the Temple's final dedication. (Bnei Yissaschar)
"And Pharaoh said to Yosef, 'I dreamt a dream, but no one
can interpret it. Now I heard it said of you that you
comprehend a dream to interpret it.'
"Vaya'an Yosef/Yosef answered Pharaoh, saying, 'That is
beyond me; it is G-d Who will respond with Pharaoh's
"Then Pharaoh said to Yosef, 'In my dream, behold! . . .'"
How did Yosef dare to interrupt Pharaoh? asks R' Moshe Yechiel
Epstein (the "Ozorover Rebbe"; died 1971). From here we see
Yosef's great humility, he answers. Yosef could not bear, even
for a moment, even under these circumstances, to have attributed
to him a talent or ability which he did not possess.
(Be'er Moshe, p. 778)
"Then Reuven said to his father, 'You may slay my two sons
if I fail to bring him [Binyamin] back to you'." (42:37)
Rashi wites: Yaakov did not accept Reuven's proposal because he
said, "This is a fool who proposes that I kill his sons. Are
they not also my sons?"
Yet, when Yehuda later proposed (43:9), "I will personally
guarantee him; from my own hand you can demand him; if I do not
bring him back to you and stand him before you, then I will have
sinned to you for all time," Yaakov agreed. Why didn't Yaakov
respond, "Are you not my son? I do not want you to lose your
share in the World-to-Come!" [This was Yehuda's proposal - that
he would not find eternal rest if he did not bring Binyamin
R' Baruch Sorotzkin z"l (1917-1979; Rosh Yeshiva of the Telshe
Yeshiva) explains: Yehuda laid everything he had on the line. He
was sure that, with G-d's help, he would return Binyamin to their
father. Reuven did not demonstrate that level of trust in
Hashem. Reuven had four sons; thus, when he offered only two of
his sons as a guarantee, it appeared that he was not sure he
would succeed in his mission.
R' Sorotzkin continues: Bitachon/trust-in-Hashem is the
absolutely indispensable prerequisite to success in serving
Hashem. The classic work Chovot Halevavot teaches that one
cannot serve Hashem if one does not have peace of mind, and one
cannot have peace of mind if he lacks bitachon, the belief that
no one can harm you in any way unless that is the will of Hashem.
(Ha'binah Ve'ha'berachah p. 95)
Chanukah vs. Purim
Why is Chanukah celebrated less festively than Purim? R'
Azaryah Figo z""l (Italy; 1579-1647) offers four answers:
(1) The more people that a miracle benefits, the greater should
be its commemoration. Achashveirosh reigned from one end of the
known world to the other. Thus, virtually all Jews lived within
his realm and were subject to Haman's conspiracy. For this
reason, too, the Purim miracle was the salvation of all of the
On the other hand, a relatively small part of the world's
Jewish population lived in Antiochus' realm. Thus, the miracle
of Chanukah, as great as it was, was less significant for the
survival of the Jewish people.
(2) Antiochus' oppression of the Jews took place (a) in Eretz
Yisrael and (b) at a time when the Bet Hamikdash stood. The
merit of the Land and the merit of the Temple undoubtedly
assisted the Jewish people in being saved. Thus, the Chanukah
miracle is less surprising and wondrous than the Purim miracle,
which took place in Persia. Indeed, the Purim miracle is
significant because it represents the fulfillment of a Biblical
verse (Vayikra 26:44), "But despite all this, when they will be
in the land of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by
them nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul
My covenant with them - for I am Hashem, their G-d."
(3) Antiochus' decrees were against the spirituality of the
Jewish people. They were, in reality, decrees against Hashem
Himself. Obviously, then, Hashem had to (so-to-speak) defend
Himself. The Chanukah miracle therefore was not surprising and
was not per se a kindness to us.
Haman's decree, on the other hand, was directed against the
Jewish people, not their religion. The kindness that Hashem
showed by saving us was therefore greater.
(4) The Chanukah miracle came about when one group of people -
the Macabees - defeated the plans of a different person -
Antiochus. This is certainly worth celebrating. The Purim
miracle, however, involved a person - Achashveirosh, who hated
the Jews as much as Haman did - acting against his own wishes
(when he agreed to Esther's request to save the Jews). This is
an unusual miracle indeed, for one of the fundamental axioms on
which our world operates is man's free will.
(Binah La'ittim: Drush Sheni Le'Chanukah)
Letters from Our Sages
The letter which follows was written by R' Simcha Zissel
Ziv z"l (the "Alter" of Kelm; died 1898), possibly to his
son. It is found in Ohr Rashaz, no. 169.
I enjoyed your letter . . .
Behold, "It is befitting that wise men acknowledge the truth."
The reason is that once something has become clear to a wise man
as if it stands before him alive, it is impossible for the wise
man not to acknowledge the truth, even if it otherwise would be
against his nature to admit that thing.
Who do we have who was more wicked than Pharaoh! Yet, when he
heard Yosef's interpretation, he was very moved by Yosef's wisdom
and he said (41:39-40), "Since G-d has informed you of all this,
there can be no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be
in charge of my palace and by your command shall my people be
sustained . . ." And so it was; whatever Yosef wanted to do he
did, just as a person does with his own property. Thus, it says
(41:55), "When all the land of Egypt hungered, the people cried
out to Pharaoh for bread. So Pharaoh said to all of Egypt, 'Go
to Yosef, whatever he tells you, you should do'." Rashi explains
that Yosef had instructed the people to circumcise themselves,
all of Egypt, and Pharaoh did not overrule Yosef. To the
contrary, he commanded them that they must accept Yosef's decree,
for it cannot be annulled.
Look to what extent wise men acknowledge the truth. Pharaoh
was a very wise man; this I learned in the Ramban. . . We see
later, when Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, he said to
them (45:9), "He [G-d] has made me father to Pharaoh, master of
his entire household." . . . Pharaoh was a very wise man and
understood a lot from a little bit, i.e., he recognized Yosef's
great wisdom and that he [Pharaoh] was insignificant compared to
Yosef's wisdom. He saw that Yosef was fit to be king, not he,
and it is the nature of wise men to acknowledge the truth, even
if it otherwise would be against their nature to admit that
thing. . .
Look at the strength of a wise man. He can acknowledge the
truth and he was not hindered by the lashon hara of the butler
[who called Yosef] (41:12), "A Hebrew youth, a slave." Even
though Yosef was a paroled prisoner and even though it was
against the laws of Egypt [to appoint a slave to high office],
Pharaoh made no investigation as to why Yosef was in prison. He
understood that Yosef was his "father" in wisdom and deserved to
the Vogel family
on the yahrzeit of
Miriam bat Yehuda Laib a"h (Mary Kalkstein)