O Chanukah, O Chanukah . . .
Yosef remembered his dreams concerning them, and said to them, "Spies!
You have come to see where the land is vulnerable!" (Bereishis 42:9)
To talk about Parashas Mikeitz or Chanukah is virtually the same
discussion. I know that on the surface it doesn't seem that way, but then
again, the story of Yosef and the message of Chanukah are identical: much
is not what it appears to be on the surface. The brothers misjudged Yosef
and the Hellenists misjudged Torah Sh'b'al Peh - the Oral Law.
In fact, you can throw Eretz Yisroel into the same category as well, as it
was misjudged by the generation of the spies. Indeed, the gematria of
Yosef and Tzion are exactly the same - 156, and the Midrash says that all
that happened to Yosef will also happen to Tzion. (Tanchuma, Vayaishev 10)
Indeed, the Arizal points out a stunning connection between the brothers
in this week's parshah and the spies hundreds of years later in the desert:
When the ten spies went out to spy the land, the souls of the ten
corresponding tribes came into them, the actual sons of Ya'akov. This is
the sod of what Yosef told them (his brothers), "You are spies" (Bereishis
42:9), to allude to a time in the future when their souls would go into
the spies. (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Ch. 36)
And, as we have pointed out before, the Hebrew word meraglim (spies), what
Yosef called his brothers actually stands for the following: m-imi Rachel
gevavtem l'Midianim Yishmaelim mechartem - from my mother Rachel you stole
me, to Midianites, Arabs you sold me (Brisi Shalom). Each letter of the
word is the first letter of these words, and thus Yosef was not merely
accusing his confused brothers, but he was also sending them a message, a
clue for the future.
He was also sending them a warning. Yosef was telling his brothers, "If
you don't fix the problem you have with me now, it will come back to haunt
us later on when real spies go out to investigate the Land of Israel. If
they can't see past the surface, they will come back with an evil report
and lose the chance to fully inherit it."
What was only theory at that time, is now historical fact. Hundreds of
years later, the spies came back with their evil report, and we are still
a wandering nation.
It was not a new mistake. It was one that goes back to the original one,
when Adam ate from the Aitz HaDa'as Tov v'Rah and brought upon mankind
banishment from Gan Aiden. Thus, after the sin, Adam hid when He heard G-
d's voice, and G-d called out to him:
"Aiyekah?" (Bereishis 3:9)
A word that has a gematria that is equal to the number of candles we light
over the eight days of Chanukah: thirty-six, because that is the number
that is associated with the Ohr HaGanuz, the spectacular light with which
G-d made Creation, gave the Torah, and will eventually end the exile and
usher in Yemos HaMoshiach. It is the light that banishes all intellectual
darkness, the light that allows man to see truth as it is, and that gives
him the capability to accept the truth and to live by it.
A light with goodness, like that of Yosef HaTzaddik, of Torah Sh'b'al Peh,
and of Eretz Yisroel, that remains below the surface and shines only for
those who pursue it:
He [G-d] made a separation in the illumination of the Light, that it
should not flow or give off light except for the righteous, whose actions
draw it down and make it shine. However, the actions of the evil block it,
leaving them in darkness, and it is this that was the hiding the Light.
(Sha'arei Leshem, p. 133)
"Don't be upset, and don't let it bother you that you sold me. Clearly
G-d sent me before you to preserve life . . ." (Bereishis 45:5)
However, we light the first candle on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev,
another number associated with the Ohr HaGanuz, and hence, Chanukah. G-d
Vayehi Ohr - Let there be light! (Bereishis 1:3)
However, the gematria of vehi is 25, and therefore, on another level the
sentence can be read: 25 is the light. No wonder the Mishkan was completed
on the 25th day of Kislev, 2449. No wonder aiyekah can also be read, aiyeh
KOH, "Where is 25?" or that there are 25 letters in the Shema.
The Shema is the creed of the Jewish people, our mission statement. It is
a reminder that being a light unto nations means making it clear, first to
ourselves, and later to the rest of the nations of the world, that G-d is
One. This means that, all that happens and all that exists has to be
attributed to G-d, not just in the minds of men, but in their hearts as
well. This is why the final status of history is defined as follows:
On that day, G-d will be One and His Name, One. (Zechariah 14:9)
The light does that. The Ohr HaGanuz has the power to eradicate doubt -
the gematria of Amalek - about G-d's existence and his involvement in
history. This is why the goal of the Ner Shel Chanukah is to proclaim the
miracle to the world that G-d is alive and well, and He is operating in
our world and in our history, and not just on occasion, but every step
along the way as well.
Thus, Yosef will tell his astonished and speechless brothers in next
"Don't be upset, and don't let it bother you that you sold me. Clearly G-d
sent me before you to preserve life . . ." (Bereishis 45:5)
Even if we intend to harm someone, G-d is involved and orchestrating the
events of history, how much more so is He there when we are trying to
further the mandate of Creation. This is the essential difference between
being a Ya'akov and a Yisroel, and how Ya'akov Avinu became Yisroel. It is
Eisavian to see the events of history as being random, without any real
meaning on a daily level. A Yisroel sees the hand of G-d in all that
happens, good or bad.
Thus, Ya'akov's name change is only acknowledged by G-d after the episode
in Shechem, and not after his battle with the Angel of Eisav. The angel
also indicated that this would be the case, telling Ya'akov:
He told him, "No longer will you be called Ya'akov, but Yisroel, because
you have struggled with [an angel of] G-d, and with men, and have
prevailed." (Bereishis 32:29)
Notice how the reference to the human struggle is mentioned last and out
of order? The struggle with the angel had just occurred, and Ya'akov had
won. However, the struggle with men was about to come up in Shechem over
the cruel violation of Ya'akov's daughter, Dina. How would Ya'akov respond
to that in an Eisav-like manner, as his sons Shimon and Levi?
Shimon and Levi are brothers; instruments of violence are their swords.
The business of murder was not really theirs; it was part of the blessing
conferred upon Eisav. It is his business and you usurped it from him.
Or, as a true Yisroel, as a true Ner Shel Chanukah?
For the Midrash says:
G-d said to Ya'akov, "For endangering yourself for a small container, I
Myself will repay your children with a small container to the
Chashmonaim!" (Midrash Tzeidah LaDerech, Maharil)
No longer will you be called Ya'akov: He strove with an angel and overcame
it; "He cried (Bais-Cof-Heh) and pleaded (vayitchanain) with him (lo)"
(Hoshea 12:5). (Rashi)
This posuk from Hoshea recounts the supernatural struggle between Ya'akov
and the angel, and that is obviously why Rashi has referred to it.
However, amazingly, the Hebrew words can be read as: On the TWENTY-FIFTH,
there was a chayn of THIRTY-SIX, which might have seemed like a strange
interpretation had the Maharil not added:
The sun shone for him (Lamed-Vav) as he passed Penuel and he was limping
on his hip. (Bereishis 32:32)
The word "lo" refers to the THIRTY-SIX candles of Chanukah. (Maharil,
Avodah Zarah 3b)
So, it seems that Ya'akov was not only part of the 36 righteous people
that greet the Presence of G-d on a daily basis (Succah 45b), but he was
also a repository of the Ohr HaGanuz.
Thus, he returned to Eretz Yisroel in his 36th year away from home.
The gematria of Leah is 36.
Rachel died at the age of 36, at the border of Eretz Yisroel.
The question may have been asked to Adam HaRishon: Aiyekah - 36? However,
it was answered by Ya'akov Avinu, who as a result, rose to the level of a
"And the house of Ya'akov shall be a fire, and the house of Yosef a
flame, and the house of Eisav will be straw." (Ovadiah 1:18)
But, there is a missing component. For, before Ya'akov even arrived at the
Yabok river he was set to combat Eisav, as Rashi explains:
When Rachel gave birth to Yosef, Ya'akov said to Lavan, "Send me and I
will go to my place and my land." (Bereishis 30:25)
After the birth of Yosef who was to be Eisav's adversary, as it
says, "And the house of Ya'akov shall be a fire, and the house of Yosef a
flame, and the house of Eisav will be straw" (Ovadiah 1:18). (Rashi)
What difference did it make if Yosef had been born or not? This difference:
36 - 25 = 11.
For, Yosef was the eleventh son born to Ya'akov. Ya'akov is 25, the light
that G-d has put into and hidden within Creation. Yosef is 11, the
awareness and projection of that light. As a result, Eisav -who is the
antithesis of that light and whose tribes just happened to be listed in
Chapter 36 of Sefer Bereishis, will be destroyed.
Then Israel will dwell in safety and great goodness, and da'as, wisdom,
purity and holiness will greatly increase and become the way of the
world . . . (Sha'arei Leshem, p. 491)
Da'as, also referred to as the eleventh sefirah, will increase the wisdom,
purity, and holiness of the world, which is another way of saying that
Eisav's way of life will be no more at the end of history, for that is
one of the main roles of Moshiach Ben Yosef.
And thus the Arizal revealed:
Since these ten colleagues are from the level of the Chassadim of the
Upper Zivug that is Yisroel with Rachel, all the secrets of Torah were
revealed and explained to them without any suffering. This will not occur
again until the Generation of Moshiach, as
mentioned in the Zohar in many places. (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Ch. 26)
Kabbalah, meaning Sod, is also Da'as:
Anyone who becomes settled through wine has the knowledge (da'as) of his
Creator . . . has the knowledge (da'as) of the Seventy Elders; wine was
given with seventy letters (Rashi: the gematria of yai'in wine, is 70),
and the mystery (of Torah) was given with seventy letters (sod mystery,
also equals 70). When wine goes in, secrets go out. (Eiruvin 65a)
After all, Yosef's other name was: Tzafnas Pane'ach, Revealer Of Hidden
Things - things that Eisav would rather hide:
. . . As it says, "Eleven days journey from Chorev to Kadesh Barnea by way
of Mt. Seir" (Devarim 1:2). It says in the Sifri: Had Israel merited the
ELEVEN days, they would have entered the Land, because the eleven days
would have overcome the ELEVEN k'lipos, which are the ELEVEN chieftains of
Eisav. (Sha'arei Leshem, p. 421)
For, as we have spoken about it before, when the negative eleven is added
to 25, it results in 14, and that is a number that is associated with the
worst of Eisav's grandsons: Amalek.
Thus, history is a really a battle over the Ohr HaGanuz, with Eisav trying
hard to smother it with his eleven curtains of impurity, and Yosef
battling back with his access to the eleventh sefirah, Da'as. Depending
upon who is winning, there is either the darkness of 14, or the light of
36, either a subjugation of nature, or the rising above it.
The daughters of Tzelofchad, the son of Cheifer, the son of Gilad, the
son of Machir, the son of Menashe, from the family of Menashe, the son of
Yosef, approached. These are the names of his daughters: Machlah, No'ah,
Chaglah, Milkah, and Tirtzah. (Bamidbar 27:1)
This is why Yosef is associated with Eretz Yisroel:
FROM THE FAMILY OF MENASHE, THE SON OF YOSEF: Why did it have to mention
this, since it already said "the son of Menashe"? To tell you that Yosef
loved the Land, as it says, "Bring my bones up" (Bereishis 50:25), and
that his 'daughters' also loved the land, as it says, "Give us our
possession" (Bamidbar 27:4). (Rashi)
The Vilna Gaon felt that the final battle against Amalek will be over
Eretz Yisroel, as learned from the way the Torah goes from Parashas Amalek
at the end of Parashas Ki Seitzei, to settling the land at the beginning
of Parashas Ki Savo.
Do you think it is a coincidence that most of the people who make aliyah,
that is, those who are not running away from another country or being
thrown out from a host nation, do so for IDEOLOGICAL reasons? They love
Eretz Yisroel, but not the same way they loved America, Canada, or
England, etc. Those countries they loved and were loyal to because of the
security they enjoyed, and also because of the materialism that was
available there. They love Eretz Yisroel because of what it means to the
It is no different with Torah Sh'b'al Peh. Lets' face it, accepting Torah
Sh'b'al Peh may make halachah clearer, but it doesn't make life any
easier. Few people accept the Oral Law because it makes their lives more
comfortable. They accept it because of what it means to G-d and the nation
as a whole, and the role it plays in the rectification of history. It is
an intellectual decision, one of da'as.
Even the lighting of the Menorah symbolizes this. The ideal location to
place the Menorah is between 3 and 10 tefachim form the ground, which is
about 12 inches to 40 inches from the ground. Being about 5 feet 9 inches,
this forces me to bend down when lighting the candles, which is not an
ideal position to be in for such an act. On windy days, I have to bend
even closer to the ground to light the candles.
Technically, we light close to the ground instead of beautifying the
miracle on top of some pedestal, like we do with Shabbos candles, to make
it clear that we do not need the light for the sake of walking down the
street, etc. This is an act of pirsumi nissah - proclaiming the miracle, a
banner made of light that says, "G-d saves His people from troubles."
When we light the Shabbos candles, we acknowledge the light that has
pushed its way into our daily reality. When we light Ner Shel Chanukah, we
acknowledge our ability to reach from our mundane reality into the hidden
spiritual reality, and to pull that light from within that reality into
our own. On Shabbos, the Ohr HaGanuz pursues us; on Chanukah, we pursue
the Ohr HaGanuz and draw it down from the upper realms into our own.
Shabbos is passive; Chanukah is active. On Shabbos we abstain from
creative activity and let the holiness of the Ohr HaGanuz envelope us, but
on Chanukah, it is the very act of lighting the Menorah that draws down
the kedushah that envelopes us.
In a sense, this was the basis of the disagreement between Yosef and his
brothers. The brothers took a more passive approach to history, a Shabbos-
type of approach, if you will. Yosef's approach was more Chanukah-
oriented, demanding that the Jewish people go out and draw the light of
the Ohr HaGanuz into reality. Neither approach is wrong, but each one has
its time and place: it can never be Shabbos during a weekday, and it
cannot be a weekday on Shabbos.
Yosef appreciated the need for the approach of his brothers; there are
times when a Jew must simply sit back and enjoy the kedushah G-d has sent
us. However, the brothers could not appreciate Yosef's approach, and even
saw it as being dangerous to the future of the Jewish nation, and
therefore took action against him to stop it.
Until the Ohr HaGanuz burst forth from within him as he revealed his real
identity with the words, "I am Yosef." Then, the combination of Yosef's
spiritual success and physical accomplishments, the way he so elegantly
synthesized both, his world and that of the Egyptians, and turned it into
the service of G-d while the the brothers floundered. Lost in Divine
Providence, they could not understand until it was revealed to them, how
central Yosef's approach was, and will continue to be to Jewish history.
"There's light in them thar hills." And Chanukah, like Yosef, reminds us
of this light and of the need to go after it in order to reveal it to the
Chanukah Samayach and Shabbat Shalom,
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.