A Superficial Light
During the festival of Chanukah we insert into the Shemoneh Esrai a special
declaration of thanks to Hashem. The main emphasis of this prayer, the "al
hanisim", is the expression of gratitude for the Maccabees' miraculous
military victory over their Syrian-Greek foes. Careful analysis of the text
of the prayer reveals phrases which require further elaboration. The text
states "You in Your great mercy stood up for them in their time of distress.
You took up their grievance, judged their claim and avenged their wrong. You
delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of
the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of
the righteous, the wanton into the hands of those who study Your Torah..."
The miracle of delivering the strong into the hands of the weak and the
many into the hands of the few is self-evident. What is the miracle
regarding delivering the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into
the hands of the righteous and the wanton into the hands of those who study
Torah? In Tehillim there is a verse that states "Tashes choshech vihi layla
bo tirmos kol chayso ya'ar" - "You make darkness and it is night in which
every forest beast stirs". The Talmud explains that "the forest beast"
referred to in the verse alludes to the forces of evil in this world. Hashem
allows forces of evil to maintain a stronghold in the world during a time of
darkness, i.e. a time devoid of spirituality.
During such a time, the scale of good and evil is tipped overwhelmingly in
favor of evil. In the description of Creation, the verse relates that the
earth was "tohu vavohu" - astonishingly empty, "vechoshech al pnei tehom" -
with darkness upon the surface of the deep. The Midrash comments that the
Torah is alluding to the four exiles to which Bnei Yisroel were subjected;
"tohu" refers to the exile in Bavel, "vohu" refers to the exile in Madai,
"choshech" refers to the exile in Yavan
(Greece) and "tehom" refers to the exile Edom.
The Greeks, who illuminated the world with new sciences and philosophies,
are characterized as "choshech" - "darkness", for all of their advancements
were bereft of spirituality and were used in an attempt to eradicate the
last vestiges of spirituality from Bnei Yisroel. It was at this time of
darkness that the forces of evil and those who represent them were at their
strongest. Therefore, we express our gratitude for the miracle that the pure
and righteous were able overcome the representatives of evil, the impure and
wicked, who were imbued with the overwhelming strength that should have made
their defeat an impossibility. It is only due to the grace of Hashem that
those who should have been vanquished were able to rise up and prevail.
All For One
"So the sons of Israel came to buy provisions among the arrivals..."
The Mishna in Megilla records the various sections of prayer which require
a "minyan" - quorum, for they are "devarim shebikedusha" - imbued with
higher levels of sanctity. The fact that these sections require a minyan
is derived from the verse "venikdashti besoch Bnei Yisroel" - "and I will be
sanctified in the midst of Bnei Yisroel". Utilizing the hermeneutic
principle, known as the "gezeira shava", a cross-indexing of similar terms
from different sources to shed light upon one another, the Talmud Bavli
derives that a minyan must be comprised of a minimum of ten people.
The aforementioned verse which discusses the sanctification of Hashem in the
midst of Bnei Yisroel uses the term "toch" - "midst". This word is also
found in connection to Korach's evil assembly, where Hashem instructs Moshe
and Aharon "hibadlu mitoch eidah horah hazos" - "separate yourselves from
amidst this evil assembly". Noting that the word "toch" is juxtaposed to the
word "eidah" - "assembly" or "congregation", the Talmud cites a third verse
which defines the number of people in an eidah. In Parshas Shelach, the
spies are referred to as an "eidah"; the verse states "ad masai lo'eidah
harah hazos" - "how long for this evil assembly". Since the verse refers to
only those spies who provoked Hashem, Calev and Yehoshua are excluded,
leaving the group as an assembly of ten. Having defined the term "eidah" as
"ten souls", "toch", which is juxtaposed to "eidah", also refers to a
minimum of ten. Therefore, the sanctification of Hashem in the "midst" of
Bnei Yisroel requires a minyan.
The Talmud Yerushalmi cites a source from this week's parsha to derive the
number of people required for a minyan. The verse relates that the ten
sons of Yisroel entered Mitzrayim "besoch haba'im" - "among the arrivals".
The term "besoch" can be cross-referenced to the verse referring to the
sanctification of Hashem. This appears to be a much simpler way of deriving
the same result concluded by the Talmud Bavli. Why does the Talmud Bavli
follow what appears to be a more convoluted derivation than that of the
Talmud Yerushalmi? Rashi cites a Midrash which says that Yaakov's sons all
entered Mitzrayim through separate gates. There is a difference of
opinion as to why the brothers took this course of action. The reason given
by Rashi is that Yaakov specifically instructed them to enter separately to
protect them from an "ayin hara" - "evil eye".
Another opinion states that the brothers, who were searching for Yoseif,
decided that the most effective and expedient manner in which to do so was
by entering the city through different entrances. A minyan is not merely
ten men praying individually. In order to achieve a minyan, there must be a
collective meeting of the minds; the people involved must be united for a
common purpose and cause. If the brothers had separated with the specific
intent to not be seen together, this cannot be the source for the
requirements of a minyan, which requires the group to be united and
cohesive. However, if the brothers had separated in order to locate Yoseif
in the most efficient manner, this is the ideal source for the requirements
of a minyan, for they shared a common purpose and worked together cohesively
to attain a unified goal. The Talmud Bavli understands that the brothers
separated because they were following the instructions of Yaakov. Therefore,
the Bavli seeks another source to prove the number required for a minyan.
The Talmud Yerushalmi, understanding that the brothers were united by the
common goal of finding Yoseif, defines the minimum number of people required
for a minyan according to this incident.
7.Bereishis Rabbah 91:6