A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Miketz 2 Tevet 5764 December 27, 2003 Vol.13 No.16
This Shabbat, Kol Torah is celebrating its thirteenth year of publication. To honor this occasion, past Kol Torah members submitted Divrei Torah, which we are pleased to share with you. Included among those past staff members is Rabbi Michael Taubes, who was instrumental in helping to start this publication. It was his, as well as all previous and present staff members' dedication to Kol Torah, that has allowed us to grow into the publication we are today, reaching thousands of readers every week, all around the world. Yasher Koach to them and to you, the reader, for allowing us to reach this momentous occasion.
Mazal tov to us all!
The Kol Torah Staff of 5764
We would also like to give special thanks to Rabbi Darren Blackstein for his work done on behalf of Kol Torah and to Rabbi Chaim Jachter for his continual assistance in ensuring that Torah reaches thousands every week.
In This Issue:
Rabbi Michael Taubes
Rabbi Aharon Frazer
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
This issue is dedicated L’Zecher Nishmat
Joshua Bender z”l, past Editor-in-Chief of Kol Torah, whose untiring
efforts on behalf of this publication allowed Torah to reach so many
people every week.
First Things First
by Rabbi Yosef Adler
Rosh HaYeshiva of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
In order to gain a new perspective on the significance of the Mitzvah of Hadlakat Nerot, I would like to take a look at the final occasion which describes the lighting of the Menorah in the Mishkan. Parshat Terumah is devoted exclusively to a description of the Menorah of the Mishkan. The Aron, Shulchan, Menorah and Mizbachot are described. Parshat Tetzaveh teaches us how to fashion the garments the Kohanim were to wear and then the sequence of daily activities is described. What is so unusual is that sandwiched in between these themes which flow so smoothly are two verses that open Parshat Tetzaveh which decide Aharon’s role in lighting the Menorah everyday. And the question is an obvious one – if Aharon and his sons have yet to be dedicated, their garments not yet described, why begin the Parsha with the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah and thrust it in the middle of the construction of the Mishkan?
I would suggest that the Menorah lighting should be viewed as a part of the construction of the Mishkan that one is called upon to build every day of one’s life. The Menorah was selected as the symbol to convey their idea because symbolically, it represents the past presence of the Divine Shechinah (see the Gemara in Shabbat “Vechi Leorah Hu Tzarich – Ela Edut Sheshechina Shorah Beinehem”).
This will explain why the Chachamim decided that the first act of dedicating the Mikdash, having defeated the Greeks, would be the rebuilding of the Menorah. After all, the lighting of the Menorah is not the only activity that had ceased as a result of the torment of the Yevanim. There were no Korbanot, no incense and no Menorah. They selected the Menorah because of its additional symbol that it represents the daily act of building and rekindling our commitment on a daily basis. This idea is so relevant to us as well as we often sit back and try to rest on our laurels and previous accomplishments. What we need to remember is that true growth can often take place if one recognizes the need to build and grow on a daily basis. Then we, too, will be privileged to witness the light of the Menorah in the Mikdash highlighting our relationship with God.
Reciting Hanerot Hallalu
by Rabbi Michael Taubes
Kol Torah Faculty Advisor, Volumes 1-5
After outlining the Berachot recited upon lighting the Chanukah candles, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 676:4) states that following the lighting, one recites a paragraph beginning with the words “Hanerot Hallalu…,” “These candles…” This practice is initially described in a Beraita in Masechet Soferim (20:6) where the entire text of the paragraph is presented; the Rosh in Shabbat (2:8) quotes this Beraita, including the text, albeit with some minor alterations, and this is presumably the text referred to by the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.). The Taz (676:5) quotes from the Maharshal (see Teshuvot Maharshal Siman 85) that this paragraph contains a total of 36 words besides the opening two words “Hanerot Hallalu;” since the total number of candles that any one person lights for the Mitzvah through the course of Chanukah (presuming that one lights one candle the first night, two the second night and so on up to eight on the eighth night) is 36, this paragraph thus hints at the idea that “Hanerot Hallalu,” “these candles,” are 36. The Magen Avraham (676:3) quotes this as well, adding that the two words “Hanerot Hallalu” themselves are comprised, in Hebrew, of eight letters, alluding to the eight days of Chanukah. The Mishnah Berurah (676:8) cites this as well, noting in the Shaar HaTziyun (676:13), though, that an adjustment needs to be made to the text of the paragraph regarding one word so that the calculation will indeed work precisely. The Machatzit HaShekel (676:3) also mentions this adjustment, and then adds that the two words “Hanerot Hallalu” are discounted from the calculation when they appear a second time later in the paragraph as well, just as they are when they appear at the start of the paragraph, and this indeed allows the total of number of words to add up to 36. The Kaf HaChaim (676:28) also quotes this latter point, but then produces an alternative adjustment to the text which likewise results in this paragraph containing exactly 36 words.
In spite of all this maneuvering, however, the Aruch HaShulchan (676:8) admits that he is unable to make the numbers work out so that the text of Hanerot Hallalu will have exactly the same number of words as there are candles used for Chanukah. This would certainly seem to be the case regarding the texts found in the standard Siddurim used today, whether Nusach Ashkenaz or Nusach Sepharad, according to each of which there are several more than 36 words in Hanerot Hallalu, although the precise texts vary. Likewise, the Siddurim which follow Nusach HaAri and those that follow Nusach HaGra also do not print texts that contain exactly 36 words. In spite of the declaration of the Maharshal in his aforementioned Teshuvah that the text should not be tampered with or altered at all because it must have the correct number of words, it seems that only some of the Siddurim used by the Sephardim of the Eidot HaMizrach actually do present versions of this paragraph that have exactly 36 words.
The question is, then, what is the real purpose or meaning behind the recitation of Hanerot Hallalu? There clearly must be something more to it than some numerical connection, a seemingly somewhat loose connection, between the length of the text and the total number of candles lit over the course of Chanukah. Although the Rambam, for one, actually makes no mention of Hanerot Hallalu at all, the custom to recite this paragraph is a very widespread and long-standing one, and there must be something more significant behind it.
Perhaps it may be suggested that the recitation of Hanerot Hallalu relates directly to the well known Chanukah requirement of Pirsumei Nisa, publicizing the miracle, as indeed mentioned by the Aruch HaShulchan (ibid.). This requirement plays a role in a number of Halachot of Chanukah, including the matters of where to light the Chanukah candles (see Rashi to Shabbat 21b, s.v. MiBachutz), the maximum and minimum height off the ground where the candles may be positioned (see Rosh to Shabbat 2:5 and Rashi to Shabbat 22a, s.v. Pesulah), when the candles should be lit (see Chidushei HaRashba to Shabbat 21b, s.v. Ha D’Amrinan), the number of candles that should be lit per night per household (see Tosafot to Shabbat 21b, s.v. VeHaMehadrin, and the analysis of the Steipler Gaon in his Kehillot Yaakov on Shabbat, Siman 17), and the significance of the Mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles as compared to other Mitzvot (see the Gemara in Shabbat 23b and Shulchan Aruch O.C. 678:1). It is clear from a thorough examination of the above sources, among others, that the notion of Pirsumei Nisa is not something extraneous to the Mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles, like a kind of icing on the cake, but is in fact an integral and perhaps indispensable part of it. Indeed, the Rambam states openly in introducing the laws of Chanukah (Hilchot Chanukah 3:3, in the standard editions), that the purpose of lighting the candles each of the eight nights of the holiday is to demonstrably reveal the miracle. Similarly, in concluding these laws, the Rambam writes (Hilchot Chanukah 4:12) that the Mitzvah of Chanukah candles is a very precious one and that one must be careful to fulfill it properly in order to make the miracle known. It is thus clear that the actual lighting of the Chanukah candles must in some way serve to publicize the miracle.
In view of the above, it is possible to posit that the recitation of HaNerot Hallalu is the verbal component of this act of publicizing the Chanukah miracle and may thus actually be what makes, or helps make, the very lighting of the candles into an activity that in fact fulfills the requirement of Pirsumei Nisa. In other words, there is nothing inherent in the act of lighting candles which automatically defines that act as representing the publicizing of a miracle; indeed, prior to the advent of electricity, people lit candles in their homes every night of the year in order to illuminate the house, just as we today turn on the electric lights in our homes every night. In order, then, to help transform that mundane act of lighting candles into something which carries with it Halachic import as an act which publicizes the miracle of Chanukah, some type of verbal declaration may be needed and reciting Hanerot Hallalu takes care of that need. Moreover, it stands to reason that if one wishes to properly publicize something, he must certainly be clear as to exactly what he is publicizing, and he must obviously make that which he is publicizing clear to others. The recitation of Hanerot Hallalu accomplishes both of those objectives: it reminds the person lighting the candles exactly what he is doing and it also helps make a clear presentation to others. When one recites Hanerot Hallalu upon lighting the Chanukah candles, one is enhancing the Mitzvah by publicizing the Chanukah miracle in the optimal fashion.
There is actually a clear Halachic precedent for this idea of a verbal explanation accompanying the act of a Mitzvah, thereby enhancing its fulfillment. The Mishnah in Pesachim (116a-116b), famous because of its inclusion in the Pesach Haggadah, states that one who fails on Pesach night to talk about Pesach, Matzah, and Maror does not fulfill his obligation. Although the Rambam (Hilchot Chametz U’Matzah 7:5) and some other Rishonim (see Meiri to Pesachim 116a, s.v. Rabban Gamliel) understand that the “obligation” referred to there is the Mitzvah to relate the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim. On the other hand, certain Rishonim maintain that the “obligation” referred to is in fact the Mitzvah of eating the Pesach, the Matzah, and Maror. These Rishonim then debate what is meant by one not fulfilling his obligation. Some take the term literally and say that although one may have eaten the Peasach, the Matzah, and the Maror he has still not discharged his obligation at all unless the verbal declaration outlined by that Mishnah in Pesachim (ibid.) accompanies the eating (see Orchot Chaim, Hilchot Leil Pesach Siman 38, s.v. Rabban Gamliel, and Tosafot in Pesachim 116a, s.v. VaAmartem, as explained by Bikkurei Yaakov to O.C. 625:3). Others disagree to an extent, saying that the intent of this ruling is that one who does not discuss Pesach, Matzah, and Maror does not fulfill his obligation to eat these items properly, but he is still considered to have fulfilled the Mitzvah of eating, albeit not fully (see Ran in Pesachim, 25b in the pagination of the Rif, s.v. Kol, and Ritva, Biur HaHaggadah, s.v. Rabban Gamliel.) In either case, though, what emerges here is that a verbal explanation of the significance of and the reasoning behind an action that one is doing as a Mitzvah is necessary, or at least preferred, for the complete and optimal fulfillment of that Mitzvah.
It should be pointed out that regarding Pesach as well, the idea of Pirsumei Nisa plays a role, and indeed the actual Pasuk in the Torah which mandates an oral declaration concerning Pesach night (Shemot 12; 27) may actually be the very source for the whole concept of Pirsumei Nisa. Perhaps it may be added that because eating too is a commonplace activity, something must be done to demonstrably elevate the act of eating the Pesach, the Matzah, and the Maror into an act with Halachic import publicizing the miracle of Pesach, hence the requirement for some kind of oral statement. In an earlier Gemara in Pesachim (30b), among other places, we are told that whenever the Rabbanan instituted a ruling, they modeled it after something in the Torah. It may well be, therefore, that just as when it comes to Pesach, which of course is from the Torah, we find that the Mitzvot of the holiday should be performed along with an oral description of what they’re all about, so too when the Rabbanan instituted Chanukah, they at least recommended that the Mitzvah of the holiday, namely, lighting the candles, be performed along with an oral description of what that Mitzvah is all about, and that is what is accomplished by the recitation of Hanerot Hallalu. Keeping in mind this approach to the significance of Hanerot Hallalu, which views its recitation as an expression of the Pirsumei Nisa that is so central to the Mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles, we can perhaps understand why the original Beraita in Masechet Soferim (ibid.) seems to say that Hanerot Hallalu is recited in between the two Berachot over the candles (Lehadlik Neir and She’Asah Nissim), as noted by the Korban Netanel in his commentary on the Rosh in Shabbat cited above (ibid., Ot 8). Evidently, it is an important part of the Mitzvah and not something extraneous that is merely “nice,” and it is thus not an interruption in the middle of the Berachot. Although this is not the standard practice, as noted by the Korban Netanel (ibid.), the Pri Chadash (676:4), the Aruch HaShulchan (676:5) and others, the Maharshal does write in his aforementioned Teshuvah (ibid.) that Hanerot Hallalu should be recited immediately after lighting the first candle, while engaged in lighting the rest. Though the Shulchan Aruch (676:4) is not non-committal, the Taz (676:5), the Magen Avraham (676:3), the Aruch HaShulchan (676:8) and others all rule accordingly. It is clear from these authorities, then, that this recitation does not constitute an interruption in the performance of the Mitzvah, but seems to be, as suggested above, a major part of it. The Pri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav 676:5), however, does note that some have the custom to recite Hanerot Hallalu only after lighting all the candles, and the Mishnah Berurah (676:8) and the Kaf HaChaim (676:28) acknowledge that this custom is acceptable as well.
Finally, this understanding of Hanerot Hallalu as a part of the Mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles based on its character as a means to fulfill Pirsumei Nisa by sharing some of the story behind the Mitzvah may also help solve some puzzling presentations in both the Gemara in Shabbat (21b) and in the Rambam (Hilchot Chanukah 3:1-2). The Gemara there asks “Mai Chanukah,” meaning, in effect, what is this holiday all about, and then proceeds to briefly summarize the familiar historical events that took place which eventually resulted in the establishment of Chanukah. While the inclusion of this information in the Gemara is understandable, its placement is not. Rather than being found at the beginning of the Gemara’s deliberations about Chanukah, as a kind of introduction, which would seem to be appropriate, it is instead quoted right in the middle of them after the recording of numerous Halachic details and before others; it appears to be quite out of place. The answer, though, may be that the story of Chanukah in terms of its historical background is not merely introductory material, but is rather part and parcel of the laws of Chanukah. In order to correctly observe the laws of Chanukah, including the requirement to properly publicize the miracle, one must be familiar with the story and be able to share it with others; one must know what it is that one is publicizing (see Rashi there, s.v. Mai Chanukah). Being aware of the story itself is thus part of the laws of Chanukah, and the story consequently appears specifically among those laws.
For this same reason, perhaps, the Rambam (ibid.) begins his discussion of Hilchot Chanukah by describing the historical background of the holiday, something he does not do regarding other holidays or other Mitzvot, which one to ask why he does it here. Again, the answer may be that specifically with regards to Chanukah, knowledge of the story and the historical background is part of the requirement of Pirsumei Nisa, which is central to the Mitzvah of lighting the candles and in the absence of any other text, the Rambam includes the story as part of the laws of Chanukah. Based on all of the above, we should all be very careful when reciting Hanerot Hallalu and recognize that by so doing we are enhancing the Mitzvah of lighting the candles by engaging as well in a verbal form of Pirsumei Nisa at the same time, thereby highlighting a major theme of Chanukah.
by Yigal Marcus
From the First Issue of Kol Torah
When a Jew is asked, “How are you?” it is customary to answer, “Baruch Hashem,” “Thank God.” But does this answer the question? Obviously, it doesn’t, so why answer the question with this response? We can learn the reason for this from this week’s Parsha, Parshat Mikeitz.
The Parsha opens with the incident of Pharaoh dreaming about the seven fat cows and the seven emaciated cows. Because Pharaoh was perplexed by the dream, he began to look for someone who could interpret it. It is brought to his attention that Yosef, a criminal in jail, has the ability to interpret dreams. Pharaoh calls Yosef to his palace to interpret his dream, and we see from the Pesukim throughout this event and from Yosef’s language with Pharaoh that he constantly reminded Pharaoh that everything was in Hashem’s hands: “Biladai, Elokim Yaaneh Et Shlom Paroh.
This is the first time that Pharaoh is directly exposed to monotheistic beliefs. Yosef constantly reminds Pharaoh of Hashem’s omnipotence and awesomeness. Upon seeing through Yosef’s speech that he was truly a man of God, and, therefore, a man of wisdom, Pharaoh appoints Yosef to the second highest position in the Egyptian government. Ultimately, because of this, Yosef shapes the future of Klal Yisrael.
We can learn from this that one’s speech – which should always convey one’s belief in God, can shape the future of all of Klal Yisrael. When someone asks how you are doing, you should always answer “Baruch Hashem,” to show others your true belief in God.
by Rabbi Aharon Frazer
Kol Torah Staff, Class of '94
In Parshat Vayeshev, Yosef and his brothers begin a conflict that will not be fully resolved until the end of Parshat Vayechi. While this struggle is fascinating when viewed independently, it gains additional significance when viewed within the broader context of two other sibling rivalries presented in the book of Bereshit.
The first two brothers we meet in this sefer are Kayin and Hevel. The Torah does not tell us a great deal about either of these or about the factors that led to their conflict. What we are told is that they had very different occupations – Hevel was a shepherd, and Kayin a farmer. They each brought sacrifices, and Hevel’s was more eagerly received. Thereupon, Kayin murdered Hevel.
What is the connection between the occupations and the sacrifices? Each brother sacrificed from that which he worked to create – Kayin, from his fruits, and Hevel, from his animals. Each was submitting the sum total of his efforts for Hashem’s approval. By accepting Hevel’s sacrifice, then, Hashem may have been validating his whole lifestyle and dismissing Kayin’s. Hevel and his approach may have been “chosen” over Kayin in a sweeping way. Among other things, this might have had ramifications as to who was the true successor to Adam. Kayin’s violent response is somewhat easier to understand if we assume that he was not merely snubbed on an isolated occasion but demoted at a moment of truth that defined his whole identity. Another pair of brothers who bear a marked significance to Kayin and Hevel is Yaakov and Esav. As in the case of Kayin and Hevel, the Torah notes that Yaakov and Esav had different professions – Esav was a hunter, and Yaakov was “Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim,” a simple man who dwelled in tents. While many of us are familiar with the midrashic association of Yoshev Ohalim with Torah study, one might suggest another interpretation based on a parallel usage of this phrase. In Parshat Bereshit (4:20), we are told that Yaval was “Avi Yoshev Ohel Umikneh,” the father of all who dwelled in tents and with flocks. Yoshev Ohalim, then, may simply refer to a shepherd. This certainly fits in the context of Yaakov and Esav – it makes sense for the Torah to tell us Yaakov’s profession in the same verse as we are told Esav’s. Based on this interpretation, we have in Yaakov and Esav a second pair of brothers with different professions. Like Kayin and Hevel, they collide over an issue of Divine recognition; it is the theft of Yitzchak’s blessing that ultimately brings Esav’s fury to a head. As in Kayin and Hevel’s story, the blessing is linked to the profession; the Torah tells us that Yitzchak loved Esav and intended to bless him “Ki Tzayid Befiv,” because he was a hunter. This theme is reiterated later when Yitzchak insists that Esav must hunt for him and bring him food in order to receive the blessing. The story thus interpreted is in some sense a rerun of Kayin and Hevel, wherein the issue of whose life path will be chosen brings about another potentially lethal confrontation. However, this time the ending is somewhat different. Yaakov flees, and the impending disaster is averted. Still, The descendants of Yaakov and Esav remain bitter opponents throughout history.
Finally, when we consider Yosef and his brothers, we find a third story that follows a very similar pattern. Yosef’s brothers are shepherds; they tend to his father’s sheep in Dotan. He apparently is not a shepherd, as he is not with them at the time. In his presentation of a dream involving sheaves, he intimates that he is or plans to be a farmer, deviating from the
profession of the rest of his brothers. His prophetic dreams seem to imply some sort of Divine recognition of his special status, of a distinction between him and his brothers. In the wake of this, his brothers plot to kill him, hoping to prevent his dreams of being chosen over them from being realized, “Venir'eh Ma Yihyu Chalomotav”. Here, as in the Yaakov and Esav story, the murder is not ultimately carried out, and the tragedy is averted at the last minute. However, Yosef and his brothers achieve a further level of conciliation that eludes not only Kayin and Hevel, but Yaakov and Esav as well. Rather than remaining eternal adversaries, Yosef and his brothers become allies. This does not become completely clear until the very end of the book of Bereshit. Two events at the end of Yosef’s life underscore the extent of the peacemaking. First, Yosef is adamant that he bears no malice against his brothers; though he is now a very powerful man, he promises that he will not take any action against them despite what they did to him. Second, he requests that their descendants take his bones to be buried with them in Israel, that they include him as a member of their people. Yosef and his brothers, then, represent the final resolution of this ongoing conflict, in which the rival brothers ultimately unite to form one nation. What is most interesting about these stories is that although each can be taken alone, we cannot appreciate any of them fully without viewing them as a single ongoing story. It is only when they are taken together that we get a sense of the progress that is made from the time of Kayin and Hevel to the time of Yosef and his brothers. The message seems to be that tension between brothers will always exist-the question is how we will handle it. Very often, we expect growth to be simple and achievements to happen immediately. We live in a time of short attention spans, fast food, and sound bites. This orientation also underlies an impatient spiritual climate, where we expect an Israel Experience to change us instantly and permanently, where everything must materialize bimhera biyamenu and Mashiach must come Now. One lesson we can take from Sefer Breshit is that reality is more complicated than that. Rarely do we get a full sense of growth without looking at a large increment of time, at a span of several time periods and generations. Substantive progress is rarely achieved in a matter of days. It is only through revisiting the same challenge time after time that we ultimately achieve success.
As Kol Torah celebrates its Bar Mitzvah issue, this message seems appropriate. When my friends and I took over the Kol Torah editorship more than 10 years ago, we had no notion of where Kol Torah would go or where it would take us. Looking back after many years, I can say that many wonderful and unforeseeable developments have ensued. I am grateful to TABC and Kol Torah for teaching me to learn and write about the Parshat HaShavua, something that I continue to do regularly. I have also retained many of the friends that I made working on Kol Torah, and I am very thankful for that as well.
Since my departure, Kol Torah seems to have flourished under several generations of TABC students and staff. Of course, each Devar Torah and each issue is wonderful when read in its own right, but it is only when we look at all of these generations, what they gave to Kol Torah and what they took from it and how they (and it) progressed, that we can fully appreciate the contribution that it has made to students and to the community. I wish Kol Torah many more years of continued growth and success.
You Can – The Lesson of the Chashmonaim
by Mordy Friedman
Editor-In-Chief of Kol Torah, Class of '95
Upon opening the Rambam’s Hilchot Chanukah, one cannot help but notice something very strange. One would expect the Rambam to begin, as he usually does, with the basic laws pertaining to the holiday stating that the holiday of Chanukah is of Rabbinic origin and the main Mitzvah is the lighting of candles and then elaborating on the laws in fuller detail in the following chapters. However, Hilchot Chanukah begins in a way unique and completely different than any other section of the Rambam.
The Rambam opens Hilchot Chanukah with a long historical description of the history of the Second Temple period leading up to the rebellion of the Chashmonaim. He includes all the historical details- the Hellenistic background, the persecutions, the rebellion of the Chashmonaim, and finally the miracle of the oil. Only after this background does the Rambam do what we would expect him to do and discuss the Halachot of lighting the candles.
What is going on? The Rambam’s Mishnah Torah is a compendium of laws, a book designed to be a handbook of practical Halacha; it is not a storybook. What place do tales of Jewish history have in a law book?
This question is strengthened by a glance at other holidays that also have a story behind them, namely, Pesach, Succot, Tisha B’av and Purim. In stark contrast to the holiday of Chanukah, when these Chagim and their laws are presented by the Rambam, none of them are introduced by telling the story of the holiday. When the Rambam begins Hilchot Pesach, he makes no mention of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, but simply starts by describing the punishment of Karet (premature death). Similarly, the beginning of Hilchot Purim says nothing about the story of Megillat Esther; it begins with a discussion of the Rabbinic commandment to read the Megillah and the people included in the Mitzvah. What is different about Hilchot Chanukah that the Rambam saw fit to begin them with the Chanukah story?
Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik, as reported by Rav Aharon Rakeffet, answered that when the Rambam opens Hilchot Chanukah by telling us the story of Chanukah, he is not simply telling us the story for our reading pleasure. Rather, he is actually teaching us a very important Halacha. He is telling us that when a Jew has to act, he or she has to do everything possible.
This message emerges from every aspect of the Chashmonaim story: First, the Chashmonaim, as we say in the prayer of Al Hanisim, fought a war of “few against many,” were the “weak against the strong,” etc. Yet they did not run away in fear, but rather fought and battled bravely, doing everything humanly possible to defeat their enemies despite the odds. Second, after the war, when the Chashmonaim returned to the Mikdash, they searched frantically to find pure oil. They refused to compromise and use less-than-ideal oil, but they did everything humanly possible to find pure oil. Finally, even once they had found a small container of oil, they knew that it would only last for a short time, so they immediately sent out messengers to the Galil, where the best olive oil is made to supply themselves with more oil. Unlike today, however, where a trip to the Galil from Jerusalem is a two hour bus ride; without modern transportation, it took three days for the messengers to reach the Galil and three days to get back. These six days plus Shabbat makes it seven days in total for the oil to get back to the Mikdash (as per R. Nissim). In short, to get new oil, they also did all that they humanly could.
In all of these cases, the Chashmonaim did anything and everything humanly possible. What happened in the end? When the Chashmonaim did all they could, God responded and helped them. When they fought their hardest against the enemies, God helped them be victorious. When they searched frantically for pure oil, they found oil. And when they ran out of oil, God performed a miracle that the oil that they had found was enough to last them exactly until new oil was brought in.
The Rambam is telling us that this, too, is a Halacha, and therefore belongs at the opening of his Hilchot Chanukah. A Jew must do what he or she can, must exert him- or herself to the fullest, even under the most hopeless, helpless and bleak situations. When a Jew tries his or her hardest and reaches the point at which he or she cannot go any further, when nothing more is humanly possible – only then God will intervene and do the rest. This is the Halacha – Jews must do their best, must strive 110%, for only at that point, when human effort can go no further, will God step in and do the rest.
We each have our own challenges and obstacles, both on a personal level and on a national level, and many of them often seem hopeless and impossible to overcome. The lesson we must take from the Chashmonaim is that we are commanded to try our hardest, we must put our every last effort into facing, fighting and confronting those challenges. Hopefully, just as God responded to the fullest efforts of the Chashmonaim, He will respond to ours, as well.
Fighting Hellenism Once Again
by Ezra Frazer
Kol Torah Staff, Class of ‘96
Following Yosef’s sale to Egypt, he faces the daunting challenge of maintaining the values which he acquired in Yaakov’s home while living in an alien environment. The Torah attests to the strong relationship he has with God when he first arrives in Egypt. Throughout Chapter 39, as the Torah describes how God assured Yosef’s successes - first in Potiphar’s house and later in prison - it refers to God by the Tetragrammaton (Shem Havaya). By using God’s more personal name, the Torah implies an intimate relationship between Him and Yosef during this period. By contrast, when Yosef speaks to Potiphar’s wife and to Paroh’s officers in prison, he refers to God by His more universal name, Elokim (39:9), presumably because these Egyptians would not have understood the Tetragrammaton. Interestingly, though, starting when Yosef enters prison, the Tetragrammaton disappears completely from Bereshit (except for 49:18, where Yaakov prophesies about the distant future). Besides Yosef’s conversations with Egyptians, where Elokim is clearly the more appropriate name, the name Elokim is also used when Yosef names his children (41:51-52), when Yosef’s brothers converse among themselves (42:28), when Yosef reveals himself to his brothers (45:5-9), and even when God Himself appears to Yaakov (46:2-3)!
Perhaps this phenomenon reflects the tension in Yosef’s experience in Egypt. On the one hand, Yosef does a remarkable job of staying faithful to God despite the powerful temptations that arise. From the incident with Potiphar’s wife to the countless opportunities he has to take credit for his own accomplishments, rather than attributing them to God, Yosef does not stop mentioning God’s name. At the same time, however, Yosef cannot help the fact that his immersion within Egyptian high society erodes some of the intimacy of his relationship with God. Although God clearly remains a factor in Yosef’s life, He is somewhat more withdrawn, a guiding force in Yosef’s life Who nevertheless feels more distant than He did in Yaakov’s home in Eretz Yisrael. Over time, this affects the way in which Yosef refers to God even when he is not speaking to Egyptians. It even impacts the relationship between God and Yaakov’s family, as their fate becomes increasingly dependent upon Yosef and Egypt.
Remarkably, though, Yosef never allows this situation to impact him to the point where God might disappear from his life. Yosef leaves this world with the message that God (still called Elokim) will eventually return Yaakov’s family to the land which He promised their forefathers (50:24).
Jews in contemporary America can learn a lot from Yosef. We have been very successful in general American society, and that necessarily means that this society impacts our culture and style of speech. At the same time, we dare not let this society impact us so strongly as to distort our core values or our commitment to serving God. Particularly at this time of year, as we celebrate the Maccabees victory over Hellenism, our environment is inundated with messages about the “holiday season” of another religion. We must not allow ourselves to get sucked into this culture; rather, we must continue to hope that we will soon return to the land which God promised our forefathers, where we will be able to experience a more intimate relationship with Him.
(See Amos Chacham’s Introduction to the Daat Mikra commentary on Shemot, p. 25-26, for a different perspective on the disappearance of the Tetragrammaton in the latter part of Bereshit.)
by Danny Gilbert
Kol Torah Staff, Class of '96
“Mitzvat Ner Chanukah Mitzvah Chaviva He Ad Meod,” “The Mitzvah of kindling Chanukah candles is especially beloved,” (Rambam, Hilchos Chanukah 4:12). Why does the Rambam single out Ner Chanukah over all other Mitzvot Derabbanan as being “especially beloved”?
Rav Eliezer Friedman, in his Sefer Simchas Yechezkel, suggests that at the crux of Mitzvat Ner Chanukah is the fact that they sought after Shemen Tahor (pure olive oil) when they did not need to. Chazal state that under the circumstances of the time, they could have lit the menorah with Shemen Tamei (impure oil). Nevertheless, they tapped into a hidden light of inspiration, and in the interest of fulfilling the mitzvah in the highest form they went beyond what was minimally required of them.
The difference between pure and impure oil is not physical. No one but Hashem can discern the spiritual state of oil. There could be no selfish motivation for searching to uncover pure oil, as there may have been to procure “clean” oil over “dirty.” These holy seekers were completely focused on doing the will of Hashem to the best of their ability, and with this they demonstrated that they valued spiritual enterprise.
When a person toils in fulfillment of the Mitzvot, even though with minimal effort he or she would be exempt from further action, but instead puts energy into carrying out the mitzvah in the highest form, he demonstrates spiritual depth. He is humbled before Hashem, since he places his desire to fulfill Hashem’s will before his own desires.
It makes sense for those who tapped into that which is Ganuz, or hidden within them, by toiling to seek out pure oil solely for the sake of Hashem, to merit finding the hidden vessel. They showed that hidden spiritual pursuits are of value to them, so they were rewarded with something hidden. A dynamic flow of inspiration such as this is present in all aspects of life. To the degree that we invest energy into our soul, Hashem injects inspiration into our lives.
The Chassidic master Shmuel of Sochochov, in his Sefer Shem Mishmuel, uses this theme of spiritual dynamics to explain Chochmat Hashem (wisdom of God) and how one acquires it. He states the degree to which one makes Hashem’s wisdom top priority is the degree to which he will see himself inspired with Chochmat Hashem.
The reason Ner Chanukah is singled out is that it crystallizes the essence of serving Hashem- delving into the heart of the Mitzvot to understand their Penimiut (spiritual depth) and tapping into our hidden light to fulfill the will of Hashem. This makes one eligible to tap into the splendor of Hashem’s hidden light.
by Chaim Sussman
Kol Torah Staff, Class of '97
Why would Yosef act so harshly towards his brothers? He is often referred to as Yosef HaTzadik; certainly a Tzadik wouldn’t cause so much suffering to his brothers, no matter how much he had been harmed by them. Rather, Yosef wanted to help his brothers by punishing them Middah Kineged Middah for the way they had treated them, thus allowing them to do a full Teshuva.
In last week’s Parsha, Perek 37 Pasuk 4, it says; “Vilo Yachlu Dabro Leshalom,” “the brothers could not speak peacefully with Yosef.” On the other hand, in this week’s Parsha we see that, “Vayedaber Itam kashot,” Yosef spoke harshly with his brothers when they came to Egypt looking for food. In last week’s Parsha, the brothers accused Yosef of slandering them, which destroyed their reputations. For this crime, the brothers felt that they would have to punish him by death. However, in this week’s Parsha, Yosef accused the brothers of being spies when they arrived in Egypt for food, and being accused of espionage is a crime punishable by death.
In last week’s Parsha, the brothers threw Yosef into a pit with snakes and scorpions, and Shimon had been the brother who had tormented Yosef the most during the ordeal. Then, in this week’s Parsha, Yosef put his brothers in prison for 3 days, but kept Shimon in jail until the brothers would return to Egypt with Binyamin. In last week’s Parsha, Yosef was kidnapped by his brothers and sold as a slave. Therefore, when Yosef placed the money in the brothers’ backpacks in this week’s Parsha, the brothers were understandably worried that this would lead to their arrest, and they would be sold into slavery. Later on, Yosef also framed Binyamin by placing the goblet in his bag. This was the big test that Yosef had for his brothers for two reasons. First, he wanted to test the brothers to see if this was really Binyamin. Yosef had not seen his brother since he was a little boy, and was worried that maybe the brothers had taken some slave and disguised him as their younger brother. If this had been the case, then they would not have protested Binyamin’s arrest. Secondly, and more importantly, Yosef wanted to test his brothers to see if they still had animosity towards Rachel’s children. By not fighting on Binyamin’s behalf, they would in a sense be selling a second son of Rachel into slavery.
The Midrash tells us that at first the brothers taunted Binyamin when they saw the goblet in his bag, saying to him, “Thief! Son of a thieving woman!” This was of course a reference to his mother who stole Lavan’s idols. Binyamin replied that they were thieves as they had sold their own brother into slavery. The Beit Halevi suggests that Binyamin was implying that the brothers had actually planted the goblet in his bag in order to rid themselves of Rachel’s other son. But, as we see from Yehudah’s powerful speech towards Yosef, where he pleads for Binyamin’s life, the brothers certainly had learned from their mistake. They had done as Yosef had hoped, achieving the full level of Teshuvah.
The Daughter of
by David Gertler
Editor-In-Chief of Kol Torah, Class of '01
The question has been asked: Why are there no women in the list of the seventy people who went down to Egypt? If the presumption were correct, the answer would be that it is a count of men or of heads of household. The question is made much more difficult in that there are two women counted. The question now is: Why these two?
It would not be difficult to find a reason for Dinah, the daughter of Yaakov, to be listed in the seventy because we already know her. Perhaps, Dinah is specifically mentioned to show that she was not excommunicated after she was violated (something that may have been common practice, in those days). The puzzle that begs a solution is the inclusion of Serach Bat Asher. Serach is not mentioned anywhere with a description or personality. She is mentioned only as a name.
The Midrashim, however, go to great lengths to describe Serach as someone who was given extreme longevity for having done a single virtuous deed as a child. The Midrash Hagadol, which is quoted in the Targum Yonatan to Bereishit 46:17, claims that it was Serach who informed Yaakov that Yosef was alive by singing “Od Yosef Chai.” In addition, the Midrash Rabbah (Shemot Rabbah 5:13) says that she was still alive around the time of Yetziat Mitzrayim. It was she who verified that Moshe was the appointed savior, and it was she who showed Moshe where to find Yosef's bones. There are other Midrashim that speak of Serach, including one that claims that she was alive in the time of David (Bereshit Rabbah 94:9). However, the Midrashim cannot be attempting to explain why Serach's name is made known to us because Midrashim are drawn from a textual indication. These Midrashim seem unrelated to the mention of Serach's name, and they must be using a different Pasuk as a starting point for these stories.
As we mentioned, little is known of Serach. Even of her father, Asher, not much is known. All we really know about Asher is what is hinted to us from what others say about him. The first such mention is Asher's naming, when Leah declares, “Happy am I, for the daughters shall call me happy.” Very little can be learned on this Pasuk alone, but we should keep in mind that Leah claims that her happiness is based on the perception of other people.
Our second clue can come from Yaakov's Brachah to Asher. “Out of Asher: His bread will be fat [or oily], and he will yield royal dainties,” (Bereshit 49:20). There are a few important points. Firstly, while it does say that Asher will have rich bread, it is not for his personal benefit. Rather, his riches are for the purpose of giving them to royalty. This can be seen as a connection to the naming of Asher, where the happiness is what is perceived by others. Similarly, we can understand that it is not Asher that is being blessed but an outgrowth. (Either will help us to understand a possible explanation for the Brachah starting, “From Asher,” and not “Asher.” The other Brachot in this section all begin with the name of the son being addressed.)
Our third hint to the origin of Serach and the essence of Asher comes from Moshe. “Asher is more blessed than sons. He shall be desired by his brothers, and he shall dip his foot in oil” (Devarim 33:24): (The translation is original to this author but it is true to the text.) We also cannot deny that we hope to find references to women based on Serach's appearing in the text in a number of places. The word used here for desired is “Retzui,” which, in other places, is used specifically regarding women. We also now have two references to oil. This could either be used to refer to women, who would beautify themselves with oil. Or it could be meant to refer to kings (as we do have the earlier reference to royalty), who were annointed with oil.
There is one further reference to Asher. This is in Divrei Hayamim. A number of times in the Midrash the statement is made that the only purpose for Divrei Hayamim is to allow us to analyze names. In Divrei Hayamim I (7:30-40), we are given the genealogy of Asher. We are told of his grandson Malkiel, and Malkiel's son Virzayit. The name Malkiel is translatable without Midrash (My king is God). Virzayit, however, is not as clear. The Midrash suggests (Bereishit Rabbah 71:10) that his name comes from “Barar Zayit,” “chosen with oil.” The Midrash continues to suggest that the daughters of Asher were married to Kohanim Gedolim and to Melachim, both of which were anointed with oil.
This does well to explain the Brachot of Asher, but what of our original question of Serach? Yaakov's Brachot, as clearly shown from those whose actions are known to us, were in no way arbitrary. They may have been wishes, but they were deeply rooted in the connection that he had with each son. That our text says “from Asher” may have been the Midrash's starting point to suggest that Yaakov had found favor in Serach. Regardless of Serach's precise actions, there is enough textual evidence to explain that her mention in the count of the seventy was based on a previous deed that affected Yaakov. As a result of Serach's deed Asher's fame came to him by way of his daughters.
The Words of the
by Dani Gross
Editor-In-Chief of Kol Torah, Class of '01
One of the Brachot we make over Neirot Chanukah is Asher Kidishanu B’Mitzvotav Vitzivanu LeHadlik Ner shel Chanukah, “that we are made holy through the Mitzvah (of Chanukah) and are commanded to light candles.” The Gemara in Shabbat (23a) asks how we could recite Vitzivanu, “that we were commanded”, if G-d never told us to light Chanukah candles and it is only a Mitzvah D’Rabbanan. One of the answers given as the source for saying Vitzivanu is the Issur of Lo Tasur, the prohibition of deviating from the words of the Rabbis. Why does the Gemara choose this Mitzvah D’Rabbanan as a specific example of Lo Tasur?
We may also ask two more questions about the Chanukah story. The Greeks prohibited the Jews from keeping Shabbat, Brit Mila, and declaring the Jewish month. Why should the Greeks prohibit something as arbitrary as declaring the Jewish month? Additionally, the Midrash (Breishit Raba 2:4) says that the Greeks had the Jews write Ein Lachem Chelek BeElokei Yisrael, “you have no part with G-d of the Jews,” on the horns of their oxen. Why would the Greeks have the Jews inscribe this statement on the horn of their oxen?
Rav Yaakov Chaim Goldvicht ZT”L answers that the Greeks realized that Judaism is based on the words of the Rabbis. In order to assimilate the Jews, the Greeks wanted to separate practicing the words of the Torah through Mitzvot and the academic learning of Torah. The way to do this was to limit the power of the Rabbis.
The main strength of the Rabbis comes from applying the Torah to everyday activities. The Gemara in Brachot (17a) says the main part of wisdom is repentance and good deeds - in order for Jews to keep the Torah, they must use it practically. G-d invested into the Rabbis the power to change the physical aspects in this world. A famous example of this is the story of Rabban Gamliel and Rab Yehoshua. Rabban Gamliel incorrectly calculated Rosh Chodesh Tishrei to be on a different day than Rabbi Yehoshua’s calculation. Rabban Gamliel then ordered Rabbi Yehoshua to appear before him with his walking stick and money bag on the day Rabbi Yehoshua believed to be Yom Kippur. Even though he still thought he was right, Rabbi Yehoshua did as he was told. This shows that the Rabbis have the right to interpret nature and define it, even if they are wrong in their calculations. Similarly, there is the famous concept of Lo Bashamim He, that the law is not decided in Heaven, but rather by Beit Din on earth.
This is why the Greeks sought to prohibit the declaration of the Jewish month. This announcement symbolizes the power of Bet Din over the physical world. They sought to annul this power and therefore prohibited this declaration. This also explains the reason for inscribing Ein Lachem Chelek BeElokei Yisrael on the horns of their oxen. The Greeks wanted to show the Jews that G-d has no control over nature and over the physical world, that He does not so much as control the actions of the oxen.
It is for this reason that the Gemara specifically brings Nerot Chanukah as an example of saying “Vitzivanu” for a Dirabanan. We are showing that the Greeks are wrong and that the ways of the Rabbis are correct. We are asserting the Rabbis right to change nature and to add Mitzvot as they see fit. Therefore, it is only fitting for us to recite Vitzivanu.
Leadership on the Line
by Moshe Glasser
Kol Torah Staff, Class of '01
The conflict between Reuven and Yehudah has always fascinated me. While they never actually have an argument, in almost every situation they seem, while on the same side, to be approaching the issue in fundamentally different ways. Each one is working with different styles of leadership, and it is this that prevents the success of one while elevating the other.
Reuven appears to commit some grievous error in moving Yaakov’s bed from Bilhah’s tent to Leah’s (as Chazal interpret the Pasuk), part of a possible attempt to either remind Yaakov that Bilhah is of a lower status than Reuven’s own mother, or to assert some dominance over the family; it was now apparently complete and he, as the oldest, would next take the place of patriarch. Reuven’s subsequent actions may also be related to this. He often reacts to various challenges by putting himself in the forefront and attempting to lead the charge, as in the case of Yosef’s first problematic encounter with his brothers. When the other brothers want to sell Yosef, it is he who instructs them not to do so. He suggests they imprison him in the pit instead, intending to retrieve him later on. But a question remains: why not simply instruct them to release the teenaged Yosef?
Reuven’s other attempted intervention (in this week’s Parsha), when Tzafnat Paneach requires Binyamin to visit Mitzrayim, seems fraught with a similar problem. In that case, Reuven offers the life of his own two sons to Yaakov if he doesn’t return with Binyamin. This seems to be a bizarre set of terms: will the death of grandchildren account for the death of children?
Yehudah’s choices appear equally odd. During the episode between Yosef and the rest of his kin, he shows what he must think is more mercy than Reuven showed: instead of imprisoning him to die of starvation, he suggests selling him into slavery, giving him at least a chance of survival. His own solo adventure occurs afterward: The episode with Tamar and the case of mistaken identity leads him to declare her righteousness, proving Yehudah’s willingness to admit to his mistakes (and, not incidentally, setting his descendants up for future kingship). During the conflict with Tzafnat Paneach, Yehudah offers his own guarantee of safety, dependant on nothing but his determination. In the end, it is Yehudah who stands up to the man revealed to be Yosef, Yehudah who receives the leadership of Klal Yisrael through the ages, and Yehudah who survives to this day past all exiles, even in the very terms that describe us best, “Jew” and “Judaism” (Yehudi and Yahadut).
How may we contrast these two great patriarchs, essentially two methodologies of leadership, two styles? Reuven, in attempting to interfere with his father’s marital life, was burned by his impulsiveness, his directness. In response, he tries subterfuge when dealing with Yosef; he is cruel only to be kind, and means to return for him later. The others, however, especially Yehudah, might have taken this as excessive cruelty, as a quick execution at the hands of the brothers would most certainly have been less painful than death by starvation or the bite of the poisonous animals Chazal tell us resided in the pit. Finally, in the case of guaranteeing Binyamin’s safety, Reuven, having failed in his second attempt as he had in his first, returns to the impulsive, over-the-top manner of leadership. Yaakov rejects it as before, regarding it as inappropriate to the situation. Reuven, though well meaning, cannot seem to learn from his mistakes and correct his behavior. This impulsiveness, coupled with a desire to lead, may be what brings so many Bnai Reuven down into the pit with Korach, the very situation to which their ancestor abandoned Yosef.
Yehudah, on the other hand, displays a much better evolution of character. When he suggests selling Yosef, he believes he is ameliorating Reuven’s cruelty, and Chazal offer the same excuse for both Reuven and Yehudah: they believe the other brothers would not listen to a suggestion as drastic as releasing Yosef entirely. Yehudah here is struck by Reuven’s second mistake, being too subtle and doing what he thinks is the best he can. The next time, when no one but himself is present and Tamar’s life depends on his words, he realizes that he must give up his own ego in order to do the right thing. Reuven, when attempting to sway the brothers, feared for his place of dominance, and failed; Yehudah, when he had a place of dominance in society, was willing to give it up to do the right thing. Finally, when it comes down to dealing with Tzafnat Paneach, Yaakov respects the man willing to put himself on the line. The leader’s place goes to the one who realizes that his retention of it depends not on his desire to keep it, but on his willingness to give it up for the greater good.
Happy Bar Mitzvah to my beloved Kol Torah, and I wish it many more years and many more Divrei Torah!
Why Do We Say the Brachah of
by Effie Richmond
Editor-In-Chief of Kol Torah, Class of '04
The Rav, zt”l, quoted by Rav Schachter Shlita in Nefesh HaRav, discusses the Brachot of Nerot Chanukah. He quotes the Mishnah in Masechet Soferim which says that one makes the Brachah of Lehadlik Ner Shel Chanukah and then, interestingly, says Hanerot Hallalu, Only then does he finally say Sheasah Nisim and Shehechiyanu. This seems rather troubling – why does Masechet Soferim say that one should make a Hefsek and say Hanerot Hallalu after the first Brachah? The Rav explains that just like the person who sees the candles says Sheasah Nisim and Shehechiyanu after they are lit, the person lighting the candles says these Brachot in the capacity of a person seeing the candles instead of saying these Brachot before they are lit, this is against the Rama in Orach Chaim 676 (quoting the Maharil), who says that all Brachot are said before the candles before they are lit (Over Laasiatan).
It seems, based on the Masechet Soferim, that saying Hanerot Hallalu is an integral part of Nerot Chanukah in regard to Pirsumei Nisa, as it has to be done through speech (just as we see by the four cups of wine drunk on Pesach, and with the reading of the Megillah). Therefore, Masechet Soferim says that the Brachot of Sheasah Nisim and Shehechiyanu are said after the candles are lit. The Rav said, quoting the decision of his father, that on the first day, one has no choice but to light as per the opinion of the Rama, but on other nights, one lights as per a combination of the two opinions. He should say the Brachah of Lehadlik Ner, light one candle, say the Brachah of Sheasah Nisim, and then finish lighting the rest of the candles. This works well with both opinions in that the Maharit says that one must say the Brachah of Sheasah Nisim before one lights the candles, and thus, one still has more candles to light. This approach also works well with Masechet Soferim in that once one lights one of the candles, he has looked at that candle and thus can say the Brachah of Sheasah Nisim as an observer. Thus it is possible to light the Chanukah candles in accordance with all the opinions.
Father Knows Best
by Simcha Tropp
Editor-In-Chief of Kol Torah, Class of '04
The first Perek in Parshat Miketz discusses Yosef’s rise to power in Egypt. This discussion includes descriptions of the naming of Yosef’s two sons, Menashe and Ephraim. The Torah says, “Vayikra Yosef Et Shem HaBechor ‘Menashe’ Ki Nashani Elokim Et Kol Amali Viet Kol Beit Avi,” “Yosef called the older one ‘Menashe’ because ‘Hashem helped me forget all of my troubles and all of my father’s house’” (41:51). This Pasuk baffles many Meforshim, because it does not make sense that Yosef, who is also known as “Yosef HaTzaddik,” “Yosef the Righteous Person,” would be so disrespectful as to thank Hashem for allowing him to forget his father. As a result, many Meforshim offer alternate explanations for Yosef’s actions. For example, Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch says that this Pasuk should be interpreted to mean that Yosef is thanking Hashem for allowing his troubles in his father’s house and his troubles being sold into slavery to enable him to become instrumental in Hashem’s fulfillment of the Brit Bein Habetarim. Similarly, Rav Shimon Schwab says that Yosef is thanking Hashem for allowing him to abandon his former methods of thinking, under which he didn’t realize that his brothers had reasons for their actions.
However, in my humble opinion, it seems that the most logical interpretation is that of Peshuto Shel Mikra. I think that Yosef was happy to have forgotten Yaakov’s house and his trouble there because Yosef thinks that he has “made it big” in Egypt. There is evidence of this in other places as well.
Once Yosef has revealed himself to his brothers in Parshat Vayigash, he invites them down to live in Egypt, where he says that they will live on the best part of the land and they will be provided for by the king himself. This illustrates Yosef’s feeling that Egypt is a great land where he is a bigshot.
Yaakov however, sees the light from the beginning. When he is going down to Egypt, he needs Hashem to comfort him in a dream because he is afraid that his family will assimilate into Egyptian society causing him to be buried in an Egyptian holy place rather than the Maarat Hamachpelah (46: 1-4). Rav Elie Munk, a French commentator on the Torah, says that at the beginning of Parshat Vayechi, when Yaakov asks Yosef to bury him in Israel, he is trying to teach Yosef that Egypt is not the true home of the Jews but rather it is Eretz Yisrael. Yaakov does this again when he is blessing Yosef’s sons. At this point all we know about the sons is their names. Menashe was given his name because Hashem allowed Yosef to forget Israel, and Ephraim is given his because Hashem gave Yosef children in what he calls “Eretz Onyi,” “the land of my suffering.” Yaakov switches his hands so that his right hand, which would normally go on the elder, is on the younger son, Ephraim’s head because he wants to tell Yosef that it is best to think of Egypt as the land of suffering. At this point, Yosef sees the light too. This becomes apparent in 50:4 when Yosef says “El Beit Paroh,” “To Pharaoh’s house,” as though he is setting himself apart from it. Yosef understands that Israel is his real home, and finally makes it his last request to be buried there.
Aligned With the Torah
by Jerry Karp
Kol Torah Staff, Class of '05
In Parshat Shoftim, we are commanded to appoint a king. The Torah foresees Bnei Yisrael saying, “We want to appoint a king over ourselves, so that we may be like all the other nations” (Devarim 17:14). This comes to fruition in the time of Shmuel, when Bnei Yisrael gather together and say to the Navi, “Appoint over us a king to judge us like all the other nations” (Shmuel I 8:5). Shmuel is furious, and prays to Hashem, who Hashem responds, “It is not you they despise; rather, it is me they despise” (8:7). An obvious question arises: if the Torah commands us to appoint a king, why are Hashem and Shmuel seemingly “disappointed” that Bnei Yisrael ask to do so?
Chazal explain that Bnei Yisrael wished to appoint a king in order to worship idols (like all the other nations). Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch suggests another more novel explanation. The Torah intends for a king to serve a similar purpose to the kings of other nations, but not exactly the same. In most nations, the king is meant to unify the nation. A king is a single person who is expected to maintain an honorable reputation. All others look up to him, emulate him, and thus, the nation is unified. Similarly, a king for Bnei Yisrael would have a high moral character, and he would categorically follow the Torah. Bnei Yisrael would emulate the deeds of their reputable king, and the nation’s moral status would strongly improve. Rav Hirsch notes that two terrible incidents, namely, the aftermath of Michayhu’s idol and the incident of the concubine at Givah, occurred at times which are specifically described by the Tanach as having no ruler. As the last Pasuk in Sefer Shoftim describes, “Each person did as he thought was correct.” The lack of a ruler not only led to anarchy, but also caused the nation to experience much moral degradation.
On the other hand, when Bnei Yisrael asked Shmuel for a king, they did not have this in mind. They wanted a king exactly like those of other nations, i.e. a king who would fight in war. Bnei Yisrael had no intention of improving themselves; they simply wanted to be exactly like the other nations. It would have been satisfactory for Bnei Yisrael to imitate other nations if their intentions were aligned with the Torah’s viewpoint, but since they were not, a king would not have been constructive – in fact, a king would have been destructive.
I believe that this sheds light on a part of the story of Chanukah. The Mityavnim, those who wished to assimilate into Greek culture, were not acting properly. Though learning the Greek culture was not inherently wrong, the Mityavnim also discarded the Torah when they began to learn the Greek culture, and therefore, they assimilated. The Torah does allow us to have some degree of similarity with other nations, but it only if it leads to improved observance of the Torah.
by Jesse Dunietz
Kol Torah Staff, Class of '06
Towards the end of Parshat Mikeitz, Yehudah and Yaakov have a very emotional conversation. Yehudah pleads with his father to allow the brothers to bring Binyamin back to Egypt with them, and his father finally accepts – reluctantly. He acknowledges the necessity of sending Binyamin, but prays for his welfare. Still, he is not particularly hopeful, as he says at the end of the dialogue, “Kaasher Shacholti, Shachalti,” “As I have been bereaved, so I am bereaved” (Bereshit 43:14). He is clearly expecting the worst.
This particular phrase has a striking parallel elsewhere in Tanach: Esther says to Mordechai about approaching the king Achashverosh unlawfully, “Vichaasher Avaditi, Avaditi,” “and if I am lost, I am lost” (Esther 4:16). This language, though it may not sound quite the same in English, is almost identical to Yaakov’s words in Hebrew. Why so similar a turn of phrase? What is the connection between these two selections from Tanach?
The Ibn Ezra (Esther ibid. s.v. Vichaasher Avaditi) draws a purely grammatical parallel. He says that the past tense is used (the verse literally means “As I was lost”) to indicate the thoughts of a character, as it is used in our Parsha. He connects the similarity in language merely to a similar use of past tense to refer to future, while mentioning no conceptual connection at all. This explanation seems somewhat weak; while it does explain the grammatical structure of the phrases, common sense would dictate that there should also be some common meaning.
The Rashbam gives another interpretation. He comments on the Pasuk in Mikeitz that Yaakov was very unsure of what would happen when he sent Binyamin. When he said “Ka’asher Shacholti, Shachalti,” he meant “If I am bereaved, then I will be bereaved.” In other words, whatever happens will happen, and if it happens that he loses Binyamin, then such is his fate. Yaakov is resigned to the doom of his son, just as Esther resigned herself to accept whatever fate was in store for her. This explanation is a level deeper than that of the Ibn Ezra, at least explaining to some degree what the conceptual connection is. In fact, this simple, basic explanation of the link may be supported by the many surface-level connections that can be made between these two cases: Both were making a personal sacrifice for the good of the nation; both had every reason to fear that their missions would fail; both were quite reluctant at first to resign themselves to their fates. These two incidents certainly parallel each other quite nicely on a superficial level.
The Ramban, however, suggests a still deeper understanding, one that, though similar to the Rashbam’s, goes beyond it. He believes that “the correct [reading] is that [Yaakov] says, ‘You will not be able to add any further bereavement to me.’” The Ramban explains that Yaakov has hit an emotional “rock bottom.” It is not humanly possible, says Yaakov, to experience any more pain than I currently am. “Ka’asher Shacholti” – since I have already been bereaved once for Yosef – “Shachalti” – I am in a sense “pre-bereaved.” Similarly, Esther was already doomed to destruction (presumably from Haman’s decree), so there was nothing to add to her doom. “Ka’asher Avaditi, Avaditi” – she was already going to be lost, so a death sentence could not do any more harm. However, it is worth noting that despite, and in fact partly because of, the hopelessness and despair that they felt, both Yaakov and Esther were able to make the necessary sacrifices and accomplish what they needed to.
This Ramban actually contains a deep message about life in general. Many people would be incapacitated by pain such as Yaakov’s (or by fear such as Esther’s). Instead, these model leaders used their feelings of “rock bottom” to allow them to do exactly what was needed. Not only did they act despite their troubles, but they acted using their troubles to help. This approach is extremely valuable to anybody encountering any problems; often, the best way to get around a problem is to use it for the better.
On Pain of
by Ariel Caplan
Kol Torah Staff, Class of '06
In Reuven’s speech in which he tries to convince his father to allow him to bring Binyamin back to Egypt, he makes an extremely odd statement. He says, “Et Shnei Banai Tamit Im Lo Avienu Eilecha,” “You may kill my two sons if I do not bring [Binyamin] to you.” Rashi says that Yaakov refused to allow Reuven to bring Binyamin because it was such a foolish statement. After all, Reuven’s sons were also Yaakov’s grandsons, so why would he want to kill them?
However, we know that Reuven was no fool. We see this clearly from his plan to save Yosef from the brothers’ plot to kill him, when he told them to throw Yosef into a pit instead of killing him, intending to rescue him later. While it may not have been a perfect plan, it at least required some thought. So what exactly was running through Reuven’s mind when he made this statement?
The Chatam Sofer says that Reuven did not mean death, but rather disinheritance. He wanted the penalty to be the loss of the portion in Israel set aside for his two sons. Having land in Israel is considered life, as in Bemidbar 14:38, “And Yehoshua and Kalev ben Yefuneh lived from those people,” which is interpreted by Chazal (Bava Batra 118) as referring to the acquisition of land in Israel. If having a portion in Israel is called life, it follows that having no portion can be called death. Reuven thus meant not that his sons should die, but that they should lose their portions in Israel.
Ramban interprets Reuven’s statement as a general statement of curse. In other words, Yaakov should curse Reuven’s sons on condition that the curse should not apply if Reuven brings back Binyamin safely. Ibn Ezra similarly interprets death as a general statement of punishment.
It is also possible to interpret the Pasuk in a somewhat novel fashion. The word Tamit can be interpreted as “you may kill” or “you will kill.” Reuven may have meant that by not allowing the brothers to bring Binyamin to Egypt, Yaakov was in effect killing Reuven’s sons, as they would have nothing to eat and possibly starve to death. He then places a curse upon himself if he does not return Binyamin, using the unfinished form of curse found often in Tanach, in which the condition is stated but the punishment is not. Reuven thus attempts to refute Yaakov’s reasons given in the previous Pasuk for not allowing the brothers to take Binyamin.
So if Reuven actually had a decent rationale for his statement, why did Yaakov reject it?
Ramban says it was because Reuven had previously sinned against Yaakov in his sin regarding Bilhah, so Yaakov did not trust him. He also says that Yehudah was successful because he waited until there was no more food and only then convinced Yaakov to let Binyamin go. Reuven, however, was not patient enough and tried at the wrong time. Only after their supplies were depleted would the danger of starvation become a mitigating factor. When Reuven tried, they had fresh supplies and the possibility of starvation was far off and hence not as powerful an argument.
Of course, this mistake in timing had to be added to Yaakov’s extreme fears to cause him to refuse to allow Reuven to take Binyamin. But why was he so sure that Binyamin would die if he went to Egypt? Rav S.R. Hirsch says that he based his fears on a pattern that he had noticed. First he had lost Yosef, then he had lost Shimon, and now he felt that he would lose Binyamin were he to send him away. Chazal say that although we may not be superstitious, we may look for “signs” regarding houses, children and wives. Since he had repeatedly lost family members, he took this as a sign and did not want to risk any more of his family until he found the cause. Thus, Yaakov did not allow Binyamin to go until he was literally forced to do so by the lack of food.
Haftarot of Chanukah
by Rabbi Chaim Jachter
Kol Torah Faculty Advisor, Volumes 5-
We should always strive to determine the connection between the Haftorah and the Sedra or holiday that it compliments. This is especially true for Chanukah, where the Halachah is particularly insistent that we not replace the designated Haftarot of Chanukah with Haftarot intended for other occasions such as Rosh Chodesh. The reason given for this by the Mishna Berura (684:8 and Biur Halacha 684:3 s.v. V’im Ta’ah) is that Pirsumei Nisa (publicizing the miracle of Chanukah) takes precedence. In this essay, we will seek to demonstrate how the two Haftarot designated for Chanukah publicize the miracle of Chanukah and allude to many themes of Chanukah.
Primary Themes of Chanukah
Chanukah has many themes. The primary motif is Hallel, thanking Hashem for the great miracle of Jewish survival in general and Chanukah in particular. This author heard Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik state (in a Shiur he delivered at Yeshiva University) that the primary motif of Chanukah is Hallel. The Rav noted that the Rambam placed his discussion of Hallel in the Mishnah Torah within the framework of Hilchot Chanukah, even though there seem to be more appropriate places in the Mishna Torah to discuss Hallel, such as Hilchot Tefillah. The Rav explained that the Rambam presents the laws of Hallel in Hilchot Chanukah because Hallel is the essence of Chanukah. Indeed, in Hanerot Hallalu we note that we light the Chanukah lights “to thank and praise Hashem.” We thank and praise Hashem for the miracle of Jewish survival.
We express Hallel to Hashem by engaging in Pirsumei Nisa, publicizing the miracle. Rav Soloveitchik argues that the goal of Pirsumei Nisa extends to non-Jews as well as to Jews. He notes two proofs to this point. First, the Gemara (Shabbat 21b) states that the Mitzva to light Chanukah candles extends “until the last people leave the market.” The last people to leave the market, says the Gemara, are the Tarmodai. Rashi explains that the Tarmodai were the non-Jews who sold firewood. Rav Soloveitchik reasons that if the Gemara uses non-Jews as the criterion for the latest time one may light Chanukah lights, then Pirsumei Nisa must apply to non-Jews as well as Jews. Furthermore, in Al Hanissim we state, “and You have made a great and holy Name in Your world.” Accordingly, Rav Soloveitchik concludes (although others disagree) that Pirsumei Nisa applies to non-Jews as well as Jews.
Secondary Themes of Chanukah
The Rambam (Hilchot Chanukah 3:1) emphasizes that the miracle of Chanukah was accomplished by Kohanim. The Rambam also prominently notes that after the military victory, kings were appointed from amongst the Kohanim. The Rambam does not criticize the Chashmonaim for appointing Kohanim as kings, in stark contrast to the Ramban (Bereishit 49:10), who severely criticizes them. The Ramban vigorously argues that only a member of the tribe of Yehuda may be appointed king, in accordance with Yaakov Avinu’s vision that the kings of Israel would emerge from the tribe of Yehuda. Rav Soloveitchik suggests that the Rambam celebrates the appointment of Kohanim as kings because this appointment facilitated the Kohanim’s fulfillment of their mission to guard the Bait Hamikdash. The Rav cites Hilchot Bait Habechirah 8:3 to demonstrate that a primary role of the Kohanim is to guard and preserve the holiness of the Bait Hamikdash.
The Rambam (ibid.) notes that Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael lasted for more than two hundred years after the victory of the Chashmonaim. Rav Yehuda Amital, and Rav Menachem Genack (Gan Shoshanim 2:52) note that the Mishnah Torah is not a history book. The Rambam does not mention these two hundred years of Jewish sovereignty as a mere historical tidbit. Rather, the Rambam teaches that part of the Chanukah celebration is thanking Hashem for restoring Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael for an extended period (even though the Jewish kings who ruled during that 200 year period were far from ideal).
We should note that the entire text of the Rambam’s Hilchot Chanukah 3:1 is cited verbatim by the Mishnah Berurah (670:1). This indicates that the Rambam’s approach to Chanukah represents mainstream Jewish thought.
The First Haftorah of
Chanukah - The Major Theme
The first Haftorah of Chanukah (Zechariah 2:14-4:7) is a much more complex selection than the second one. It contains complex imagery and a myriad of themes. We shall seek to demonstrate how this Haftorah reflects the many themes of Chanukah. We should note that this is not a simple task, as Rashi notes in the opening remark of his commentary to the Book of Zechariah that “Zechariah’s prophecies are exceedingly obscure.”
The Haftorah's major theme (as explained by Rashi and Rav Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk, cited in Nefesh Harav pp.76-77) is the prediction that the Bait Hamikdash and Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael will be restored and preserved despite the lack of military prowess. The Navi (4:7) predicts that Hashem will make the impossible possible: “Who are you great mountain, before Zerubavel, [you shall become] a plain.” The Navi presents Hashem’s message that the victory came “not through armies and not through might, but through My Spirit.” When the Jews conquered Eretz Yisrael during the time of Yehoshua, they conquered the Land by force with a great army. However, the Jews in the time of the Second Temple hardly constituted a potent military force, yet they managed to maintain the Bait Hamikdash and a measure of control over Eretz Yisrael for many centuries. Clearly, it was the hand of Hashem that made the impossible possible.
The Haftorah places the miracle of Chanukah in a broad historical perspective. The miracle of Chanukah was a fulfillment of Hashem’s promise to miraculously sustain the Bait Hamikdash and the militarily weak Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael.
4:2-3 presents a powerful image to express Hashem’s promise: As explained by Rashi, Yehoshua the Kohen Gadol was shown an image of a Menorah made entirely of gold with its bowl on top, its seven lamps upon it, and seven tubes extending to the seven lamps. There were two olive trees near it, which provided a continuous supply of fuel. This symbolizes that Hashem would sustain the Bait Hamikdash miraculously during the period of the Second Temple.
The miracle of the oil broadcasted the message that the military victory of the Chashmonaim represented a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. We stress in Al Hanissim that the victory over the Greeks was miraculous. Hashem truly turned the mountain into a plain. The military victory was as miraculous as the oil lasting for eight days. Our commemoration of the miracle of the oil helps us realize that the military victory was miraculous as well.
The First Haftorah of
Chanukah — The Minor Themes
In 2:15, Zechariah speaks of a time when multitudes of the nations of the world will come to Hashem by joining Am Yisrael. Chanukah commemorates Greek culture’s failure to dominate the world. The Haftorah predicts that the day will come when non-Jews will promote Torah and will not seek to destroy it as the Greeks did. Ultimately Torah, not Greek culture, will dominate the world.
In 2:16, Zechariah predicts that the time will come when Hashem will restore Jewish sovereignty to Eretz Yisrael. This prophecy was fulfilled during the time of the Chashmonaim.
In 3:7, Hashem charges Yehoshua the Kohen Gadol with the mission of preserving the sanctity of the Bait Hamikdash. On Chanukah, we publicize the miracle of the restoration of the Kohanim to this role.
The Second Haftorah of
The Haftorah for the second Shabbat of Chanukah (Melachim I 7:40-50) seems at first glance to have little relevance to the Chag. The verses describe the vessels for the first Bait Hamikdash that King Chiram of Tzur made. Aside from the reference to the Menorot delivered by Chiram, this Biblical selection seems to have little relevance to Chanukah. This is especially odd considering the aforementioned comment of the Mishnah Berurah, which states that the Haftarot publicize the miracle of Chanukah.
The choice of this Haftorah might be understood in light of Rav Soloveitchik’s insight that the message of Chanukah is directed to non-Jews as well as Jews. King Chiram generously enriched the Bait Hamikdash as is evident from Pasuk 47, which states that King Shlomo could not weigh all the vessels donated by Chiram because of their enormous volume. King Chiram’s actions starkly contrast King Antiochus’ defiling the Bait Hamikdash. Chanukah, in a very subtle manner, hints to the messianic era, when the light of Torah from Jerusalem will illuminate the world. King Chiram’s recognition of the greatness of Hashem foreshadows the future recognition of Hashem by the entire world. Chanukah lights foreshadow the era of Jewish teachings that will bring light to the entire world. We thank Hashem for not permitting King Antiochus to extinguish the light of Torah. The Haftorah teaches that Torah will enlighten those who follow King Chiram’s example. The Haftorah publicizes the miracle of Jewish survival that facilitates the realization of our destiny that “from Zion shall go forth Torah” (Yeshayahu 2:3) and illuminate the world.
Although the Second Bait Hamikdash was destroyed and Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael ended, we continue to celebrate Chanukah. This is because the message of Zechariah’s Menorah and the Chanukah lights are eternally relevant. These images reflect Jewish survival and eventual renewal. We praise and thank Hashem for our survival, which would have been impossible were it not for His involvement. He again tu+rned mountains into plains in 1948 and 1967. We are profoundly indebted to Hashem and consequently must offer our sincerest praises for His many miracles.
We now see how the Haftarot of Chanukah profoundly enrich our appreciation of Chanukah. We also understand why the Halacha limits omission of these Haftarot very strictly.
Staff (Volumes 1-13):
Ackerman, Yonah Baer, Ariel Bayewitz, Ashrei Bayewitz, Pinny Becker, Orin
Ben-Jacob, Effi Billauer, Noam Block, Etan Bluman, Ari Bronstein, Ariel Caplan,
Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Yoni Chambre, Meir Dashevsky, Noam Davidovics, Gershon
Distenfeld, Josh Dubin, Jesse Dunietz, Yoel Eis, Yisrael Ellman, David Feinberg,
Zev Feigenbaum, Andy Feuerstein-Rudin, Daniel Fischer, Aaron Frazer, Ezra
Frazer, Ami Friedman, Mordy Friedman, Zvi Friedman, Ari Fuld, Rafi Gasner, David
Gertler, Danny Gilbert, Ezra Gilbert, Alex Gildin, Moshe Glasser, Hillel Glazer,
Zevi Goldberg, Yehuda Goldin, Daniel Greenbaum, Etan Golobchik, Dani Gross,
Shuky Gross, David Gulko, Simcha Haber, Yitzy Haber, Yehudah Hampel, Jeremy
Hanauer, Kobi Hen, Tzvi Kahn, Jerry Karp, Ben Katz, Jason Katzenstein, Avi
Klein, Yehoshua Kramer, Yehudah Kranzler, Yehudah Kravetz, KJ Leichman, Oren
Levy, Kenny Lowy, Yair Manas, Akiva Marcus, Phillip Marcus, Yigal Marcus, Ari
Michael, David Miller, Uri Miller, Duvie Nachbar, Yonatan Nagler, Ed Negari,
Mordechai Ness, Elisha Olivestone, David Pietruszka, Yonatan Pomrenze, Jason
Pruzansky, Moshe Rapps, Effie Richmond, Avi Rosenbaum, Willie Roth, Natan Safran,
Simcha Schaum, Uri Schechter, Yonatan Schechter, Avi Schild, Sholom Schwartz,
Doni Shaffren, Yehudah Shmidman, Danny Shulman, Matis Shulman, Zev Slursberg,
Yehoshua Solomon, Aryeh Stavsky, Moshe Stavsky, Gil Stein, Chanan Strassman,
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