GOOD MORNING! Rabbi Abraham Twerski points out in his Twerski on Chumash that there is no coincidence that Chanukah occurs during the week that we read about the epic of Joseph and his brothers. He then asks: What is the deeper significance of the miracle of the oil burning 8 nights?
In truth, since the whole Jewish people were in a state of tumah (ritual impurity) we could have used any oil for the lighting of the menorah. It was only their zealousness to do the mitzvah in the best possible manner that made them seek oil that was tahar (ritually pure). We did not rely upon the cruse of oil to burn the 8 nights needed until tahar oil could be produced. We would have used the tahar oil for one night and then used tumey (ritually impure) oil. However, the oil burned miraculously for 8 nights! Rabbi Twersky elucidates:
"Answers the P'nei Yehoshua (a commentary on the Torah) that precisely because it was permissible to use impure oil, the miracle demonstrated the intensity of God's love for Israel, that the Menorah illuminated the Temple for eight days with just the single vial of pure oil. There was no purpose for this miracle other than to show God's love for Israel.
"Rav Avraham Pam (former Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas) teaches us that we see this special love of God for the Jewish people regarding the many Jews at that time who had defected to Hellenism and then returned to Torah observance with the triumph of the Macabees -- regarding their relationship with the Almighty after their return to the Torah. When a couple reconciles after a separation, the relationship often becomes one of peaceful coexistence, but the quality of love that they initially had for each other is rarely restored.
"Not so when Jews do teshuvah (repentance -- returning to the Almighty and to the ways of the Torah). Rambam says that although a sinful person distances himself from God, once he does teshuvah he is near, beloved and dear to God. It is not that God "tolerates" the baal teshuvah (returnee), but rather that He loves him as He would the greatest tzaddik (righteous person). As the prophet says, "I will remember for you the loving-kindness of your youth, when you followed Me into the desert, into a barren land" (Jeremiah 2:2). The love of yore is fully restored.
"This is the significance of the miracle of the oil. It teaches us that with proper teshuvah our relationship with God is restored, as if we had never sinned.
"This is also the message of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph did not simply forgive them and suppress his resentment for their abuse of him. Rather, he loved them and cared for them as if nothing had happened, telling them that he feels toward them as he does to Benjamin, who was not involved in his kidnapping (Rashi, Genesis 45:12).
"The celebration of Chanukah is, therefore, more than the commemoration of a miracle. We are to emulate the Divine attributes (Talmud, Shabbos 133b). Just as when God forgives, His love for us is completely restored -- so must we be able to restore the love for one another when we mend our differences.
"As we watch the Chanukah candles, let us think about the light they represent: the bright light of a love that is completely restored!"
* * *
One additional question: Why the celebration of the miracle of the oil? The real salvation of Chanukah was the victory of the Macabees over the "Super Power" (the Syrian Greeks) of the day! It was no less miraculous, yet it gets only minor mention in our prayers. From Inside Chanukah by Rabbi Aryeh P. Strickoff:
- Jews celebrate their own salvation, not the downfall of others. The miracle of the oil is about the uplifting of the Jewish people; the victory in war was about the defeat of the Syrian Greeks (the Yavanim).
- The oil is about purity and holiness, the war was about death, destruction and impurity.
- The miracle of the oil indicated that victories were also miraculous though concealed in the guise of nature.
Torah Portion of the Week
Miketz, Genesis 41:1 - 44:17
Pharaoh dreams of cows and sheaves and demands for someone to interpret his dreams. The wine butler remembers Joseph's ability to interpret dreams. They bring Joseph from the jail. Pharaoh acknowledges the truth of Joseph's interpretation (that there would be seven good years followed by seven years of famine) and raises Joseph to second-in-command of the whole country with the mandate to prepare for the famine.
Ten of Joseph's brothers come to Egypt to buy food, Joseph recognizes them, but they don't recognize him. Joseph accuses them of being spies and puts them through a series of machinations in order to get them to bring his brother Benjamin to Egypt. Then Joseph frames Benjamin for stealing his special wine goblet.
Next week ... the denouement!
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states regarding the brothers' regret for selling Joseph:
"And they said one man to his brother, we are guilty about our brother. We saw the suffering of his soul when he pleaded to us and we did not listen to him. Therefore, this misfortune has befallen us" (Genesis 42:21).
What lesson for our lives can we learn from their statement?
Rabbi Dovid of Zeviltov comments in the commentary Otzer Chaim: If a person did something wrong and recognizes that he has done wrong, he will be forgiven. However, if a person does something wrong and denies it, there is no atonement for him. When Joseph's brothers previously said that they were innocent, Joseph responded by calling them spies. When they said that they were guilty, Joseph was full of compassion for them and cried.
Many people deny their faults and the things that they have done wrong because they mistakenly think that others will respect them more. In reality people admire someone with the honesty and courage to admit his mistakes. It takes a braver person to say, "Yes, I was wrong." This kind of integrity will not only build up your positive attribute of honesty, but will also gain you the respect of others. When you apologize to someone for wronging him, he will feel more positive towards you than if you denied that you did anything wrong. This awareness will make it much easier for you to ask forgiveness from others.
CANDLE LIGHTING - November 29
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