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Parshas Mikeitz - Vol. 12, Issue 10
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Parshas Mikeitz is traditionally read on the Shabbos which falls out during Chanuka. The kabbalists teach that the parsha read during a Yom Tov is connected to the themes and events of that festival. The Chida notes one such connection. He points out that the letters comprising the first four words in the parsha - vayehi Mikeitz sh'nasayim yamim - are an acronym for V'ka'asher Yochanan hishmid Yevonim miBeis Kadsheinu tzivanu shenadlik neiros temanya (=Shemoneh) yomi meChanuka, yanichena mitzad yemin mehayotzei - when Yochanan destroyed the Greeks from the Holy Temple, we were commanded to light candles for the eight days of Chanuka, and to place the menorah on the right side of the door (relative to the person leaving the house).
Additionally, Rav Shimon Schwab suggests that Pharaoh's dreams, in which the weak cows swallowed the strong cows and the thin stalks consumed the healthy stalks, embody one of the central concepts that we celebrate on Chanuka, namely that Hashem delivered the mighty and numerous Greek army into the hands of a few weak and poorly armed Chashmonaim.
Finally, Rav Moshe Wolfson points out that the most well-known question asked regarding Chanuka is that attributed to Rav Yosef Karo, namely that that if enough oil was found to last for one day, there was only a miracle on the last seven days, in which case Chanuka should only be commemorated seven days instead of eight. Rav Karo is best known for his commentaries on the Tur and Rambam, which are respectively entitled "Bais Yosef" and "Kesef Mishneh." The names of his works appear almost nowhere else in Tanach, but both are mentioned in our parsha (43:18-19, 43:12), alluding to his prominent connection with the festival of Chanuka.
After Yosef was freed from prison to interpret Pharaoh's dreams, he explained that they foretold seven years of abundance to be followed by seven years of famine. Therefore, he recommended the appointment of a wise advisor to oversee the project of storing for the famine during the years of plenty. Upon hearing this proposal, Pharaoh responded that there was nobody more fitting for the role than Yosef himself, who demonstrated great insight by suggesting this idea.
As Pharaoh had only requested Yosef to interpret his dreams, why did he offer advice on how best to deal with the ramifications of his interpretation of the dreams, something which wasn't at all requested of him? Further, why was Pharaoh not only not upset that Yosef had overstepped his mandate, but he became so impressed with him that he appointed him to oversee the new project?
The Vilna Gaon answers with a brilliant explanation. A person who is told that his dream refers to events in the distant future has no reason to believe the interpretation, as there is no way to test its accuracy. In fact, an interpreter who doubts his abilities would be wise to offer such an explanation so that there is no way for him to be proved wrong and his reputation ruined. Yosef, on the other hand, told Pharaoh that his dream referred to the immediate onset of seven years of plenty, which would directly be followed by seven years of famine. Logically, Pharaoh should have believed Yosef's explanation, for he would be foolish to make up an interpretation which would promptly be proven incorrect.
Still, even when the years of plenty began, Pharaoh didn't necessarily have to be convinced of Yosef's wisdom. He could have insisted on waiting for seven years to see whether the famine would begin as Yosef had predicted, or even for 14 years to see if the famine would end as he had forecasted. Hashem recognized the danger of such a potential reaction, as in that case Pharaoh wouldn't trust Yosef sufficiently to appoint him to oversee the project from the very beginning.
As a result, the Medrash says that Hashem caused Pharaoh to forget part of his dream, specifically the part in which Yosef's recommendation to appoint a wise man to oversee the storage project was actually spelled out explicitly. Upon hearing that Yosef not only offered a plausible and verifiable interpretation of his dream but also refreshed his memory about a portion of the dream which even he had forgotten, Pharaoh exclaimed (41:39) acharei hodia Elokim es kol zos ein navon v'chacham kamocha, which can be understood to mean that after Hashem has informed you of all of this, including the part of the dream which I myself forgot, surely there is nobody wiser than you in the entire kingdom.
The Gemora in Shabbos (21b) records a dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai regarding the proper procedure for lighting the menorah on Chanuka. Beis Shammai maintains that one should light eight candles on the first night, and on each successive night, he should light one less candle than the day before, until he lights only one candle on the final night. Beis Hillel's position is the opposite, arguing that a person should light one candle on the first night of Chanuka and should add an additional candle on each ensuing night, such that he lights eight candles on the final night.
The Gemora expounds Beis Shammai's position as being rooted in the sacrifices that are offered on Sukkos (Bamidbar 29:12-34), which decrease in number on each successive day, while the reasoning behind Beis Hillel's opinion is that a person should always seek to add to mitzvos and not detract from them. Nevertheless, it is still difficult to understand why Beis Shammai would endorse a position of lighting less candles on each subsequent night of Chanuka. There is a well-known question regarding Chanuka which is attributed to the Beis Yosef: Since the Chashmonaim found enough pure oil to burn for one day, no miracle occurred on that first day, in which case Chanuka should only be commemorated for the seven days that the oil burned miraculously. Why then do we celebrate Chanuka for eight days if the miracle only lasted for seven?
The Ramban writes (Shemos 13:16) that when a person sees and experiences clear and open miracles, it should lead him to the recognition that even routine and ordinary events that he takes for granted are also miraculous, albeit in a hidden form cloaked in the guise of nature. This concept is so fundamental to Jewish belief that the Ramban writes that a person who denies it has no portion in the Torah. Applying this idea to Chanuka, the Alter of Kelm explains that although we view oil burning as the mere functioning of the scientific laws of nature and not miraculous in any way, this is precisely the point: The additional day of Chanuka commemorates the recognition that nature itself is a creation of Hashem, and just because we are accustomed to it on a daily basis, it is no less miraculous than the open miracle that the oil burned for seven days longer than it was supposed to.
Rav Avrohom Gurwicz, the Rosh Yeshiva of Gateshead, notes that there are some people who are unable to see Hashem's involvement in their lives until they survive a major car accident. For others, that would still not be enough, unless the car first spun around multiple times before safely coming to a stop. Yet there are some people for whom this would still be inadequate, and the only way to get them to see Hashem's hand would be if they flew out of the car and landed in their beds.
With this insight, Rav Gurwicz explains that Beis Shammai maintains that we should light one less candle each night to demonstrate that we are able to recognize and sense Hashem's presence and involvement in our lives, even when the miracles are less obvious. After the first day of Chanuka, we have become closer to Hashem, and even a lesser miracle suffices to enable us to perceive Hashem's hand, until the final night of Chanuka arrives, by which point we have reached an elevated spiritual level in which the mere fact that oil burns is enough to allow us to acknowledge and appreciate Hashem's miracles.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) There are numerous discrepancies between the actual dream of Pharaoh and the way in which he related it to Yosef. For example, in his dream he saw himself actually standing on the river, while in telling it to Yosef he claimed to have been standing on the banks of the river (41:17). Why did he change this detail when recounting his dream to Yosef? (Rabbeinu Bechaye, Imrei Daas)
2) There is a Talmudic principle (Bava Metzia 62a) that chayecha kodmin - saving one's own life comes before saving others. In the unthinkable situation in which a person may additionally save only his father or his son, who has precedence? (Emes L'Yaakov)
3) As all festivals are observed in the Diaspora for two days due to a doubt about the actual calendar date, why didn't Chazal enact that Chanuka be celebrated for nine days for this reason? (Abudraham, Ha'aros Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi on Smag pg. 26a; Pri Chodosh, Birkei Yosef, Daas Torah, and Ateres Z'keinim Orach Chaim 670; Nefesh Yehonason, Derashos Chasam Sofer Vol. 1 pg. 67, Arvei Nachal Parshas Vayechi, Minchas Chinuch 301:6, Shu"t Sh'eilas Yaakov 1:121, Toldos Yaakov Yosef, K'Motzei Shalal Rav Chanuka pg. 123 and 265, Ma'adanei Asher 5770)
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