Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 5 No. 9

Parshas Miketz

Yosef's Lack of Faith

"And it was, at the end of two years, that Par'oh dreamt." The Medrash explains that the two years were a punishment for the two requests Yosef made of the chief butler: "If you will only remember me and mention me to Par'oh". He should not have asked the butler for help, say Chazal, but should rather have trusted in Hashem.

On a previous occasion (in "Links", Parshas Miketz, volume 3) we cited the dispute between Rashi, who attributes Yosef's punishment to the fact that he placed his trust in a person of such a low calibre, and the Targum Yonoson, who ascribes it to Yosef's trusting a human being, and not Hashem.

Rabeinu Bachye gives a third explanation.

It is not feasible, he writes, that the tzadik Yosef should place his trust in a human being, and not totally in Hashem. And to explain Yosef's 'sin', he quotes the Chovas ha'Levovos (whose name incidentally, was also Rabeinu Bachye), who lists the eight progressive stages of faith that a person develops during his lifetime:

1. When he is born, he trusts solely in his mother, since she provides him with his total sustenance. For him, there is nobody else - his mother is the be-all and end-all of his existence.

2. In his early childhood, he still places all his trust in his mother, since she is the one who provides him with the various foods that are sweet and which he enjoys.

3. But it does not take long for him to realise that both he and his mother depend on his father, who provides for the family, so he switches his faith to his father.

4. Eventually, he learns a trade, and he begins to believe in his own prowess and ability to fend for himself.

5. But, as he grows older - and wiser - he realises that everything comes from Hashem, and that without Him, one just cannot survive. So he places his trust in Hashem, at least in those matters which are beyond his own ability to achieve. In effect, he believes, at that stage, in the combined abilities of Hashem (for what he realises is beyond his control) and of himself (for what he believes to be within his control).

6. Later, he trusts in Hashem, even in matters which lie within his control, to the extent that they lighten his own load, because he has faith that Hashem can provide for him, for example, even if he works less. So he trusts in Hashem and works less.

7. At a later stage still, he places his trust in Hashem, even in matters over which he himself has full control and which come easily, because he realises that everything, even what he is capable of handling, comes from Him, .

8. Eventually, his faith in Hashem becomes so strong, that he believes that whatever Hashem does is good for him, and he accepts in good faith, whatever Hashem arranges for him - health or sickness, wealth or poverty, freedom or captivity, making no effort to change his situation (like R. Akiva who said, when his light went out, and his rooster and his donkey died, "Whatever Hashem does is for the good!")

This was the level of Eliyohu ha'Novi, who lived in a desert for forty days without food - surviving only because Hashem sent him food through the ravens. Eliyohu himself did not ask Hashem for assistance, but trusted that Hashem would provide for him as He saw fit.

Yosef asked the butler to remember him, explains R. Bachye, not because he had faith in the butler, but because he had faith in Hashem. He perceived the butler as an emissary of Hashem, which he was. But his mistake was in making his request. The highest level of bitochon (a level which is expected of people of Yosef's calibre) is to allow Hashem to do things the way He sees fit, and to accept Hashem's plans, whatever they may be, without the slightest effort to initiate changes to His plan. And therein lay Yosef's mistake.


An Eighth per Night

Over the past few years, we have discussed the question attributed to the Beis Yosef, but which was already posed by a number of Rishonim, who lived many years before him. And we have cited many answers. Why did Chazal fix the festival of Chanukah for eight days, asks the Beis Yosef, when there was already sufficient oil to burn for one night?

The Tosfos ho'Rosh (Shabbos 21b) gives three answers to the question:

In his first answer, he writes that during each of the eight nights, until fresh oil arrived, they poured only one eighth of the oil into the Menorah. The miracle, in that case, was not that the oil lasted eight days instead of one, but that, on consecutive nights, the oil burnt all night.

We cited this answer last year (though without a source) and asked how they could rely on a miracle? The mitzvah, after all, is for the Menorah to burn "from evening till morning" (Va'yikra 24:3), so how could they justify pouring only one-eighth of the required amount into the lamps, relying on Hashem to do the rest? Would it not have been more correct to pour in all the oil, so as to at least have performed the mitzvah one night properly, rather than to try and perform an eighth of a mitzvah for eight nights, which means that no mitzvah has been performed on any of the nights?

The Rosh himself asks the question. He answers that what the Mishnah writes "Put in it sufficient oil to burn from evening till morning" (Yuma 15a) is only 'lechatchilah' (initially), but that 'be'dieved', if there is not sufficient oil to last for the entire night, the mitzvah will nevertheless have been fulfilled with less.

This is a tremendous Chidush with which the other commentaries do not agree - indeed the Rosh himself, in his other two answers, writes that they actually poured all the oil into the lamps, and that, either the bottle remained full of oil, or the oil in the lamps burnt down only one eighth each night. Had the Cohanim fulfilled the mitzvah by pouring only a little oil into the Menorah and by letting it burn for only a short period, then why did they pour in all the oil, thereby depriving themselves of the possibility of fulfilling the mitzvah for the seven subsequent nights? Would it not have been better to fulfill the mitzvah every night at least 'bedieved', than once 'lechatchilah', and seven times not at all?

The real difficulty however, lies in the source of the Rosh. The Torah writes "from evening till morning", and even if we say that 'hadlokoh osoh mitzvah' (like we say by the Menorah of Chanukah), and that it is not necessary for the Menorah to burn all night, it is however necessary for the Menorah to contain sufficient oil to burn all night - which is precisely what the above-mentioned Gemoro has said: "Put in it enough oil to burn from evening till morning". So from where does the Rosh take it that 'bedieved', one has fulfilled the mitzvah with a smaller amount of oil than that prescribed by the Torah?

Perhaps the Rosh applies the principle that, with regard to Kodshim, whatever the Torah does not repeat is not invalidated 'bedieved'! And maybe the Menorah in the Beis Ha'mikdosh is considered Kodshim in this regard.

However, that too, is difficult, since the posuk in Va'yikro concludes "Chukas olom le'doroseichem", and we have a principle that whenever the Torah uses the term 'chukoh', it comes to invalidate even 'bedieved'!

In addition to this, when the Gemoro writes that "the jar contained only sufficient oil for one day and they lit from it for eight", it implies - not like the Rosh - (that they had sufficient oil for eight nights 'bedieved', and that a miracle occurred and they fulfilled the mitzvah 'lechatchilah') but that the one night's supply actually turned into eight.


Some translate 'Maccabi' as 'hammer' (describing the Chashmono'im's formidable fighting prowess). Others explain that 'Maccabi' was written on their banner, and that it is the acronym of the first letters of 'Mi Chomocho bo'eilim, Hashem?' (Who is like you among the strong ones, Hashem?') - a symbol of humility on the part of the pious family, and a tribute to the 'Ish Milchomoh' who fights all our battles.

Interestingly, the numerical value of 'Maccabi' is 72, the equivalent of both 'chessed', the quality which the Kabbalah ascribes to the Cohanim, and the Name of G-d (Havayeh - when spelt out in full), which is also the Name representing His Chessed. This has obvious connotations with regard to the role which the Maccabim were attributing to G-d, and which characteristically, He adopted.

Paradoxically, the modern connotation of 'Maccabi' is symbolical of the very area of activity, which, as part of the powerful and attractive Hellenistic culture, shook the foundations of our own beautiful heritage then. It was that very culture which the Maccabim of old set out to combat, and succeeded in destroying.


'In the Days of Yochonon'...

Yochonon Cohen Gadol was the son of Shimon ha'Tzadik, the last survivor of the Anshei Keneses ha'G'doloh, who was famous for his piety, writes the Iyun Tefilah.

Shimon had three sons, the Iyun Tefiloh continues, the oldest Shim'i, the second Chonyo, and Yochonon. His two older sons did not follow in his footsteps, so, at his death, it was his brother Elozor who succeeded him as Cohen Godol, since Yochonon was still very young.

It was Elozor who sent seventy elders to Ptolomy Philadelphus, King of Egypt, to translate the Torah into Greek. This act, which was done without the sanction of the Sanhedrin, was frowned upon by the Sages, because they considered it a desecration of the 'Daughter of the living G-d' (the Torah), to make it so easily accessible to strangers. As a result, they deposed Elozor from the Kehunah Gedolah, and appointed his son Menasheh in his place. It was after Menasheh's death that Yochonon, son of Shimon, took over the Kehunah Gedolah.

This Yochonon Cohen Godol was a powerhouse of Torah throughout his life, establishing many institutions to strengthen Torah Judaism (Sotah 47a). Matisyohu, Yochonon's son, was not a Cohen Godol, but an important leading Cohen of outstanding piety, who lived in Modi'in, which was situated in the territory of Binyomin (the Gemoro in Megilah (11a) however, does refer to Matisyohu as Cohen Godol).

Serious Flaw

Despite the fact that Matisyohu and his sons were pious men, men of good deeds, they took for themselves the sovereignty, for which they were unfit, since they were Cohanim, and as such, they had no claims to the throne, which belonged to the family of Dovid ha'Melech from the tribe of Yehudah.

Because they did this, G-d set up against them Herod, a family slave, who destroyed their family down to a man. And this occurred a hundred years later, after Hillel had returned from Bovel and had been appointed to the position of Prince of the Sanhedrin, and it also coincided with the civil war between the two brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobulus.

Hillel was a descendant of Dovid ha'Melech, and was a suitable candidate for the throne, but no move was made on the part of the feuding brothers (from the family of the Chashmono'im) to restore the throne to its rightful heir.

Number of Words in Al ha'Nisim

There are 124 words in Al ha'Nisim (of Chanukah) (according to the Nusach Ari) corresponding to the numerical value of the author - Yochonon (presumably the son of Matisyohu, not his father). According to others, it comprises 125 words, the numerical value of 'Cohanim' (Eliyoh Rabbah).


The word Chasmona'i, points out the Chasam Sofer, contains the word 'Shemen' and a 'ches' - a broad hint that the miracle with the oil would last eight days. 'Ravto - Danto - Nokamto'...

The first letters of these three words spells 'neder' - a vow.

When Ya'akov Ovinu, on his way to Choron, made his vow to Hashem, he said "And this stone, which I placed as a 'Matzeivah' will be the House of G-d". Hashem then handed him a jar of oil, which he poured on top of the Matzeivoh.

When he went back across the River Yabok to fetch the small jars which he had forgotten, this is referring alegorically, to the vow which he had made, but had forgotten to fulfill (Chasam Sofer). 'The Strong into the Hands of the Weak'...

"You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous and the slanderers into the hands of those who study your Torah."

The commentaries query the significance of the latter three expressions. What is so wonderous about the fact that the impure fell into the hands of the pure etc.? Is that supposed to be a miracle? We can understand why the strong falling into the hands of the weak and the many into the hands of the few, should be considered a miracle. But why would one have expected the pure, the righteous and those who study Torah to fall into the hands of the impure, the wicked and the slanderers, to the point that we need to thank Hashem for a miraculous reversal?

Perhaps the five expressions do not all follow the same pattern. Perhaps the first two are stressing the miracle aspect of the victory, the qualitative edge of the miracle (i.e. 'the strong into the hands of the weak') and the quantitative one ( i.e. 'the many into the hands of the few'). The other three expressions are not describing the miracle at all, but the merits of Yisroel, which enabled the miracles to take place. The author is referring here to the three levels of Yisroel at the time - those who were pure (in the sense that they did not indulge in those sins - such as the eating of sherotsim, at the end of Sh'mos, and incest, at the end of Acharei Mos, which the Torah specifically refers to there as 'Tum'ah'); those who were righteous and those who studied Torah, the talmidei-chachamim. Therefore we continue: (You delivered) the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous and the slanderers into the hands of those who study the Torah.

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