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

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Vol. 7   No. 10

Parshas Miketz

No Mishnayos!

Considering that the story of Chanukah took place some two hundred years before the destruction of the second Beis ha'Mikdosh (almost three hundred years before Rebbi compiled the Mishnah), it is difficult to understand why the Tano'im failed to write a Masechta of Mishnayos dealing with the laws of Chanukah, like they did regarding Purim - Maseches Megilah.

All the dinim of kindling the Chanukah-lights are contained in the space of less than three blat in the Gemoro in Shabbos (appropriate enough, considering the similarity between the Shabbos-lights and those of Chanukah), but no Mishnayos! Well, almost no Mishnayos. There is one solitary Mishnah in Bovo Kamo (of all places), where the Tana quotes the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah, who maintains that a shopkeeper who places his Menorah outside, is potur from paying damages, should a passing camel laden with flax catch fire from his Menorah. The Gemoro there even discusses the Halachic implications regarding the location of the Menorah - But no Mishnayos!


The Chasam Sofer ascribes this phenomenon to Rebbi's frustration with the Chashmono'im for having usurped the sovereignty from the tribe of Yehudah and the family of Dovid ha'Melech (from whom Rebbi himself descended), a mistake that ultimately caused their annihilation.


This seems to me very difficult however, firstly, because it is unlikely that Rebbi would allow his personal grievances to withhold Torah from Yisroel, particularly as Chazal, when they instituted Chanukah, overlooked the Chashmono'im's mistake, however serious it may have been (leaving G-d to punish them for their misdeed). So why should something that was good enough for the Beis-din of those days not be good enough for Rebbi, who lived many generations later? And besides, Chazal have said 'There where one judges a person, one must also remember the good that he did' (see Yevomos 75b), and not just remember the bad and ignore the good.

Secondly, if Rebbi was angry with the Chashmono'im, that does not explain why the Tano'im who preceded him did not insert the dinim of Chanukah into the Mishnah. After all, Rebbi only compiled the Mishnayos, he did not compose them.


Perhaps we can therefore suggest a different explanation, based on what we just wrote - that Rebbi did not compose the Mishnayos, he only compiled them. It is true that the Mishnayos that we have, comprise the statements and opinions of the Tano'im who spanned the four centuries from the Anshei K'nesses ha'Gedolah until Rebbi; the basis of the Mishnah however, was developed long before that. It probably began from the time that Moshe received the oral Torah at Har Sinai and ended with the Anshei K'nesses ha'Gedolah. That is to say, the arranging of the oral interpretation of the written Torah was organised into Sedorim and Masechtos, to which the sages added the mitzvos de'Rabbonon (Kri'as ha'Torah and possibly Hallel, by Moshe Rabeinu, Eiruvin and Netilas Yodayim by Shlomoh ha'Melech, and the various mitzvos that were added right up to the time of the Anshei K'nesses ha'Gedolah themselves, such as Purim). But then, the era of prophecy came to an end. Ru'ach ha'Kodesh at that level ceased to be functional, with the result that the written Torah was closed. And when the written Torah closed, the oral Torah closed with it. From then on, they would develop the Masechtos that had already been completed, but they would not add anything new. That explains why there are no Mishnayos on the laws of Chanukah.


Parshah Pearls


Double Trouble

"And behold there came up from the river seven good-looking and healthy-fleshed cows ... And behold, seven other bad-looking and thin-fleshed cows came up after them" (41:2-3).


To explain the double expression (by both the good cows and the bad ones), the Gro points out that there are two types of famine, one in which the field does not yield its produce, the other, in which it does, but the food fails to satisfy (see Rashi Vayikro 26:26).

When the Torah writes "good-looking cows", it refers to good healthy-looking crops, and when it adds "healthy-fleshed", it means that, not only would the food look good, but that it would also satisfy.

Similarly, the "bad-looking cows" refers to meagre, inadequate crops, and "thin-looking" ones, to a crop that looked fine, but was inadequate (or to one that was inadequate, but that satisfied even more inadequately than it looked).


Hearing Double

"And they did not know that Yosef understood, because there was an interpreter between them" (42:33).

With this, explains the Gro, we can understand the Medrash in Vayechi, which states that Yosef (who should have lived to the age of one hundred and twenty), lost ten years of his life on account of the ten times that he heard his brothers refer to his father as "your servant" without protesting.

This was measure for measure, he explains, because, if the Torah prescribes long life for honouring one's parents, then it stands to reason that for allowing their honour to be denigrated, one's life is curtailed.


But how can that be, asks the Gro? If you will examine the pesukim, you will see for yourself that the brothers referred to Ya'akov as Yosef's servant five times, and not ten?

And he answers the question with our posuk. Seeing as there was an interpreter between Yosef and his brothers, it transpires that everything the brothers said, Yosef heard twice. In that case, he did indeed hear his father being called his servant ten times.


The Mesores

They once asked the Gro why it is that, whereas at the end of every parshah, we have a mesorah (a tradition) of how many pesukim it comprises, but not the number of words - the one exception being that of Mikeitz, where the mesorah adds that Mikeitz contains two thousand and twenty-five words? Why did the mesorah single out Mikeitz as it were, for preferential treatment?


The Gro answered with a B'raisa in Maseches Sofrim, which differentiates between Potifar written in Vayeishev, which must be written as one word, and Poti-fera in Mikeitz, which must be written as two.

It seems that it was not clear whether Poti-fera was written as one word or as two, which is why the mesorah inserts the number of words contained in the parshah, so that we should know that Poti-fera is written as two words. (Perhaps the Tana even got his information from the mesorah, which according to Chazal, was compiled by Ezra ha'Sofer).



Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhogim

Even on the First Day

Over the years, we have presented numerous reasons as to why we celebrate eight days Chanukah, in spite of the fact that there was already sufficient oil for one night and that the actual miracle therefore, lasted only seven days, and not eight.


The Gro answers the question according to the text of the She'iltos, who reads in the Gemoro, not 'and there was sufficient oil to last only one day', but 'and there was not even sufficient oil to last for one day'. In that case, he says, even the fact that the oil burned for one full day was a miracle.


There is nothing beautiful, or exciting, or profound about this explanation, (for which reason it is perhaps not as popular as many of the other answers), yet the veracity of the answer according to that text is undeniable.

It is reminiscent of the story told of the Rambam, who arrived in the heavenly Yeshivah after his death, to find the angels studying Rambam. They had come across a word that the Rambam seems to have thrown in without rhyme or reason that defied all logic - until one angel delivered a lengthy pilpul in which he explained the Rambam in typical "Acharonishe' fashion. All present agreed that the explanation was brilliant - all that is, except the Rambam, who pointed out that a printing error had occurred, and that all that was needed was to change one letter, to read the word the way he had originally written it.

But the angel who had expounded the first answer would have none of it. "Is that how one answers a difficult Rambam?" he said, with a wave of the hand.


Seven or Eight

The B'nei Yisoschor cites the Rokei'ach, who finds a hint for the eight days of Chanukah in the Torah, from the Torah's juxtaposition of the oil and the lamps of the Menorah and Sukos (at the end of Parshas Emor). Besides serving as a broad hint at Chanukah itself, it is also a hint, says the Rokei'ach, at Chanukah being eight days (and not seven) like Sukos, and that the ideal mitzvah is to use olive oil, as the Torah explicitly writes there.


And Halochoh ke'Beis Hillel

The Rokei'ach also finds a hint here for Beis Hillel, who maintains that on the first night, one lights one lamp, adding one light on each subsequent night (as opposed to Beis Shamai, in whose opinion one begins with eight, and lights one less on each subsequent night). The Torah hints this by writing first "to kindle the everlasting light" (24:2), and then "he shall arrange the lights" (24:4).

The B'nei Yisoschor adds a touch of his own. The opening words of that parshah are "Tzav es B'nei Yisroel", which is the same numerical value as 'bi'Yemei Mattisyohu ben Yochonon'.


Zos Chanukah

The last day of Chanukah is known as 'Zos Chanukah' (adapted from two prominent words in the leining of the day).

Based on the Kabbalistic teachings of the Arizal, the commentaries write that 'Zos Chanukah' is a day on which the prayers of a couple who cannot have children are most likely to be answered.

It is also written that, from Rosh Chodesh Elul until 'Zos Chanukah', the shape of an outstretched hand appears in the sky, a sign that the doors of teshuvah, which ostensibly close on Hosha'ano Rabo, actually remain open until the end of Chanukah. A hint that Chanukah is a time of teshuvah lies in the posuk "Tosheiv enosh ad dako" (Tehilim 90) - "dako" is the numerical value of 25. And a hint that points more directly at 'Zos Chanukah' lies in the posuk in Yeshayah (22) "be'zos yechupar avon Ya'akov".


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