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

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Vol. 23   No. 10

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
R' Leibush ben Yaakov Shimon z"l
whose sixth Yohrzeit is 3 Teves
by his wife

Parshas Mikeitz

Yosef ha' Tzadik

A major attribute that is needed in order to earn the title 'Tzadik' is that of self-control - the ability to maintain control over all situations, and not to be controlled by them. And that, in turn, is based on the will to always do what is right rather than what is pleasant.


And it is this Midah in which Yosef excelled, and which earned him the title 'Yosef ha'Tzadik'. The episode to which Chazal, more than any other, attribute Yosef's righteousness, is his confrontation with the wife of Potifera, his master. The ability to turn down her advances, despite his vulnerability, his youth and his good looks, and the actions that he took to escape her clutches, despite her high position, was nothing less than awesome. Yet no less inspirational was the self-control that he exercised in the many diverse situations that he found himself, from the time that he arrived - all alone, in Egypt.

He did not allow twelve years in jail to break his spirit, or eighty years as the de facto head of the mightiest empire of that time to go to his head. His integrity and saintliness left an indelible impression on his master, and his superior wisdom, far ahead of his years, on the king. And he manipulated the brothers who had sold him into slavery, with the sole aim of becoming reunited with them and with his beloved father - without the slightest thought of revenge. Indeed, during the ensuing years, he treated them with the utmost love and respect, as one treats older brothers, in spite of his elevated position. Not to speak of his honesty and integrity when for many years, he personally handled the entire wealth of the country, without taking a cent for himself or for his family.


On none of these occasions did he allow the slightest trace of personal emotion or prejudice to influence his actions. Indeed, each and every person with whom he came into contact received the same, sometimes firm, but scrupulously fair treatment. Never was Yosef governed by malice, pride or greed, even where one may justifiably have expected otherwise.


From Yosef we learn how a person imbued with Yir'as Shamayim (the hallmark of a Tzadik) can always remain in perfect control of any given situation - that he is able to do, not what his heart dictates, but what he truly wants to do, namely what is right, in the spirit of what Chazal have taught 'Nothing can stand before one's will!'

* * *

The Seven Branches of
the Menorah

Even though the number eight figures prominently in the Chanukah story and its aftermath (as we will discuss in the Chanukah issue), the Menorah itself comprised, not eight branches, but seven. Here are some of the things that the seven branches of the Menorah symbolize. We have placed the person/item that represents the middle branch in brackets/parentheses.

1. The seven Sefiros Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferes/Emes, Netzach, Hod, Y'sod/Tzadik, (Malchus).*

2. The seven Ushpizin - Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef , (David ha'Melech) *

3. The seven days of the week (Shabbos)*

4. We say regularly in the Amidah - 'Because with the light of Your Face You have given us a Torah of life, love of kindness, charity, blessing, mercy, life and peace'.

5. The six tractates of the Mishnah - Zera'im, Mo'ed. Nashim, Nezikin, Kodshim, Taharos - and (the written Torah)*

* * *

The Earthenware Jar

The Gemara in Shabbos (21b) describes how, after the defeat of the Greek army, they discovered a solitary earthenware jar of oil, enough to last for only one night, with the Kohen Gadol's seal still intact. The fact that it was made of earthenware was significant, because, had it been made of metal or even of wood, the jar, together with its contents would have been rendered Tamei upon contact with a Tamei person, which the majority of people - having fought and having had contact with corpses, inevitably were. Earthenware is different however, inasmuch as it cannot become Tamei from the outside, only by dangling something Tamei inside their airspace. The Kohen Gadol's unbroken seal therefore, ensured that the jar had not been opened, in which case both the jar and the oil were Tahor.


Tosfos there add another dimension to the status of the jar. They point out that at that time, Chazal had, in all likelihood, already decreed Tum'as Zav (a flux) on all gentiles, and a Zav renders a vessel Tamei by moving it - even if the vessel is a sealed earthenware one. In that case, what guarantee did they have that a Greek soldier had not inadvertently kicked the jar and rendered it Tamei - in spite of the Kohen Gadol's seal?


Tosfos concludes that assuming that the decree of Tum'as Zav on gentiles was already in force, the jar that they found must have been buried in the ground. Consequently, the seal ensured that no Jew had rendered it Tamei by dangling anything Tamei before the Greeks came upon the scene, whilst the fact that it was buried guaranteed that it retained its Tahor status even after Greeks arrived.

* * *

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Ita bas Shlomo z"l

Chanukah Supplement

Chashmonah, Oil & the Number 8

In Parshas Mas'ei, the Torah lists the place-names of the forty-two stops that Yisrael made during their travels in the Desert. The commentaries ob-serve that the twenty-fifth stop was in Chashmonah, an obvious hint to the Chanukah miracle, in which the famous family of Chashmona'im were in-strumental, that took place on the twenty-fifth of Kislev.


The word 'Chashmnah' note, contains both the words 'Shemonah' (eight) - the number of days that the miracle of the oil lasted, and Shemen (oil) - the material chosen by G-d with which to perform it.


Oil, for its part, is the only liquid that cannot be mixed with another liq-uid. Not only that, but if one does try to mix it, it will always rise to the top.

This epitomizes K'lal Yisrael, who by virtue of their having received the Torah at Har Sinai, do not mix with the other nations. And it truly defines the small group of Jews who stood firm against the tide of Hellenism at that time, and who ultimately rose to the top with the defeat of the mighty Greek army. The miracle of the oil that followed in its wake was not an independent one. It was the natural sequel to the physical victory that preceded it, con-veying the message that the physical victory was based on the spiritual su-premacy - that 'the mighty into the hands of the few' and 'the impure into the hands of the pure' were one and the same. And it also explains why one of the meanings of the word 'shemen' is 'good-quality/the best', which as we just explained, describes the spiritual qualities of Yisrael as against the other nations.


One of the basic distinctions given by the commentaries between Chanu-kah and Purim is that whereas the latter was a physical battle between the forces of evil (who threatened the Jews' bodies) and those of good, the former was a spiritual battle (where they tried to convert them to Hellenism). It was a battle of the natural against the supernatural (the Neshamah - which in-cidentally, also contains the word 'Shemen'). And as is well-known, whereas the physical world is symbolized by the number seven, the supernatural is symbolized by the number eight.

Little wonder, therefore, that the miracle of Chanukah reached its zenith with oil and that it lasted for eight days.


Many answers are given to resolve the Beis Yosef's question as to why we celebrate Chanukah for eight days, seeing as there was enough oil to last for one day, and that the miracle therefore lasted only seven days. According to the above, the eight-day miracle was obvious and the question is not that Chanukah ought to last for seven days, but how to explain that it lasted eight.

Perhaps the most basic of the numerous answers is that, bearing in mind the extensive efforts of the Greeks to defile the Beis-Hamikdash - including all the oil for the Menorah - the fact that they found a jar of pure oil was, in itself, a miracle.


Let us take this one step further. Even assuming that it was not, the fact is that they did find that jar, and that without it, the seven day miracle would not have occurred. Perhaps Chazal instituted the first day because it is our task to sanctify the physical objects that exist and to use them in our Avodas Hashem. The Celestial bodies in Heaven can exist independently; here on earth, the spiritual can only exist on a material base, just as the Neshamah can only exist and thrive in a physical body.

In the same way, the jar of oil, enough to last for one day, was the physical base that enabled the seven-day miracle to take place.


The seven-day miracle had to have oil to last for one day in order to take effect. Consequently, Chazal fixed Chanukah for eight days.

* * *

Important Historical Events
from the Chanukah Period
(adapted from the Seider ha'Doros)

3560 Yehoshua ben P'rachyah and Nitai ha'Arbeili receive the Torah from Yosef ben Yo'ezer and Yosef Ish Yerushalayim * The story of the weasel and the pit (cited in the first Perek of B'rochos takes place * Yochanan, Mattisyahu's father is Kohen Gadol. He establishes many Takanos, but after serving for eighty years, he becomes a Tzedoki (See also, year 3642) * Eliyahu, author of Tana de'Bei Eliyahu, lives at that time * Yeishu of Nazareth is a Talmid of Yehoshua ben P'rachyah (though others place him 100 years later), in the time of Queen Hilni, who ruled during the era of Hillel ha'Zakein - some seventy years before the destruction of the second Beis-Hamikdash.
3610 The cruel tyrant Antiyochus Epiphanes ascends the Greek throne./td>
3616 He attacks Yeushalayim . wrecks the Beis Hamikdash and places an image in the Heichal * He brutally murders Chanah & her seven sons and Elazar Kohen Gadol, who is eighty * He kills 80,000 Jews, and sells as many, and sends 40,000 into captivity * His generals - Nikanor, Bagris, Lysius & Apolianus will later be killed in battle by Matisyahu and his five sons (the Chashmona'im) - Yehudah, Yonasan, Yochanan, Shimon & Elazar * The Jews enter into a peace treaty with the Romans.

An eclipse and then sinister Heavenly signs, is followed by a num-ber of international disasters, including the burning of Carthage and the capture of all of Greece's fortified cities (at the hand of the Romans)./td>

3618 Yehudah ben Tabai and Shimon ben Shetach receive the Torah from Yehoshua ben P'rachyah and Nitai ha'Arbeili * Sheltzion ha'Malkah, Yanai ha'Melech and Choni ha'Me'agel all live in this period./td>
3621 Matisyahu Kohen Gadol together with his five sons, lead the revolt against the Greeks./td>
3622 Matisyahu dies. His son Yehudah (known as 'ha'Macabi) assumes leadership * The miracle of Chanukah takes place * A Heavenly fire appears out of a stone on the Mizbe'ach which will continue to consume the Korbanos up to the Churban some two hundred years later * Antiyochus leads a huge army in an attack on Yerushalayim, but G-d strikes him with a terrible plague of boils and stomach-pains. He falls from his chariot and dies in agony and in disgrace * According to some, the story of Yehudis and Aliporni takes place at this time * Elazar, Yehudah's brother, dies in battle when the elephant, whose belly he has pierced, falls on him./td>
3628 After numerous victories, in which he killed many tens of thou-sands of Greek soldiers and captains, Yehudah dies in battle, even as his army routs the enemy, killing 15,000 Greek soldiers, in-cluding General Bakirus. He is succeeded by his brother Yonasan * All the brothers, bar Elazar (sinfully) assume the mantle of king-ship * A major victory, in which the entire Greek army is destroyed, and where only King Antiyochus Sirut and his two sons escape, is followed by a few years of calm./td>
3634 Shim'on, the next brother, takes over the throne.

His daughter is married to King P'tolomy of Egypt, who murders his father-in-law and exiles his wife and their two sons, in chains, to Egypt. The older son, Hyrcanus, he kills; the younger son, Yochanan, escapes from prison./td>

3642 Yochanan assumes the reigns of rulership - he is also known as Hyrcanus and Yanai. After fighting the Tzedokim and the Kutim, and destroying the latter's temple on Mount Gerizim, he himself becomes a Tzedoki (after serving eighty years as Kohen Gadol (See also year 3616). /td>
3648 The Roman Empire commences, 180 years before the Churban./td>
3662 The birth of Julius Caesar, He is kindly disposed towards the Jews, as is Queen Cleopatra of Egypt./td>
3668 King Yochanan (Yanai) dies./td>
3718 Julius Caesar is murdered. /td>

* * *

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