Pop Quiz: Into which animal's blood did the brothers dip Yosef's coat,
by Rabbi Reuven Semah
"You [Hashem] handed over the powerful into the hands of the weak" (Al Hanisim)
The holiday of Hanukah is all about Hashem rescuing his people from the Greeks and of the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days. If one would look into the Torah sources of this great holiday, he would be surprised to find very little in the way of a written account of what happened. The Talmud asks, "What is Hanukah?" and answers with a short recounting, only hinting at the great wars. The great Rambam as well does not elaborate on the war. The holy Sage, Rashi, however in his commentary on the Humash, where Moshe Rabenu blesses the tribe of Levi (Debarim 33:11) explains: Moshe Rabenu saw the future where the Kohanim from the tribe of Levi would fight the mighty Greeks. Only thirteen men would stand against the entire Greek army. Rashi's explanation is to be taken literally.
The Talmud (Yoma 29) comments that Purim was the last official holiday. The Gemara explains that even though Hanukah occurred afterwards, it was not to be written down. Megillat Esther was the last recorded miracle. Rabbi Matityahu Solomon points out an unusual development around the holiday of Hanukah which is not found by any other holiday. As Rashi points out, the main idea to be gotten from the wars was that the human might and ability of the Maccabees played no role whatsoever. They had none! It was only Hashem. They were the weak and the Greeks were the strong. However the secular Jewish world altered this message entirely, and portrays the "mighty Maccabees" that saved the day. There is even the event of the "Maccabee games" (Jewish Olympics) in Israel today. No other holiday theme has been altered this way. There is no portrayal of Moshe as the wisest magician outfoxing Pharaoh's magicians, no explanation that Esther and Mordechai were the shrewdest politicians. Why is this? The answer is that all the rest of the holidays have a written account. Hanukah remains oral. Hashem is showing us the importance of steadfastly remaining loyal and dependent on the words of our Sages. The greatest problem the Jews faced was the culture and influence of the Greeks. The result today of not consulting the words of our Sages has led to a great misunderstanding of the holiday. Rashi explains the war. The "Bach," the great commentary on the Tur Shulhan Aruch, explains the Greek decrees against the Temple service. These are our sources. There is a phrase in the Torah that sums up the way we should learn history. "Remember the days of old, understand the years of generation after generation, ask your father and he will relate it to you, and your elders and they will tell you." (Debarim 32:7). Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah.
RIGHT BACK AT YOU
Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
After Yosef was sold into slavery, the brothers, led by Yehudah, sent Yosef's multi-colored coat, dipped in goat's blood, to their father. They asked him "haker na, Recognize if you please, if this is your son's coat." Later on, when Tamar sent the staff and the ring belonging to her father-in-law, Yehudah, she also said to him these same words, "haker na, Recognize please if these are yours (so it shall be known that I conceived from you)." The Rabbis tell us that Yehudah was punished midah keneged midah, measure for measure. He used words which caused anguish to his father and Tamar used these very words which caused him embarrassment. The concept of measure for measure is indeed very powerful, and is one of the ways by which Hashem's Providence is shown throughout all the generations. If we study this perashah well, we will see that what Yosef did to his brothers was also done to him, measure for measure. When the Jewish people were lax in the service of the Temple in the times of the Syrian-Greeks, they lost the privilege of service ion the Bet Hamikdash. When the Hashmonaim showed sacrifice and went above nature to rededicate the Temple service, Hashem also went above nature and gave us the military miracle and the miracle of the lamps lasting eight days. We have to know that this is the way Hashem works, measure for measure. This should encourage us and inspire us to do the correct things and not do something against Hashem or against other people, because the element of measure for measure is always active. May we be privileged to see the Hand of Hashem for only good things. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah.
TALK IT OUT
"[Yosef's brothers] hated him and could not speak to him for peace" (Beresheet 37:4)
Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshutz commented that it is possible that if the brothers would have spoken the matter over with Yosef they would have been able to make peace. The problem was that they were not talking to each other. This is what frequently happens when people are in the midst of a feud. One does not want to listen to the other. However, when one person tells another that he wronged him, the other person might apologize and accept upon himself not to do it again. If people who are involved in a heated dispute will talk things over with each other calmly, they will often see that they have nothing to argue about. Even if they still disagree in the end, the heavy emotionalism will be greatly diminished. When you hear clearly how the other person views the situation, you will see why he thinks as he does and you yourself will look at it differently. (Growth through Torah)
WHY EIGHT DAYS?
"The oil in the cruse was sufficient for only one day, but miraculously they kindled from it for eight days." (Gemara Shabbat 21b)
Why is Hanukah celebrated eight days? The cruse of oil found was sufficient for the first day, so the miracle was only for seven days? The Bet Yosef (Orah Hayim 670) provides three answers for this problem:
1) The Hasmoneans knew that it would take them eight days to get a new supply of oil. They did not want to kindle the Menorah for merely one night and neglect the succeeding seven nights. Hence, they decided to divide the cruse of oil into eight equal parts. Miraculously, the small amount of oil used on the first night lasted the entire night.
2) After filling the Menorah on the first night, they saw that the cruse remained full of oil. This miracle recurred for the next seven nights.
3) In the evening they poured the entire cruse of oil into the Menorah and kindled it. In the morning, they were amazed to find that after burning the entire night the cups were still filled with oil. Thus, on the first night a miracle had already occurred.
Some difficulties with the above explanations are:
1) The Menorah cups must be filled with enough oil to last the night.
2) Only pure olive oil is suitable, and not oil derived from a miracle. In response, Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik of Brisk advances the thought that on the first night the entire cruse of oil was poured into the Menorah. The miracle was in the quality of the oil. Oil which normally could burn for one night suddenly acquired the power to last for eight nights. Thus, each night the Menorah remained full, with the original olive oil losing only one eighth of its "flame" potentiality. (Vedibarta Bam)
Why do we play with a dreidel on Hanukah, and a gragger on Purim? The miracle of Hanukah was above the laws of nature. The Jewish people were the minority and the Greeks were the majority; we were the weak and they were the strong. Nevertheless, thanks to heavenly intervention, the miracle took place and the Jews were the victors. On Purim, the miracle was clothed entirely within the laws of nature. The Jewish people gathered in prayer and fasting. Esther pleaded their case before the king. Out of love for his Queen, he killed Haman - her arch enemy. Since the miracle of Hanukah came down from above, we spin the dreidel with the handle on top. The miracle of Purim was through an awakening from below. Consequently we turn the gragger with the handle below. (Vedibarta Bam)
Answer to Pop Quiz: They dipped it in goat's blood, because it is similar to human blood.