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Weekly Chizuk

Mikeitz - Chanukah

Based on a lecture by Rav Zev Leff.

What's the difference between a miracle and hishtadlus. There is a common understanding that the difference between a miracle and hishtadlus is that a miracle is caused by G-d. Hishtadlus is accomplished by man. I did it. With G-d's help of course. The Vilna Gaon in his sefer on Bitachon writes that this isn't true. Everything is from G-d. He is the cause of everything. However, that's the truth from His standpoint. From our standpoint, a miracle looks like He did it. While natural effort looks like I did it. But the truth is that that Ribono Shel Olam runs the world in every situation. There's no difference whether He's sending down Mann, or a person goes to work and brings home a paycheck to pay the grocery bill. It's all Hashem. Just that sometimes it's obvious to us, sometimes it's hidden from us, and sometimes we see it partially. But it's all from Hashem.

The reason Hashem does this is to give us free will - bechira. But the truth is that everything is the hand of G-d.

That was the mistake that Yosef Hatzaddik made (on his madreiga). The Michtav Me'Eliyahu writes that everyone thinks that nature means cause and effect. You do this and the effect is the result. That's not true. You just put in your hishtadlus. You just create the conduit through which Hashem works. It's a prerequisite. And then the Ribono Shel Olam does everything to bring about the result. When you plant the seed, you don't cause it to grow. Hashem causes it to grow through the laws of nature that He controls. Similarly, you have to do your hishtadlus, But the Ribono Shel Olam accomplishes the result. But there is no cause and effect relationship between them.

Yosef was punished two extra years in prison because he told the Wine Steward to remember him. Everybody asks what was wrong. Don't you have to make hishtadlus? He was in prison. He had just helped the Wine Steward. The Wine Steward is getting out and will have Pharaoh's ear. So what's wrong with asking him, "Remember me to Pharaoh?" What's the problem?

And why two years? Some say because he said one extra "Remember me," so he was punished for both of them. But if that's the case he could have had two weeks, or two months. Why two years? Additionally, only one of them was wrong. The first one was OK. So he should have had only one year.

Rav Leff explained, that Yosef made it look as if he was orchestrating how he was going to get out of prison. It wasn't merely that he was fulfilling a prerequisite hishtadlus. Rather, he was orchestrating how it was going to work. I'm mentioning it to you, and you will mention it to Pharaoh and everything will work out fine. Yosef was making it look as if he was the cause. So the Ribono Shel Olam said, "I'm going to teach you a lesson. I'm going to do exactly what you asked, but in such a way that it's obvious that it's all from Me!"

If what Yosef did was wrong, the Ribono Shel Olam could have taught him a lesson by having him released through a different scheme. The Sar Hamashkim should have died, and Yosef should have gotten out of prison a different way, and the Ribono Shel Olam would have proven to him that it had nothing to do with him. That would have taught him a lesson!

Instead he got out exactly according to his plan. The Sar HaMashkim remembered him to Pharaoh and got him out of prison. So what kind of lesson is he being taught?

Chazal teach us that someone can remember something to act upon it for a year. After that you put it in the back of your mind and forget it. It's filed away somewhere, but you don't act upon it. So the Ribono Shel Olam said, "You're going to get out of prison exactly as you planned, but it's going to be clear it didn't come from you." The Wine Steward can remember you for a year to do something about it. If he would tell Pharaoh before the year is up, then Pharaoh can remember it for another year. After two years it was impossible that it came from Yosef. "You're going to get out of jail exactly as you planned, but it's going to be obvious that I'm the cause, not you." That was Yosef's mistake, therefore it had to be exactly two years.

That is the lesson. We have to do hishtadlus. But we dare not attribute the outcome to ourselves. It's all in the hands of the Ribono Shel Olam.

* * *

Rav Elimelech Biderman explains that this is the lesson of the dreidel that we play on Chanukah. A person cannot decide how the dreidel is going to fall. A person spins the dreidel, slowly or quickly, easily, or with all his might. How it falls is determined by Heaven. He can be as nervous as be, chew his fingernails in anticipation of winning or losing the game; but the end result has nothing to do with him. It's a Divine decree. The dreidel will fall wherever it will fall.

That's Man. A person can try with all his wits, all his might to get a certain outcome. In reality he can do nothing to change the Divine decree. He must do hishtadlus, but the outcome is totally in the hands of the Ribono Shel Olam.

The dreidel is also a moshol for hishtadlus in another way. As much as it spins from the bottom depends upon being spun from above. That is the world. Everything that spins down here, is really being spun from above.

The Sosover Rebbe said that this is the hidden meaning of the halacha that the Chanukah candles should be lit "until all the feet leave the marketplace."

Why did Chazal tell us the shiur of oil in such a strange fashion? Just tell us half an hour. We don't find such a style used in any other measure in the Talmud.

This halacha is a hint what we are supposed to learn from the miracles of Chanukah. We have to stop treading our feet day and night in the marketplace as we hunt for our parnossah! Everything is from Hashem. It doesn't matter whether you do a lot of hishtadlus or a little hishtadlus.

This was the miracle of Chanukah. They only had a little amount of oil to light one day. And it lit for eight days. This is the lesson. If the Ribono Shel Olam wants, He can send down His bracha into the little bit of hishtadlus we do, as little as it may seem.

This is the lesson of the Chanukah candles. Do your hishtadlus. But in the end, get your feet out of the marketplace. Hashem will send the same bracha down and you will enjoy the light.

Gut Shabbos and a freilechen Chanukah!

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Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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