שבת טעם החיים מקץ-חנוכה תשע”ב
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Mikeitz-Chanukah 5772
Five Questions With Behind the Scenes Answers
1. What is the connection of Mikeitz to Chanukah? Every year Chanukah falls out between the parshiyos of Vayeishev and Mikeitz. וישב equals 318 in gematria and מקץ equals 230. The difference between 318 and 230 is 88, which is the gematria of the wordחנוכה (89). This gematria implies that there are allusions to Chanukah in both Vayeishev and Mikeitz. Last week we discussed the connection of Vayeishev to Chanukah. What is the connection of Mikeitz to Chanukah?
2. What do cows and stalks have to do with Egypt?
3. Why is it that from all the shevatim, only Yosef received an extra name, and which of the other shevatim had one name with two meanings and those names are connected to Yosef?
4. Why did Yosef tell the brothers they have come to see ערות הארץ? Is that term connected to Yosef?
5. Why does the Torah use the word גביע here as a cup, as opposed to כוס? Is there any connection with this word and the middah of Yosef?
1. How do we find a connection between Chanukah and this week’s parashah? The first thing is to see if there is any mention of light in the parasha. It is said (Bereishis 42:3) הַבֹּ֖קֶר אֹ֑ור וְהָאֲנָשִׁ֣ים שֻׁלְּח֔וּ הֵ֖מָּה וַחֲמֹרֵיהֶֽם, the day dawned and the men were sent off, they and their donkeys. How would this verse be associated with Chanukah? We notice that the last letters of the wordsוְהָאֲנָשִׁ֣ים שֻׁלְּח֔וּ הֵ֖מָּה וַחֲמֹרֵיהֶֽם equal in gematria to the word בחנוכה. We are still seeking, however, a stronger connection in the parasha to Chanukah. We are then hit by a lightning bolt. The Ramban in the beginning of the parashah writes that Onkelos renders the word יאור as נהרא, and the Ramban writes that both יאור and נהר are one, as they both mean light. Furthermore, rain is also referred to as אור, light. The Ramban then suggest that perhaps the reason rain is referred to as light is because the sun heats the water and the condensation process results in rain. We no w have a strong connection in the parashah to Chanukah. Pharaoh is standing by the river, which means light, and he is dreaming regarding the sustenance of his country. The light of the Menorah that we light has its source from the Bais HaMikdash, and it was from the Bais HaMikdash that light and substance emanated to the entire world. This is one primary association of Chanukah to Parashas Mikeitz.
2. The Torah states that Pharaoh saw in his dream seven skinny cows and seven fat cows, and the skinny cows devoured the fat cows. Additionally, Pharaoh observed in his dream seven beaten stalks that consumed seven healthy stalks. The word used for cows here is פרות. Another word for a cow or more specifically, for a calf, is עגל. In last week’s parashah we learned that Yaakov sent Yosef to see how his brothers were faring in Shechem, and the Medrash states that Yaakov instructed Yosef regarding the laws of escorting a person outside the city. The Torah states that if a corpse is found between two cities and it is not known who the murderer was, then the elders have to measure the distance between the corpse and the city and the city that is closest to the corpse has to bring what is referred to as an עגלה ערופה. The elders take a calf and break its neck in an unsown valley. It is said (Yirmiah 46:20) עֶגְלָ֥ה יְפֵֽה־פִיָּ֖ה מִצְרָ֑יִם קֶ֥רֶץ מִצָּפֹ֖ון בָּ֥א בָֽא, Egypt is a beautiful calf, but a slaughterer from the north is surely coming. Egypt is referred to as a calf. The word ערפה, meaning breaking, has the same letters as פרעה. The dream that Pharaoh saw was forewarning him that Egypt would soon experience a terrible breaking through the seven year famine that would afflict the country. What about the stalks? How do those connect to Egypt? Yosef provides us with the answer, as he tells Pharaoh (Bereishis 41:32) וְעַ֨ל הִשָּׁנֹ֧ות הַחֲלֹ֛ום אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֖ה פַּעֲמָ֑יִם כִּֽי־נָכֹ֤ון הַדָּבָר֙ מֵעִ֣ם הָאֱלֹקים וּמְמַהֵ֥ר הָאֱלֹקים לַעֲשֹׂתֹֽו, as for the repetition of the dream to Pharaoh – two times – it is because the matter stands ready before G-d, and G-d is hastening to accomplish it. The word שבלים equals exactly in gematria the words וּמְמַהֵ֥ר הָאֱלֹקים. Thus, Yosef was intimating to Pharaoh that the dream of the stalks was exactly the same as the dream of the cows, and the purpose of the repetition was to demonstrate that HaShem was hastening to accomplish it.
3. Pharaoh gave Yosef the name צפנת פענח, he who explains what is hidden. Interestingly, Rochel gave Yosef his name for two reason. The first reason, the Torah states (Bereishis 30:23) וַתַּ֖הַר וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֑ן וַתֹּ֕אמֶר אָסַ֥ף אֱלֹקים אֶת־חֶרְפָּתִֽי she conceived and bore a son, and said, “G-d has taken away my disgrace.” The second reason was as it is said (Bereishis 30:24) וַתִּקְרָ֧א אֶת־שְׁמֹ֛ו יֹוסֵ֖ף לֵאמֹ֑ר יֹסֵ֧ף ה לִ֖י בֵּ֥ן אַחֵֽר, so she called his name Yosef, saying, “May HaShem add on for me another son.” There is an association between Rochel declaring that now HaShem had removed her disgrace and the idea that Yosef would reveal hidden secrets. Upon entering Eretz Yisroel, Yehoshua saw to it that all the Jewish People were circumcised. It is said (Yehoshua 5:9) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה אֶל־יְהֹושֻׁ֔עַ הַיֹּ֗ום גַּלֹּ֛ותִי אֶת־חֶרְפַּ֥ת מִצְרַ֖יִם מֵעֲלֵיכֶ֑ם וַיִּקְרָ֞א שֵׁ֣ם הַמָּקֹ֤ום הַהוּא֙ גִּלְגָּ֔ל עַ֖ד הַיֹּ֥ום הַזֶּֽה, HaShem said to Yehoshua, “Today I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from upon you.” He named that place Gilgal [Rolling], to this day. Rochel was hinting that Yehoshua, her descendant from the tribe of Yosef, would remove the disgrace of Egypt from the Jewish People by circumcising them. The Baal HaTurim (Bereishis 41:45) writes that the words צָֽפְנַ֣ת פַּעְנֵחַ֒ are an acrostic for the words צדיק פטפט נפש תאוה פוטיפר ענה נפשו חנם, the righteous one resisted the desire, Potiphar afflicted his soul for naught. Thus, we see that the idea that Yosef was revealing hidden matters was associated with the fact that he resisted an immoral temptation. Circumcision, which involves the removal of the foreskin, is a removal of a Jew’s disgrace, and simultaneously reveals that a Jew is capable of resisting immoral temptation (See Rambam Moreh Nevuchim chapter 3 where he offers this as one reason for the mitzvah of circumcision.)
4. When Yosef’s brothers arrived before him, it is said (Bereishis 42:9) וַיִּזְכֹּ֣ר יֹוסֵ֔ף אֵ֚ת הַחֲלֹמֹ֔ות אֲשֶׁ֥ר חָלַ֖ם לָהֶ֑ם וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֲלֵהֶם֙ מְרַגְּלִ֣ים אַתֶּ֔ם לִרְאֹ֛ות אֶת־עֶרְוַ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ בָּאתֶֽם, Yosef recalled the dreams that he dreamed about them, so he said to them, “You are spies! To see the land’s nakedness have you come!” When we rearrange the letters of the words עֶרְוַ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ, we have the words עצרת אורה, which alludes to the holiday of שמיני עצרת and שמחת תורה, as the Gemara (Megillah 16a) states that אורה זו תורה, light refers to Torah. The commentators write that Yosef is reflected in שמיני עצרת, so we can suggest that Yosef was essentially telling the brothers, “you have come to see me, and I am reflected in the holiday of שמיני עצרת and שמחת תורה.
5. The Torah states that Yosef trapped his brother Binyomin by having his goblet placed in Binyomin’s bag. The word that the Torah uses for goblet is גביע. The word גביע equals in gematria 85, the same gematria as the word מילה, circumcision. The Holy Writings teach us that Yosef represents the sixth level of the Sefiros, referred to as יסוד, foundation. Yosef was thus hinting to his brothers that although he was entrenched in Egyptian society, he resisted temptation and wasשומר הברית, protecting the Holy Covenant. When he finally reveals himself to his brothers in next week’s parasha, he informs them that he is circumcised and has remained true to his faith.
Shabbos Zemiros Elucidated
מַה יְּדִידוּת מְנוּחָתֵךְ authored by Menachem over four hundred years ago
וַתֵּכֶל כָּל הָעֲבוֹדוֹת לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ מְלָאכָה, then all labors ceased – ‘you shall not work.’ The simple translation of the word וַתֵּכֶל is to complete. The Baal HaTurim, however, offers us a fascinating insight into Shabbos, as he cites the Targum Yerushalmi that renders the word (Bereishis 2:2) וַיְכַ֤ל אֱלֹקִים֙, HaShem completed, to mean that HaShem desired. Thus, HaShem desired the Shabbos so much that He completed His work before the onset of Shabbos. We are likewise charged to desire the Shabbos so intensely that we have no more desire to perform the work of the weekday and we rush in to greet the Holy Shabbos.
Chanukah in Bergen Belsen
The rabbi was desperately looking for a small light in the sea of dark despair.
“In their very essence a Jew and despair are contradictory. They simply cannot co-exist together.” Rabbi Shraga Shmuel Schnitzler, who went by the more familiar name of Rabbi Shmelke, looked around the barracks to make sure that the others had understood his point. Amidst the crowd of weary faces that stared back at him, there were a few who were nodding their heads in agreement. Perhaps they, too, had been chassidim in another life — the life that existed before the war — and so they could appreciate the tales that Rabbi Shmelke told about chassidic Rebbes of former days.
Rabbi Shmelke didn’t tell his stories just to pass the time. His job, as he saw it, was to keep up the spirits of the Jews who were imprisoned in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. That job would have been much easier if they were prophets, since the end of the war was just a few months away. But during that Kislev of 1944, the situation seemed as hopeless as ever. Even the thought of Chanukah, which was fast approaching, couldn’t dispel the gloom for most of them.
For Rabbi Shmelke, it was a different story. Since the beginning of the month he had been busy preparing for the holiday. He asked the same question to everyone he met: “Can you get us a little oil? Do you someone who works in the kitchen?”
The answer was always the same: No.
Chanukah was only a few days away and he had to find some oil.
With dismay, he realized that Chanukah was only a few days away. He knew only too well what would happen if he couldn’t find any oil. Many of his fellow prisoners were clinging to life only by a slender thread of hope. Once that thread was snapped, they would succumb to the deep sea of dark despair that threatened to drown them. So he had to find some oil. Even if he found only enough oil to kindle the first Chanukah for a few seconds that would be enough. But no Chanukah lights? That wasn’t an option.
The day before Chanukah Rabbi Shmelke was at work — his “other” job in the camp was to remove dead bodies from the barracks — when he received an order to go to the last barrack, where some people had died during the previous night. While he walked across a field his foot got caught in a small hole in the frozen earth and he almost fell. He removed his foot from the hole and noticed that there was something buried inside. After making sure that no guards were watching him, he knelt down to see what it was.
He pulled out a small jar from the ground. Inside was some congealed liquid. Oil, he whispered. Oil for Chanukah!
Rabbi Shmelke then reached his hand inside the hole a second time. To his delight he discovered that the hiding place contained more surprises. He pulled out a carefully wrapped package and quickly undid the paper wrapping. Inside were eight little cups and eight thin strands of cotton.
It was obvious that some Jewish prisoner had buried this little menorah and the oil. But who was he? And where was he? Had he been transported to another camp? Had he died?
Although Rabbi Shmelke desperately wanted oil for his own barracks, he sincerely hoped that the Jew who had buried these things was still alive. Perhaps he was still in the camp and he would come back the next day and search for the treasure that he had so carefully hidden. So Rabbi Shmelke carefully reburied everything. But for the rest of the day and night, he asked every Jew that he met the same question: “I found some oil and a menorah. Maybe you were the one who hid them?”
The other prisoners looked at him with sad eyes, certain that at last the horrors of the Rabbi’s work had destroyed his mind. “No, Rabbi,” they said, one after another. “I didn’t hide any oil. I didn’t hide a menorah.”
The next night, however, they discovered that Rabbi Shmelke hadn’t gone mad. When they returned to their barracks after the evening roll call they saw, to their amazement, a little menorah standing on one of the bunks. To their even greater surprise, one of the cups was filled with oil!
Rabbi Shmelke recited the blessings and then kindled the light for the first night. The group watched in silence while the tiny flame fought its eternal battle against the surrounding darkness. Some smiled, others cried. All felt a sweet spark of hope revive inside their embattled and embittered hearts.
Their own personal miracle was repeated on each night of the holiday.
Their own personal miracle was repeated on each night of the holiday. And then a few months later, in April 1945, an even greater miracle occurred. Germany surrendered. The war was over.
Rabbi Shmelke was one of the fortunate few who survived the war. After Bergen Belsen was liberated he returned to Hungary, where he served as a spiritual leader for other survivors and became known as the Tachaber Rav.
Several years later he made a trip to the United States, and while he was there he paid a visit to an acquaintance from the “old country” — Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe. While they reminisced, the Satmar Rebbe mentioned that he had also been a prisoner in Bergen Belsen.
“I was there a year before you,” said the Satmar Rebbe. “I was rescued on the 21st of Kislev, four days before Chanukah. Before I found out about the rescue plan, I made provisions for the holiday. I bribed several camp officials and put together a package of oil, cups, and wicks, which I then buried in a field. I always felt badly that my little menorah was never put to use.”
Rabbi Shmelke smiled. “Your menorah was used. It dispelled the darkness for hundreds of Jews and helped at least one of them survive the war.” (www.aish.com)
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos and a Freilechen Chanukah
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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