Dvar Torah: Miketz and Chanukah

It is Chanukah. We are celebrating a miracle. What is the miracle?

In a few minutes we will continue with arvit service. During Chanukah, we include the Al Hanissim prayer when we recite the amidah prayers. This addition serves to give thanks to God for the miracles that occurred at this time to people of Israel.

Traditionally, Hanukkah celebrates two distinct events: the victory of the Maccabees and the restoration of the Temple after its desecration.

The Al Hanissim prayer stresses the military victory over the Greeks. It also states that the cleansing of the Temple was commemorated by the lighting of candles. It makes no mention of the miracle of the oil.

In the Talmud, however, there is a passage concerning Chanukah (Shabbat 21b) that emphasizes the rededication and the related miracle of the oil.

According to Al Hanissim, the miracle of Chanukah was that the many were delivered into the hand of few, and the strong into the hand of the weak.

What is the connection between this week’s portion, the story of Joseph, and Chanukah?

The eight day festival of Chanukah often takes place between the weeks in which we read the parshiot Vayeshev and Miketz.

In Parshat Vayeshev we read about Yosef’s dreams:

And Yosef dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brethren; and they hated him yet the more.
And he said unto them: ‘Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: for, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves came round about, and bowed down to my sheaf.’
And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brethren, and said: ‘Behold, I have dreamed yet a dream: and, behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me.’

And in Parshat Miketz we read about Pharaoh’s dreams:

And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, well-favoured and fat-fleshed; and they fed in the reed-grass.
And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and lean-fleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.
And the ill-favoured and lean-fleshed kine did eat up the seven well-favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
And he slept and dreamed a second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.
And, behold, seven ears, thin and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them.
And the thin ears swallowed up the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.

Yosef dreamt that the majority can be subordinate to the minority. In Pharaoh’s dreams the weak conquered the strong.

Thus, the common denominator of both dreams is that quality, not quantity or strength, is necessarily the decisive factor.

The Al HaNissim prayer highlights the qualities of the nation of Israel and the Syrian Greeks, who battled each other. The Syrian Greeks were larger in number. They were stronger. They were warriors. They should have won the war. They were of a larger quantity than the Jews. However, they lost the war to the Jews. The Jews were pure. They were righteous. They were students of the Torah. They were of a greater quality than their opponents. The victory of the Jews represents a victory of quality over quantity.

This is lesson which we should take to heart on Chanukah. We should remember that when it comes to the keeping of mitzvot, and performing good deeds, numbers are not all that counts. The quality of our performance is of extreme importance, and Chanukah attests to the importance of quality. Chanukah should serve as an inspiration to all of us, so that we can all improve the quality of our deeds and the quality of our lives.

But, remember, the additions of a candle to the Chanukah menorah each day teaches that in Torah and mitzvot, one should never be content with what was done yesterday. Each day one must strive to do more and improve our character, our keeping of mitzvah, of doing good deeds.

Chag Sameach

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s