Miketz 5762 – Gilayon #217

Shabbat Shalom The weekly parsha commentary – parshat

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Parashat Miketz

Then Yosef commanded that they fill their vessels
with grain and return their silver-pieces into each man’s sack, and give them
victuals for the journey. They did so for them. Then they loaded their rations
onto their donkeys and went from there. But as one opened his sack to give his
donkey fodder at the night camp, he saw his silver – there it was in the mouth
of his pack! He said to his brothers: My silver has been returned – yes, here
in my pack! Their hearts gave way, and the trembled to one another, saying:

“What is this that God has done to us?”

(Bereishit 42:25-28)



Libel, Test, and

Despite his testing of
his brothers with the “You are spies!” libel, Yosef still had doubts as
to whether they love Benyamin, or if they still scorn the sons of his mother,
Rachel. Therefore, he wanted to involve Benyamin in the test of the goblet, to
see whether they would make efforts to save him. At the same time, however, he
feared that the brothers might think that he really did steal the goblet – just
as Rachel had stolen her father’s gods. Because of this they may say “The one
who stole shall die,” and not plead for him with all their strength – not
because of hatred for him, but because of their shame at the act. Because of
this, Yosef commanded to place, along with the silver goblet, Binyamin’s
payment and all their payments, so that they realize that all this was not the
fault of Binyamin and his wickedness, but rather the scheme of the master. If,
knowing this, they have compassion upon him and essay to save him from
servitude, he would then know that they love him; he will consider them to be
fully repentant, and will reveal himself to them and do good for them – as, in
fact, he did.

on Bereishit 44:1,2)




Shammai Leibovitz



The answer of the
Gemarra in Tractate Shabbat (21b):

For our Rabbis taught: on the 25th of Kislev… when the
Greeks entered the sanctuary, they defiled all the oils in the sanctuary, and
when the kingdom of the House of Hashmonai overwhelmed them, they searched and
found only one vial of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest, and
there was but oil enough to be lit for one day. A miracle was performed, and
they lit from it for seven days. A later year, they established them as
festival days, with praise and thanks…”

The Beit Yosef
(Orach Hayyim 760) posed an excellent question:

Why did they institute the lighting for eight days? Certainly there was
enough oil available for one day. Therefore, a miracle was needed only for
seven days. If the lighting is to commemorate the miracle, then they should
have ordained seven days for Hanukkah?

question prompted many answers – “Torah has seventy faces” – and this is not
the place to review them all. We shall focus upon two interesting answers, each
of which expresses an important aspect of understanding the meaning of miracles
in general and the miracle of Hanukkah in particular.

great sage, Rabbi Hayyim Soleveitchik of Brisk, explains in his usual fashion,
by means of typical “Brisk” inquiry. First he asks a prefatory question – how
could they have fulfilled the mitzvah of lighting the menorah with
miraculous oil? The mitzvah is to be fulfilled specifically with “olive
oil alone” – and not with oil which was added miraculously! But certainly the
berayta in Tractate Shabbat did not intend to say that the miracle was
quantitative, i.e., with the addition of real oil, but that it was qualitative
– that is to say, the power of the oil grew stronger from night to night.
According to this explanation, the priests poured all the oil of the vial into
the menorah; every night an eighth was consumed, and this eighth sufficed for
the entire night. Thus we find that the miracle occurred already on the first
night in the same degree as on all other nights.

Hayyim’s premise that they could not have fulfilled their obligation with
“miracle oil” is most interesting. This premise follows from Reb Hayyim’s basic
position in all his Torah explication, i.e., “All the Holy One, Blessed Be He,
has in this world is the four cubits of Halakha.” If the Halakha commanded to
light olive oil – authentic, natural, tangible – there is no permission nor
possibility to discharge one’s obligation with “miracle oil.”

we find expression of the principle that the Torah relates to physical reality
as we recognize it, and not to some supernatural, metaphysical reality.

statement has far-reaching ramifications regarding our understanding the
meaning of miracles. Since the miracle has no standing in Halakha itself, it
cannot be considered a reason or motivation for observance of the mitzvoth. And
here the question is asked: Why does Reb Hayyim block the entry of the miracle
into the Halakha, and why is the this separation between the world of miracles
and the world of Halakha so imperative? It can be said that if we do not
separate between these two worlds, there exists the danger that man’s free will
will be lost. The importance of the principle of freedom of choice is
axiomatic; to simplify the position we cite Ramhal, who effectively described
the centrality of this concept:

It is within man’s power to achieve perfection. This, however, must be
of his own choice and will, for if he were forced in his actions to choose
perfection, then he would not, in truth, be a perfect person… therefore it is
of necessity that the matter be left to his choice, that his leaning be
balanced between two sides, not necessarily towards one of them; then would he
have the power of choice, to deliberately and willingly choose whichever he
desires, and he has the ability to lean to whichever side he desires, and he
has the ability to move in the direction he wants.

(Derekh Hashem, Part I, Chap. 3:1)

A miracle is intrusion upon nature, intervention which is forced upon
man in a way that he cannot ignore it or deny it. If this is the motivation for
observing the mitzvoth, then man has no true freedom to choose. The breaking of
nature’s laws with a miracle coerces man into observing the mitzvoth, for he
sees in the miracle “proof” that this is the proper path. The miracle upsets
the “balance” which must exist between the way of Torah and the way of sin, and
tips the scale clearly towards walking in the path of Torah. In this situation,
man does not have two equal choices, and we cannot say his choice of the way of
God was truly a free choice.

In the light of this, Reb Hayyim sought to diminish, as much as
possible, the significance of the Hanukkah miracle, explaining the miracle in a
way which would not involve addition of real oil, but rather a change in
quality of the oil. Such a change is hardly noticed, and even if detected, it
can always be explained in a manner which need not contradict the laws of
nature (it can be logically assumed that oil of a higher quality burns longer).

The words of Reb Hayyim concur with the outlook of his
great-grandfather, Reb Hayyim of Volozhin. In his view, with regards to mitzva
observance, there is a clear divide between the period prior to the giving of
Torah and the period following. Mitzvah observance by the Patriarchs was a
subjective-religious experience, influenced in great degree by the existence of
miracles. From Moshe onward, the Torah becomes subject to laws of logic,
conforming to normative-intelligent discipline. Reb Hayyim of Volozhin feared that
the preference of the experiential dimension over the legal dimension might
serve as a rationale for behavior not in keeping with Halakha, for acts
swerving aside even a hair’s breadth:

And since Moshe came and brought it down to earth – it is no longer in
heaven. And let not the man whose intelligence is great, presume to be so wise
as to say: I, who see the secrets and the rationales for the mitzvoth in higher
worlds and powers as befits me according to the source of my soul – or
whosoever according to his source – to transgress (heaven forbid) any mitzvah,
or to reject any detail of the performance and do it imperfectly – even if only
changing a single rabbinical fine point or changing the time of performance,
heaven forbid.

(Nefesh HaHayyim, Part I, Chap. 22)

does not mean that Reb Hayyim is nullifying the experiential dimension of
Halakha. On the contrary, he accepts and accentuates the feeling of purity, the
ecstasy and the emotion of clinging to God which accompany the performance of
the mitzvoth. But because the spiritual component is so lofty that its full
realization is beyond human capability, the Halakhic act with all
its fine details remains the essential component of all mitzvoth.

saintly Rabbi Meir Yehiel Halevi of Ostrovetzeh took a different approach to
the question posed by the “Beit Yosef”. Unlike Reb Hayyim, he is not at all
ideologically opposed to the miracle and its centrality in the Hanukkah
miracle. He sees no Halakhic problem with lighting miracle oil. Along with
this, he agrees that the miracle oil burned only seven days, exactly as implied
in the berayta. His explanation for the fact that we light eight days is bold
and surprising:

Our Sages decided that human acts are superior to divine acts. The acts
of the Children of Israel, who do not depend upon miracles, but act and exert
themselves and execute that which is imposed upon them, are certainly greater
and more important – both in the eyes above and of those below – than the works
of The Holy One, Blessed Be He, which are performed miraculously. Thus we find
that the eighth day of Hanukkah, on which they ceased to exploit the product of
miracles, and lit the holy candles in the menorah of their own production – this
day is more important and greater than all the seven days of miracle; its light
shines brightest and is most dear. Even more, it elevates along with itself the
seven days of miraculous candles.

            According to this understanding,
the achievements of men and their efforts are immeasurably superior to
miraculous happenings. This position designates the eighth day of Hanukkah, the
day on which they lit with natural oil, as the most important day of Hanukkah,
affecting the meaning of the entire festival. Thus, we do not celebrate the
miracle itself, but rather commemorate the natural lighting – a work of man –
which symbolized the return to the service of God after a dark and horrible
period of decrees and persecution.

is to be hoped that the candles we light this year will light up for us the
natural and practical
way for us to exit the darkness in which we find
ourselves. We do not need a miracle; we need “the eighth day” – endeavors of
sensible and wise people who will know how to make correct value decisions,
with concession and compromise, for the sake of achieving a lasting peace in
our region. Matters cannot be resolved by hoping and waiting for “miracle oil”
which will arrive on its own from above. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, is the
source of both light and darkness, both war and peace – “forms light and
create s darkness, makes peace and creates evil”
(Isaiah 45:7). We have
been entrusted with the mission of extracting the light from the darkness,
peace from evil. “The light of peace” will arrive only through the natural
kindling by human hands, in the sense of “The word is near to you, in your
mouth and in your heart, to do it”
(Devarim 30:14). When we fulfill our
obligation and bring peace with our own hands, then will we merit the realization
of the passage “May the Lord make his face shine upon you . . . and
give you peace.”
(Bemidbar 7:26)

Shammai Leibowitz is a
lawyer specializing in traffic law






these lines are being written and prepared for publication, the media are
broadcasting details about the victims of the terrible attacks perpetrated
yesterday in the Yerushalayim Ben Yehuda Mall, and today in Haifa.

do not generally relate to current events, primarily because of the time lapse
between editing and distribution.

considering the concentration and timing of events, it seems to us that even
after two weeks, it is proper to relate to the horrible slaughter of innocent
people by terrorists.

Talmud, in Tractate Avodah Zara (8a), describes Adam’s first meeting with the

Rabbis taught: As Adam, the first man, saw the days diminishing, he said:

“Woe unto me, perhaps because I transgressed, the
world is dark because of me, and is returning to tohu vavohu, a state of
wild and waste, and this is the death which heaven has decreed for my
punishment.” He rose up and sat in fasting and prayer for eight days. But when
he saw, in the Teveth season, that the days are growing longer, he said: “Such
must be the nature of the world.” He went and celebrated for eight days. In a
later year he established them as festivals for both them [for Jews] and for
them [for idolaters].

one of us, either as an individual or as part of society, can experience the
feeling of the first man meeting a world becoming increasingly dark. This
encounter is most frightening; we are confronted with the darkest elements
within ourselves, which can be understood in the circumstances created. The
dread and the fear are liable to bring out in us the desire to take
undiscriminating revenge.

these days of Hanukkah, however, when we rule according to Beit Hillel, we are
daily commanded to add light, to fight the darkness, and it seems that it is
not by accident that the Rambam ends the Laws of Hanukkah with a haggadic quote
which expresses a very deep truth:

If he had before him (enough money to purchase) a lamp for his home
[the Shabbat lamp], or a candle for Hanukkah, or for Kiddush, the lamp for his
home takes precedence because of peace in his home, for the holy name was
erased in order to bring peace between man and his wife.

Great is peace, for all the Torah was given in order to bring peace to
the world, as is written:

ways are ways of pleasantness,

 and all its paths are

(Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws
of Megillah and Hanukkah 4:14)

Pinhas Leiser – Editor





What’s happening in the movement?


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           Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Head of
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Translation: Kadish Goldberg

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