Miketz 5772 – Gilayon #730

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Parshat Miketz – Chanuka

And, look, another seven cows came up after them,

lean and very foul-featured and meager in flesh,

I had not seen their like in all the land of Egypt

for foulness.

(Bereishit 41:19)


The Dream

and Its Telling

It is

interesting to compare the dream as related here by Pharaoh [to Joseph] with

the dream as it actually occurred, as related above. There the dream is

described objectively, but here Pharaoh's description reflects the impression

the dream has made upon his soul. The helps understand how the soothsayers were

led astray even though they may have been wise men. Every story – except those

told by the Torah – contains a subjective coloring, and reflects the impression

the event made upon the narrator. When God reveals something to somebody through

a dream, He does not tease them by giving them a riddle to solve. His language

– even though it be visual – is clear. But Pharaoh blurred important details…

in the dream, the cows were "fair to look at and fat in flesh", both

go together and describe them at once with reference to their value to men. But

Pharaoh says only "fair of form". But no butcher looks at beauty of

form; he leaves that to artists and poets. That is why the soothsayers could

have guessed at all sorts of possibilities, seven daughters, seven provinces,

etc. (See Berishit

Raba 89:7). And similarly with the lean cows. In

the objective description, they are "bad to look at and lean of flesh", bad to look at, giving prospect of very little meat. Here,

in Pharaoh's account, they are "dalot"

– needy, miserable, "badly-formed", lacking in beauty and "rakot basar". "Rok" is not only "reyk"

– empty, but as "rok" – only – is a

limiting preposition, is accordingly, limited in flesh… that is to say,

little flesh; all epithets which refer more to the nature of the animal itself

than to its utility for human purposes. Furthermore, Pharaoh does not relate that

the bad cows at first stood alongside the good ones on the banks of the Nile, and therefore, they [the soothsayers] concluded

that they only consumed the good ones because there was no pasturage left in

the meadow.

                                                             (Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, Commentary on Bereishit




For the miracle – and "for the miracles"

Gil Nativ


dvar Torah is dedicated to my granddaughter, Ayala Shaul,

who is celebrating her Bat Mitzvah on this Shabbat

of Hanukkah

The prayer "Al HaNissim" ["For

the miracles"] is recited on Hanukkah and Purim. Forty years ago, Hakibbutz Hadati, the Religious

Kibbutz Movement, published a version of "Al HaNissim"

for Israel Independence Day. Even though it did not receive Rabbi Goren's

approval, the prayer is said on Yom Haatzmauth in

many places*. The vast time gaps between Purim-Hanukkah and Yom Haatzmauth make it difficult to consider the three

festivals as a single unit, but this is only an optical illusion. It may well

be that a hundred years from now this 'trio' will raise question marks among

our great-grandchildren…

On Hanukkah, Purim, and Yom Haatzmauth, we

mark the salvation of Israel

from the hands of its enemies thanks to a "historic miracle" – the

Jewish people gathered to defend itself, took up arms,

and defeated its enemies. The victories in those wars were true miracles, for

they contradicted cold reason and conclusions based on "objective"

balance of forces, or, in the language of the prayer: "You delivered the

strong into the hands of the weak, many into the hands of the few…" The Maccabean Wars faced off an untrained volunteer army

against the professional forces – astride horses and elephants-of the

Syrian-Hellenists regime (for the sake of historic accuracy, it was not the "Kingdom of Greece", but rather "a Greek

kingdom"). As is known, the story of "the miracle of the vial of oil"

was composed many years after the fall of the Hasmoneans;

there is no mention of it in more ancient, pre-Talmudic, sources, such as "The

Scroll of Taanit". Purim is not celebrated on

the date on which Ahasuerus suffered insomnia and

ordered Hama to parade Mordecai on horse-back through the streets, nor on the

date on which Haman was strung up on the hanging tree, and Mordecai was

promoted to higher station in the king's palace, but rather on the two days on

which the Jews celebrated their victory over their enemies (a war in which

75,000 fell was not simply 'a punitive raid'). Did a miracle occur in the War

of Independence? The answer is simple: It was the same miracle thanks to which

we celebrate Hanukkah and Purim. Following the breach of the siege of Yerushalayim, Natan Alterman wrote: "Logic said: "In vain". Fear

declared: "Our sentence has been decided"/ the old military

considerations spit contemptuously in our faces… and we had but a few rifles,

but we completed the journey."

The generation of Yehuda the Maccabi had no need for a legend about a vial of oil. It

witnessed the miracle with its own eyes. Only after the passage of years, after

the generation which had seen the astonishing victory and the dedication of the

temple and the altar had passed on, did there arise a need for a story to

demonstrate to coming generations how incredible was that victory; thus came

into being the story about the vial of oil that sufficed for eight days. Will a

similar process occur with Yom Haatzmauth? It is

difficult to say, because already in the previous century there existed almost

immediate, on-the-spot historical and media documentation of events – but this

did not prevent the generation of 'legends' about this war, such as the story

of the flight of the Arabs of Safed (who numbered much

more than the city's Jews) only because of a rumor about the Jews having 'an

atomic bomb'. (This rumor was the result of a misunderstanding of an acronym "Aleph-bet'

used by the Palmach; its real meaning was not "atomic

bomb" but "Ayn bereira"

– "we have no alternative").

Why is Hanukkah celebrated for eight days? Perhaps

because the model for the re-dedication of the temple in the days of Hasmoneans was the dedication of the Tabernacle which

lasted eight days. Perhaps the Hasmoneans were

unable to celebrate the Sukkoth festival because of the war, and they

instituted eight days of Hanukkah as "reparations" for the festival

they could not celebrate at its appointed time.

Without entering the academic dispute about whether our Sages chose to

forget the Hasmoneans and their victories on the

battlefield, we can read the Talmudic story about the miracle of the vial of

oil as an expression of a moral. Military victories should be judged by what

follows them. The liberation of Yerushalayim and the

return of the Temple

Mount to Jewish

sovereignty in the days of he Hasmoneans was followed

by a flowering of Oral Law activity. The Pharisees grew from a small and

marginal group into a leading force in the Jewish nation. Even when in conflict

with the political leadership of the Hasmonean

dynasty, the influence of the sages on the daily lives of the people grew. It

was the victory of the Hasmoneans which opened the

way for the spiritual-religious leadership of the 'pairs' to function in the

spirit of the Prophet Zacharia's vision: "Not by

might and not by power, but by My spirit, said the

Lord of Hosts." The very term that sounds to us so militaristic – "Elohei tsvaoth"

(ordinarily translated as "Lord of Hosts" would translate today as "Lord

of the armies") – is woven into the verse which proclaims the pre-eminence

of the spirit over the power. The story of the vial of oil expresses the

passage from the victory of power and strength to the victory of the spirit.

In the Amida prayer we give thanks for "Your

miracles which are with us daily". These are 'miracles primarily in the

life of the individual, but on Hanukkah, Purim. and

Yom Haatzmauth, we give thanks for the national

miracle: May He who "Trains my hands for battle, my fingers for warfare"

give us strength and daring to defend ourselves and to create conditions for

the cultivation of our religious and cultural sovereignty.

* On "Al Hanisim"

on Yom Haatzmauth, see Shelomo

Rosner's article on the "Neemanei

Torah VaAvodah" site.

My thanks to Pinchas

Leiser and Zeev Keynan for their important remarks on my article.

Gil Nativ, rabbi of

Congregation "Magen Avraham"

(a Mesorati congregation) in Omer




that put in danger and dreams that heal

Joseph was

only sold because of his dreams, as it says 'Behold, this dreamer comes. Come

now therefore, and let us slay him.' (Gen 37:20),

yet also he was healed by a dream:' And it happened at the end of two years

that Pharaoh dreamed'. It is written 'For I will restore health to thee and I

will heal thee of thy wounds,' (Jeremiah 30:17).

            (Midrash Aggadat

Bereshit Chap 67)


Rabbi Hanina said: If one sees a well in a dream, he will behold

peace, since it says: And Isaac's servants dug in the valley, and found there a

well of living water.'

(Talmud Brachot



Rabbi Joshua

ben Levi" If one sees a river in his dreams, he

should rise early and say: Behold I will extend peace to her like a river,

before another verse occurs to him, for distress will come in like a river.



Stereotypical Vision and Alternative


A hebrew youth was there with us, a

servant of the chief steward; and when we told him our dreams, he interpreted

them for us, telling each of the meaning of his dream.

(Bereishit 41:10-12)


Youth – a



who does not even know our language


and it is written in the laws of Egypt that a slave may not rule nor

wear the clothing of an official.

(Rashi ad loc)


A Hebrew youth… a servant 

Each detail adds more astonishment: he was an unschooled boy; a Hebrew – so he

did not use the power of magic; a servant – who is not allowed to enter the

houses of wisdom. In that case, it is Divine perception, for it is known that

the family of the Hebrews is above the nature of other human beings, and things

more exalted than the common way of the world are not beyond them, and so the

matter has no end or boundary

(Ha'amek Davar, ad



Memory of Sin – the Internal Punishment – is the Worst Punishment

And I shall sin to my father all of my days (Bereishit 44:32): This is a very

precious phrase, since it clearly points to a notion which is not explicitly

mentioned in the Torah, which is: There is no punishment but sin; from the

perspective of Divine justice, only the sin itself serves as a punishment,

which is why Judah said, and I

shall sin to my father all of my days.

(R. Eliyahu ben Amozeg, Eym Lamikra)


The hanukkah

lamp publicizes the miracle, but the lamp of the home takes preference

If he has before him [sufficient funds to

purchase either] a house light [a lamp lit for the Sabbath eve] or a

Hanukkah light, or [enough for either] a house light or [wine] for the

Sanctification of the Day [Kiddush] , the house light takes

preference because [it brings] peace to his home, for the [Holy}

Name may be erased to make peace between man and his wife. Great is peace,

because the entire Torah was given in order to make peace in the world,

as is written: "Its ways are the way for pleasantness, and her paths

are those of peace {Proverbs 3).

(Maimonides, Mishneh

Torah Laws of Megilla and Hanukkah, 4:14)


Who Gives Light to Whom?

Thus Scripture says, for

you light my lamp (Proverbs

18:29). Israel

said to the Holy One, blessed be He: "Sovereign of the Universe!

Do you ask us that we should give light before You?

You, surely, are the Light of the universe, and brightness abides with you, as

is written, The light

dwells with Him (Daniel

2:22)! Yet You say, The lamp shall give light in

front of the candlestick (Bamidbar 8:2)!" This

explains, For You light my lamp. The Holy One,

blessed be He

said to them, "It is not because I require your service, but in order that

you may give Me light even as I have given you light. For

what purpose? That

you may rise in the estimation of the nations, who will say: 'See how Israel give

light to Him who gives light to the whole world!'" This may be illustrated

by a parable. To what may it be compared? To the case of a man who could see and a blind

man who were walking on the way. Said

the man who could see to the blind: "When we enter the house, go and

kindle this lamp for me and give me light." The blind man replied: "Will you

be good enough to explain? When I was on the road you supported me. Until we

entered the house you accompanied me. Now, however, you tell me: 'Kindle this

lamp for me and give me light!'" The man who could see answered him:

"The reason why I asked you to give me light is in order that you might

not be under an obligation to me for having accompanied you on the road."

Thus, the man who could see represents the Holy One blessed be He, as it says, The eyes of the Lord, that run to

and fro through the whole earth (Zechariah

4:10); and the blind man is Israel; as it says, We grope for the wall like the

blind (Isaiah

54:10). The Holy One, blessed be He led them and gave them light; as it

says, And the Lord went before

them by day in a pillar of cloud… and by night in a pillar of fire, to give

them light (Shemot 13:21). When the

Tabernacle was erected, the Holy One, blessed be He,

called to Moses and said to him: "Now give you light to Me," as it

says, When you raise the lamps;

implying; in order that you may be elevated.

 (Bamidbar Rabbah 15:5, after the Soncino translation)


Faith "for It's Own Sake"

and Faith "Not for Its Own Sake"

The faith of

one who knows God in terms of what appears to him to be divine intervention in

processes of nature or history is "faith-not-for-its-own-sake"; for

such a person the belief in God in terms of His divinity is foreign to

him. Opposed to this is "faith-is -for-its –own-sake", faith that is

not conditional upon natural or historical events and not upon Godly ("miraculous")

intervention in their ordered course {"the world according to its custom").

We read in our prayer book: "You were the same before the world was

created; you have been the same since the world has been created" – God's

divinity is within Himself, not in relation to the world whose existence and

all its phenomena are contingent and add nothing to the divinity of God. Similarly,

"Master of the world who reigned before any creature was created"over what did He reign? You must

conclude: His reign is His essence, and has no need for the world or for

history. The Lord is the King, even if He has no world over which to rule nor

history in which his rule is revealed.

Only this

faith in the Lord and His rule which are not contingent upon world and history

– only it can lead the believer to awareness of his obligation to serve the

Lord unconditionally, for "He alone is worthy of being worshipped";

only this decision to accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven can withstand

all the trials Man may face   be they caused by the nature of

reality or historical development. But acceptance of God based upon what is

perceived to be His revelation in nature or in history,

makes it "love-dependant-on-something" and must eventually weaken.

Yet more, belief

in the Lord rooted in "His involvement in the world" (either in

nature or in history) cannot bring Man to decide to serve the god whom he knows

from this category alone. Even if a man believes with complete faith in the

miracles performed, even if he were able to find notarized testimony to the

creation of the world by the will of God, to His freeing our fathers from

Egypt, to His revelation upon Mt. Sinai and the giving the Torah from heaven – it

is still possible that this man would refuse to serve the Lord.

In contrast

to atheist scholars of religion (and, although he not be one, Prof.

Schlesinger) who see the source of religious belief in an imagined explanation

which man gives to unexplained natural phenomena or to amazing historical

events, our Sages knew the great psychological truth, that a person may recognize

God through His acts – yet refuse to serve Him. Biblical history, in

particular, teaches us that events in which "the finger of God" is

patently observed cannot lead one to belief in the Lord and to His service.

That generation which witnessed signs and wonders in Egypt and on the sea, to

whom the Divine Presence was revealed – did not believe; those who heard "You

shall make no graven image" from the All-powerful accompanied by thunder

and lightening and smoke-covered mountain – fashioned the calf forty days after

witnessing sights of God. Prophets who rose for Israel, the Shekhina speaking though their throats, and their

prophecies realized, did not success in returning a single soul to the right

path. On the other hand, masses of men, women, and even children, cleaved to

God and His Torah and gave up their lives for them, even they belonged to

generations which never saw the revelation of the Shekhina,

and had no prophets to teach them, and no miracles were performed for them, and

they were not even rescued – yet they believed! And let no one argue that they

believed because of the miracles done for our fathers; Maimonides has already

said: "The truth of these miracles is clear only to those who witnessed

them, but in the future these memories will become tales, and it will be

possible to refute them" – all the more so is this true for those "who

witnessed them" but their "truth was not clear."   

In the end

we find that there is no correlation between what happens in nature or in

history – even if the finger-of-God is manifest – and between Man's faith in

God and his willingness to serve Him. Faith and service are the decision and

determination of Man to serve God – this is Judaism in its entirety.

 (Y.Leibowitz: On

History and Miracles in: Faith, History and Values p. 165 etc.)



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